Battlefield 5 Shows How The Video Game Industry Is Turning On Loot Boxes

Yesterday, the official Battlefield Twitter account published something interesting - a promise that not only will the makers of the upcoming Battlefield 5 refrain from charging for extra maps, they're also going to avoid what has become the most toxic two-word phrase in gaming: Loot boxes.

"No loot boxes," read the tweet, referring to the slot-machine-like randomised item drops that have become so popular in recent months:

We already knew that Battlefield 5 wouldn't have any form of randomised loot boxes - publisher EA confirmed it to Kotaku shortly after the game's reveal last week - but it's still fascinating to see this particular developer, DICE, use it as part of the upcoming game's marketing campaign.

DICE, you'll remember, is the same Swedish studio that led development on last year's disastrous Star Wars Battlefront 2. That game became the linchpin of the great loot box debate of 2017, provoking so much anger with its pay-to-win mechanics that EA made the unprecedented move to remove all of its microtransactions the night before it came out. (EA later re-added in-game payments to Battlefront 2, but they no longer affect gameplay.)

Since then, we've seen a lot of hullabaloo over microtransactions, with a particular focus on loot boxes. Pandering politicians have gotten involved and the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) has announced a new "In-Game Purchases" label that's ostensibly designed to help inform parents but will in practice do very little because its scope is so broad.

Those were just distractions, though - what really matters is how game developers and publishers have reacted. And what I've heard over the past few months from people who work at various big companies is that Battlefront 2 got them nervous.

Along with Shadow of War, which also recently ditched its microtransactions, the newest Star Wars game turned "loot boxes" into a dirty phrase, one to avoid at all costs unless prefaced by a "no". As I wrote on Twitter in February, in the wake of the ESRB's disappointingly tepid announcement, what really mattered was that developers were aware that pushing too far with microtransactions will lead to widespread furore.

We're starting to see the results of that trend. Last year at this time, publishers were drooling over the success of loot boxes in games such as Overwatch and piecing together their own shiny chest-opening animations. Now, one of the biggest publishers in games is using "no loot boxes" as a slogan to help sell its newest shooter.

Of course, publishers are still finding plenty of other ways to make extra revenue off their $80 games. The evolution of video games from buy-em-once products to play-em-forever services is not going to stop. But loot boxes, in all their predatory glory, might not be as popular as we all once feared.


Comments

    Wait, I thought the issue was paying to open loot boxes, not the boxes themselves which are essentially random drops which have been a staple of games for a long time?

      Technically? Sure. But that's not a relevant conversation. In this case, it's industry short-hand. So whenever it comes up in the context of monetization and controversy, it would just be safest for the casual reader to assume the issue is being taken with paid lootboxes.

      yes, but the idea is so tarnished right now would you risk the backlash?

      One is worse than the other, but I'd argue both are evil.

      Even without the plague that is paid loot boxes I really dislike the concept of loot boxes in a drop in shooter if they affect gameplay. Imagine if BF had persistent random weapon drops in loot boxes. A new player would start and immediately get pwned by someone who has been playing for 3 months and has the submachine gun drop and the bazooka drop and the flamethrower drop...

      If it's cosmetic (hats in TF2) go nuts. It's just a fun toy for gamers. But if loot boxes persist between games and affect gameplay they shouldn't be there.

    No loot boxes. No Premium Pass. All players have access to the same maps and modes in #Battlefield V. Keep your squad together, no matter the front.

    Waaaaaaait a minute.....

    [Gets an electron microscope and looks at the end of the sentence.]

    [Finds the following in the final full stop, "Subject to change without notice nor ownership of the consequences"]

    Figures.

      Mark my words, the micro-transaction store will look almost exactly like Fortnite's. And more power to them in my opinion. Fortnite has one of the best microtransaction models out there. Letting players pay for the exact skin / emote they want, and letting them know exactly how long they have to snap it up. No randomisation, no ongoing cost, pay once; get what you want.

    If there's no premium pass/charging for extra maps then I may actually get it. Depending on game play obviously, because that trailer did not instil confidence.

