I have previously discussed my lack of trust for loot box mechanics very recently. I will repeat the fact that I believe that they need a level of self-regulation before they face imposed regulation. This makes sense – consumers have a right to know the odds of what they are seeking versus what they are willing to gamble. Casinos are forced to do this and rightly so. This doesn’t stop people from gambling but at least gives transparency so people can make informed decisions. Every single gaming company currently selling loot boxes is running what amounts to an unfair mechanic. You have no clue if there is a fair chance for something good to drop, if it’s 10% or 1% – and you should. Everyone should. The reason for this makes sense too – it stops the seller of the services from cheating. Not only do you not know if you have a 10% chance or a 1% chance for that item from a loot box, it actually might be 0% or you have to hit a certain “spend” threshold because there is nothing stopping a company from making it those odds, in the desire to make profits. In fact it’s good corporate and shareholder governance.
Exhibit A of my ‘mistrust’ is Clash Royale. I enjoy that game. It’s fun. I have spent some money it and have justly rewarded the company for making a fun game. I think I have spent around $60 over the past couple of years on the game. I don’t even remember. (That is probably good for them that I don’t recall. It is probably more). Clash Royale has chests and opportunities to get cards you want out of those chests. I have spent weeks getting card donations for the “furnace” card (449 of 800, bottom right on the picture above). You get card donation requests every seven hours, meaning every day I get 1 to 8 cards from my Clan mates (due to the level of the card I can only receive so many). I have finally passed the halfway point on my way to 800 cards to upgrade it. Do the math on how long that will take. I can also get the same cards from chests randomly from playing. Yesterday, in the store, was this compelling offer:
Anyway – the lack of trust comes from the fact that I log in once or twice a day and request “free” cards from my clan mates. Miraculously, this pops up in my store in CoC: The store is suddenly selling the card that I have been chipping away at with chests that have a guaranteed drop (and maybe more!). Each chest would save me 4-26 days of in game time. 490 gems is around $5. so for $15 I can save 12 days to 3 months. Not a bad investment! There are a few ways of looking at this:
- This was a random, scheduled event in the store, that everyone received. (This was the first time i have ever seen a chest like this, so even if it wasn’t targeted to me specifically then it is experimentation)
- This was targeted to me since I have been requesting the cards repeatedly, and they are using their knowledge of my in game actions to encourage a commercial purchase
- This was targeted to me since I have been requesting the cards repeatedly, and they are using their knowledge of my in game actions to allow me to progress at a faster pace if I want to. Basically, a nice “shopkeeper”.
Games are a business and I don’t have a problem with any three, but I hate not knowing why this offer came up at this specific time. I prefer a heavy dose of honesty – if this said “Hey, we can tell you have been trying to build this card up, here is an option for you to speed up that process!” I would like it better over that creepy feeling that I am being spied on (completely silly, I know). While ignorance may be bliss, enlightenment is highly underrated. Why this nags at me is that I have long encouraged computer companies to use what they know of us – the data they collect about us – to better engage us, reward loyalty, and act like normal kinds of businesses in treating different kinds of customers in different ways. Using it in perhaps a sneaky manner to pry more money from our hands wasn’t what I had in mind.
Guess I am just old school in my commercialism – you buy something, it’s yours. You have it for life, it’s tangible, and you can resell it, use it, throw it out, heck, torch it by holding a lighter and a spray can of WD-40 for fun (sorry, GI JOES!) , or just cram it in a box to support latent hording. I am also somewhat understanding on traditional commercial behaviors of the constant sale to induce purchase, lost leaders, etc. as well. Because all of those typically have a tangible component and because everyone knows this is happening, it just doesn’t feel as sneaky.
How about you? Have you ever had a commercial opportunity in game jump out at you that just didn’t quite pass the smell test? Is that fair game for you or do you wish there was more transparency? Am I too old to be playing Clash Royale in the first place?
You don’t have to answer that last one. You can if you want to. I do believe that this is a post I will reference back to in a few years when North American governments enact legislation around loot boxes and gambling, and I will take full credit for it at that point. <note: sarcasm. mostly.>