Gamers are dumb

I was reading an article about the recent lootbox stuff in Europe (forget which article/site) and was amused by how many comments were cheering governments getting involved in regulating video games. Cheering on old, out-of-touch politicians who for sure aren’t looking into this for easy future votes, and instead have the best interests of gamers in mind and will finally, finally force companies like EA and Activision to make games you want, with you (collectively) giving them less money for the product. What could possibly go wrong here…

Let’s put aside for now what the future laws could be, and pretend they nail the wording of the laws and they accomplish exactly what these gamers expect; no more lootboxes without negative side effects. Fantasyland, but let’s pretend.

After the laws are passed, what do you think EA is going to do? Put the same amount of resources into making games, remove the revenue stream that dwarves the income from selling just the box, AND keep cost/quality the same? No, that’s not how things work.

Best bet is that EA and others will come up with a different way to sell lootbox content. Maybe it simply won’t be random, and you can buy common tier whatever for a certain price, and epic tier stuff for another. Is that an improvement you (collectively) want to see? If that doesn’t sell, maybe we start seeing more content gated behind DLC. Maybe the first level is free, and then each level after has a cost, one that adds up to more than the normal $60 price tag if you buy the whole experience. Is that better?

What is almost certain to happen is reduced funding for smaller projects. When companies have money, they can afford to be riskier, trying ideas in the hopes of having a new hit, knowing that failure won’t cripple them. When money is tight, you focus on your safer bets. That means more sequels, more early updates of an established franchise, and far, far fewer niche titles. Regardless of how you feel about the big IPs, how is fewer games a GOOD thing for gamers?

Finally, all the rage about lootboxes (to say nothing about the fake outrage based around ‘save the kids!’) is misguided anyway. You know why lootboxes exist? Because gamers like them. They like them so much, in fact, that they walletvote for them, and walletvotes count for a hell of a lot more than comments on an article/blog or a freaking tweet. Asking someone else, and especially the government, to step in and override the walletvotes of gamers is, point blank, idiotic.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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31 Responses to Gamers are dumb

  1. I must admit that I am amused that EA has decided to not follow the lootbox restrictions that were put in place in Belgium and the Netherlands. Blizzard just turned off the feature in those countries, but EA must think they have a good chance with a legal challenge. Certainly any country that has a legal definition of gambling might be opening Pandora’s box by stretching it to cover lootboxes. Or they are being dumb and overplaying their hand. The problem with EA is that it could go either way.

    The politicians are just looking to make a name for themselves to distinguish themselves from rivals. I don’t believe in the corrupt developer hypothesis, but being corrupt is the native state of politicians. You’ll note that the whole thing died down here in the US once the ESA got one of the national level politicians in their pocket to push the self-policing line. It is a nice little topic you can get people outraged about for a bit but which most people will forget about once the moment has passed.

    • SynCaine says:

      Politically I think the topic is also a ticking timebomb, in that at some point, maybe even now, more people are going to vote you out because you messed with their video game, vs the number of votes you pick up from ‘saving the children from the gambling murder simulators’.

      I mean, if everyone always voted in an informed manner (hahahahaha), that would have been the case even a few years back, but since younger people don’t vote, and the old have nothing else to do but read scary stories on Facebook and then vote based on that ‘info’, its still a toss up.

  2. Kromac says:

    I couldn’t agree more, it’s stupid for politicians anywhere to get involved in this. Parents should try being parents yeesh. Anyone of age can do any number of stupid things if they want why should this be something politics gets involved in.

  3. Azuriel says:

    Lootboxes have never made any game better, which is a fundamental point against them.

    That you are even entertaining the notion that the gaming community will be worse off with less EA (indie?) games out there is amusing. Life will continue on because gaming is a $138 billion industry, and any game that needs lootboxes to survive doesn’t need to exist.

    • SynCaine says:

      I’d like PUBG to continue, for one. Guessing a bunch of people would also like OW to go on, just to list to games off the top that have lootboxes.

      As for lootboxes improving games, they do. Not because of lootboxes themselves, but because they provide funding without demanding a sub, or excessive DLC, or whatever else would replace them. Sure like any system they can be poorly implemented, but not all lootboxes are bad. I mean, does a sub itself make a game better?

      Finally I just looked at the games EA has released in the last few years. Yea EA sucks, holy cow.

    • Kromac says:

      Overwatch disagrees with you.

  4. Selling things for a fixed price is much better than the loot box variety. Shouldn’t be too difficult to monetize, just make everything expire/consumable. Fashion items? Lasts x days then needs repair (oh, better buy that one use repair kit!) That makes more sense if it’s armor. Need to pay to win? Here’s the glass sword that does 100,000 damage but breaks after one use! Oh, by the way it doesn’t work against “stupid boss” or in “silly dungeon”, you would need glass sword version 2! Etc.

    And yes gamers are dumb because Humans in general are dumb. Just think of all the crazy vices people get into. :P

    • SynCaine says:

      Based just off PUBG, people would MUCH rather open a lootbox then buy a temp item. People rage when free rewards are temp already.

      • bhagpuss says:

        @Joseph Skyrim Like almost everyone who comments or posts on the lootbox issue on MMO sites, blogs and forums, you’re projecting your personal feelings onto the rest of us. SynCaine is correct when he says “You know why lootboxes exist? Because gamers like them. They like them so much, in fact, that they walletvote for them” and “people would MUCH rather open a lootbox then buy a temp item”.

        What the anti-lootbox brigade seem incapable of understanding is that millions of people would rather open a box that *might* have something great in it than pay a flat fee for something specific. This is why people like to get wrapped presents on their birthday and at Christmas, with things inside that they don’t know what they will be. I’m well aware that there are plenty of people who don’t like that, who would rather have a specific thing they’ve asked for or even the money to buy it, but that’s not most people.

        Also, the entire concept of “lootboxes” long predates video games and is completely normalized throughout society. I sell sealed bags of Lego Minifigures to people every day. They all have a minifigure in but no-one knows what it is. Some people spend literally 30-60 minutes trying to work out which figure is in a bag by squeezing it. Those are the people who would rather straight up buy the figure they want. They represent maybe 1-2% of all the purchases. Everyone else just takes a bag or several and pays for them, looking forward to the surprise when they open them.

        I don’t buy lootboxes because I am mean with my money that way. I absolutely love the many free ones games give me, though. I get orders of magnitude more pleasure from opening those than from buying items from an NPC at a fixed cost. The way games are currently designed would suggest that’s how the majority of players feel and, as usual, the majority of satisfied players never read, let alone post about their games.

        • Ah my bad, sorry Bhagpuss – I should have started with “I believe… ” [insert rest of post]. That was really just meant to be my own personal view on the matter.

          I have seen those crazy lines of folks who buy random bags and random boxes / gachapon IRL so I concede that it’s popular. Definitely not for me though, I’m in the “give me exactly what I want” category.

        • Esteban says:

          Gamers do like lootboxes. Also, gamblers like sitting by one-armed bandits. Also, smokers like cigarettes. And New Yorkers like those…very large soft drinks with a kilogram of dissolved sugar in each, which a mayor tried to ban once. As we all know, in the end, people like things that aren’t objectively good for them, and other people will use that fact to create a revenue stream.

          It goes to the broader question of whether at some point society (expressed imperfectly as ‘government’) steps in to save people from their own vices or not. I’m pretty sure the answer for most of us is ‘yes, sometimes, but not always’, and we can argue about the side of the line lootboxes should fall on. But the generic argument that things should be unregulated just because people enjoy said things is a bit lazy.

        • Lognodo says:

          What most of you do not see is that this is a gambling regulation thing. I fully support this. The only thing that separates loot boxes from ‘real’ gambling is that you cannot get real money from them. But this is only a legal difference. The psychological mechanism is the same. So why not regulate them like real gambling? There are sound reasons why gambling is regulated.

          I would even support banning selling lego figures in little bags to kids. I have two kids and i can see what it does to them if they are desperately after that one figure they want. I no longer let them buy this things. Or any other product that gives you random things from bags. And yes that includes pokemon cards. I like that Yu-Gi-Oh sells a lot of decks and you do not need to buy random cards.

        • SynCaine says:

          On the scale of “ban heroin, people die often from it and you become an addict instantly” to “ban soda cups that are too large to protect the fats from themselves”, lootboxes are even lower than the damn cups IMO. Someone will ruin their lives gambling with them, sure (people already do that with mobiles games that don’t contain loot boxes), but a scenario that applies to .001% of the population ruining their lives (we aren’t talking large-scale disaster here) ‘doesn’t matter’ enough to impact the other 99.999% negatively.

          @Legnodo: “I would even support banning selling lego figures in little bags to kids. I have two kids and i can see what it does to them if they are desperately after that one figure they want. I no longer let them buy this things.”

          Before a full out ban, did you try talking to your kids about odds and how not always getting exactly what you want is ok? Or about looking into other methods (eBay) for a specific toy, and having the kids work to earn it (since you’re going to pay more) if they really, really want it? A ban, and especially asking the government to step in and do the job for you, is such a short-sighted and lazy answer. You want to ‘protect’ kids from gambling? Parent them.

        • Lognodo says:

          @syncaine Now you are making assumptions without knowing anything how i interact with my kids :)
          Perhaps i should explain a little more. I have of course told my kids about the odds. I even have once or twice done the math with the older one of the two. And he was surprised how many lego bags you would have to buy on average to get one of each of the figures.

          But the problem is they are just to young for that. They are five and seven. So these things do mean nothing to them. So if they want something that is essentially gambling in a bag i tell them we do not buy this because it’s a dishonest and exploitative marketing scheme (not exactly in this words of course). Effectively banning these things until i feel they are old enough to be able to judge the odds.

          If they wan’t pokemon cards or something else we may buy them second hand so we see what we get.

          Nonetheless priming them with a chance based reward scheme at such a young age is bad parenting in itself if you ask me. There is a reason why these reward schemes pop up everywhere and keeping my kids out of the skinner box as long as i can seems worthwhile.

        • SynCaine says:

          I’d argue trying to insulate your kids from something not only delays the inevitable, but also leads to a higher chance of that first encounter being in a less controlled environment. If a kid at 7 learns why chasing something rare but ultimately meaningless (a toy, loot in a videogame) is usually not worth the effort (money), by the time they have their own income, they will know what to do. If the first time they encounter that is when a parent isn’t around, odds of something negative happening increase.

          The perfect example of this is parents who have a zero tolerance policy with their kids about drinking, thinking they are helping/protecting their child. Then that kid goes to collage and at their first party drinks way way too much because they don’t know how to handle it. Best case they make an ass of themselves and have a real bad hangover. Too often the parent’s getting a call about their kid being at the hospital or worse.

        • Lognodo says:

          @syncaine I’m not sure if you are deliberately misunderstanding me or if you are seriously saying i should let my 5 year old drink alcohol. If you read my post there is the part where i say ‘until i feel they are old enough to be able to judge the odds.’. When they are old enough they can buy such things and take their lessons from it. But they are not old enough now.

          Kids are easy prey for this kind of marketing nonsense. And it’s no secret that reward schemes impact the development of addictive behavior. So i beg to differ, exposing them to something that is gambling in all but name at an to early age is not going to help them to cope with it later on. It may even do the opposite of that.

        • SynCaine says:

          You didn’t follow what I was saying. The alcohol example was defined. Let them learn to drink in HS, when you still parent them (but at least in the US, is still illegal, which nicely brings us back to why getting the government involved in parents is usually a bad thing), vs banning it and having it happen in college (at still an illegal age). Why you’d think that was to be applied to a 5 year old I don’t get.

          A 7 year old understands working for something to earn it, and can be taught about the decision to buy a bag of random lego figures vs paying more for a specific one off eBay. Teaching your kid that, and then letting them make the decision to work to earn either the bag or the specific toy is better IMO than shielding them from all random reward systems until ‘later’. You don’t think they already encounter random reward systems at school or with friends?

        • Lognodo says:

          I think we will not come together on this. I don’t think trying for themselves at such an early age will help them. I explain why we don’t buy this things. Especially the mechanism of not getting what you want and thinking you will get it the next time. And that the producers of these bags often speculate, that the parents just give in if the children demand them enough. And you know what they do understand this too.

          Of course they get them from other sources like friends or grandparents some time. But that is no reason why i should condone them.

          On the other hand to get back to your post. I would cry no tear if all the loot boxes in all the games just vanished. I do not buy them as i think of them as abusive. I do not dispute the right of other adults to buy them if they want. I just don’t. And if a game relies so much on them that it negatively impacts gameplay i just stop playing it. So i’m voting with my wallet. And yes i think as any other form of gambling they should be regulated as what they are.

        • SynCaine says:

          Moving on as well from the kids thing as we are somewhat going in circles now.

          To lootboxes; if they got removed because of a ban, you would cry. Not over them directly, but because it would negatively impact you down the line. You don’t buy them in games that you play that have them, right? (So a game like PUBG, where the lootboxes are 100% fluff and there are plenty of ways to get other fluff for free, so even that doesn’t matter) But others do. So those others are funding the game that you play, while you don’t (putting aside all other forms of payment here and just focusing on the lootbox). If suddenly the ‘free ride’ for you stops, the game is going to force you to start paying. And if you don’t pay (or, more likely, the company expects you won’t pay enough), the game doesn’t get made or is shut down. That’s bad, for everyone.

          Just to be clear I’m not saying all lootboxes are great. I don’t play a ton of games in part because of Pay-2-Win setups. But the point here is that it’s insane to think gaming would be BETTER if the government got involved and started banning things wholesale, as is happening in the EU right now.

        • Lognodo says:

          I try not to hitch a free ride in any of the games i play. If possible i try to support games in other ways. If they let me pay a subscription i do that for some time. If they have non lootbox stuff in the store i buy some of it. I vastly prefer payment models like the ones in Destiny 2, Diablo 3 and Guild Wars 1/2.

          And i’ not as pessimistic as you are. The studios will find a way to finance their games if lootboxes go away. There are a lot of games now that have none and they survive and make revenue too.

          Sadly many publishers realized how much money they can make by incorporating what basically amounts to a one armed bandit into their games. I don’t think that’s a healthy revenue model. At the very least paid lootboxes should be restricted to adults and the chances to get the items should be disclosed. The current trend in Europe is just the usual lag of the various political and regulatory bodys catching up to a new type of gambling.

      • That’s just so strange to me! I suppose I’m really just an odd duck out as I’ve always been in the pro-item loss / character loss camp. That aside, what sort of entitled fool complains when they get a free item, even if only for a short time?

        Oh well, to each their own I suppose!

        • SynCaine says:

          Would you rather play a game that up-front tells you “you will need to beat this dungeon 26 times before you get an upgrade, and then 53 times before the next upgrade” or play one with bosses that drop random loot?

          Maybe you are the very odd duck here and would like to have most/all things set vs chance-based, but the vast majority enjoy games with some randomness to them, including outcomes/rewards.

        • @SynCaine: “Would you rather play a game that up-front tells you “you will need to beat this dungeon 26 times before you get an upgrade, and then 53 times before the next upgrade” or play one with bosses that drop random loot?”

          Yep, the up front version for me! That’s actually the Guildwars 2 model, though they do throw in a random chance that you might get the loot / more currency to get the loot. It’s also why I liked Neverwinter Online’s River District. You want the weapon? Do this instance 40 times. 80 if you want 2 weapons. I did it 160 times (2 characters). That was great for me. :)

          Conversely the dungeons where you have “a chance” to get something, I don’t really enjoy or do. For the time spent in them, rolling a dice with odds stacked against at the end to get “something” is simply not fun at all for me.

  5. Dobablo says:

    Game developers need some space to monetise their product but that doesn’t mean they should be free and unfettered to use exploitative mechanics that target vulnerable customers. A limited degree of regulation needs to be in place to protect kids and problem gamblers. It is unfortunate that government regulation tends to be a bit all or nothing. Things that need a minor regulation often get nothing until the outcry becomes too great and government feels compelled to step in and over-regulate.

    • SynCaine says:

      Kids, who I’m assuming we are talking about young kids, not ones with summer jobs and such, can’t gamble without their parents giving them the money. They also can’t access the games at home without the parents providing the means to do so. You don’t need the government here, you just need an active parent who is paying attention, and not someone who tosses a 4yr old an iPad for hours each day and isn’t smart enough to realize their CC number is auto-saved to enable purchases.

      As for problem gamblers, eh. Self-correcting issue (they run out of money) that impacts a very small % of the population. No different or worse than casinos today, and I want those to stay open so I can enjoy myself vs closing them all down so problem gamblers have to find a different way to feed their addiction.

      • Dobablo says:

        With kids, the issue is advertising. Surrounding them with adverts for gambling before they have developed risk/reward skills or learnt that actions have consequences is not going to create grown-ups with a healthy relationship with gambling (however non-cash lootboxes could be educational in some situations).

        Addictions harm addicts, their families and their communities. You wanting to gamble is no excuse for a casino not checking on the door for underage or self-restricted customers or checking on a customer that is losing a lot more than their normal spend.
        For problem gamblers, you putting unrestricted gambling in their game means they cannot play those games. I drink beer, but I won’t demand it be made available in vending machines on every corner because their needs to be a way for problem drinkers to avoid it. Alcoholics can avoid pubs or and they can register with drinking establishments to make relapse harder. You are depriving gamers with gambling issues those same aids.

        The key is to put sensible controls and restrictions into these situations. Cash gambling in games should be invisible to kids and there should be an option for adults to opt out or place limits on what they can gamble.

        • SynCaine says:

          Fully agree on the advertising angle, as there is a lot of science confirming that. And there are laws (in the US) around tv advertising to children, with the ones I’m aware of making sense (ads to kids can’t including asking the child to ask a parent to buy something, can’t be a toy add for a show they are currently watching, and ad time during a kids show is also more limited than other tv). Some extension of those laws to online games would make sense, but none of that would come close to ‘remove all lootboxes from games’, which is the original point of this post.

          Same goes for gambling/drinking. There are laws in place. A full ban on drinking didn’t work back when it was tried. A full ban on gambling didn’t work either, and in the US we are in the process of scaling back said bans across the entire country. In games today you need to enter payment info (at least on iOS) before making a purchase. A kid can’t gamble without a parent being involved at some point. That IMO is enough.

        • Dobablo says:

          Yup. That ties up with me! As my first post said, some sensible protections are in order, but governments are seldom sensible about regulating things they do not understand.

  6. xXJayeDuBXx says:

    You make a great point about why loot boxes exist. Loot boxes tied to progression like in Battlefront 2 are bad. Loot boxes that add stuff to a game like that in Madden, Fifa, The Old Republic or Overwatch don’t bother me a bit. I don’t like them, but obviously someone does because someone has been willing to pay for them.

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