      Depending on game play obviously, because that trailer did not instil confidence.

      I've been playing battlefield forever. I am really hoping it feels more like 1942 than 1. I literally have no idea why I cannot like 1. It seems objectively great, but it doesn't do it for me. I feel like its maybe the most meat-grindery type one? It just gets repetitive and bogged down too much for me.

      And the new trailer? Tactical v2 rocket? Leaping out of second story windows? Jeep falls from the sky onto nazi? It's all a bit over the top michael bay shit. Not really promising.

    More likely they realised that if Starwars couldn't drag sales in the favmce of microtransactions they would need to distance themselves from pretty much everything for a while.

      EA are cunning but predictable. They have looked at Fortnite's mtx structure and will implement something similar, mark my words. The day that EA leaves money on the table will be a cold day in hell.

        I am not saying that there won't be anything, but for at least the launch I reckon they will avoid it in order to get what little good will they can.

        Damn, I left the exact same comment above without seeing there was a fellow prophet here already.

    What killed BF1 for me was the infinite stream of hacks available, and the apparent lack of support from the developers. Wading through servers of aimbot trash just killed all motivation to keep playing.

      Yeah I love high player count shooters (battlefield, pubg, etc) but more and more it seems like hackers can hide and operate effectively in these games.

      Your overwatch style model (6v6) and similar seems to reveal the hackers much better.

    Ugh.

    So exactly the same as current Battlefront 2?

    Game is still a live service.

    Still a game which will charge full price, then parade endless cosmetics in our faces.

    "3-prong hook hand available for another 03:30:22. Buy now with Battlebucks!"

      I think Fortnite is probably the desired model for everyone at the moment, where they do in fact use v-bucks. Battlebucks isn't a stretch at all.

        They should also emulate Fortnite by being free to play if they want to fill the game with micro transactions.

          Why do you have struggling developers, you monster? Don't you realize games cost too much to make these days, that they must charge box price AND F2P monetization to make up for the fact that they're AAA and have shareholders to answer to?

            I really miss the "old days" (jesus it's not that long ago) when games like Quake, Counterstrike and even the first BF game came out and they basically let people go wild and create their own maps, and mods and run their own dedicated servers instead of trying to funnel everyone into their little money-making machine.

            I don't mind if they want to sell cosmetics in micro-transactions or run their own servers but why the hell are we losing features we had in games more than 10 years ago :(

              Problem, as I see it, is that in the heady days of exploration, games were made for entertainment and art. It was a given that studio heads did their best to make sure they had the marketing to get the sales to compensate them for their efforts, but their primary method of trying to generate income was by making a really good game that people would enjoy.

              Once this started making real money - serious, big boys money - the big boys started paying attention and got involved. Can't let all those creatives and amateurs have control over such a lucrative venture when shareholders could be, instead. They provided the resources the studios drooled over to make their dreams happen... at a price. A terrible, terrible price.

                I think you're right, but even more than that they didn't even have studio heads or marketing people. I reckon a lot of them started out with a bunch of people who went "lets make an awesome game" then at some point they went "guess we need to sell it now". So you got games that were first and foremost designed to be fun and flexible. Making money was almost accidental.

                This is especially true since a lot of hugely successful games like Counter-Strike were mods created by fans in the first place.

          Online games require servers and there stream of on going patches to be paid for.
          Loot boxes kept a revenue stream incoming after the original purpose. It takes money to keep ongoing support for a game and loot boxes was wear that money comes from.
          Fortnight took a bug gamble that people buying credits would fund the game but not all publishers are willing to take that risk and want that instant cash from a full price sale.

            Epic didn't take a big gamble with Fortnite... Why do people ignore that it started as a co-op game they were already selling? They basically just modded it to a free-to-play Battle Royale mode, there was no cost of developing of an engine, assets, etc.

            Even if that wasn't the case, it's Epic... And if anyone has cash to burn in order to prop up an upcoming title, they do.

              But so PUBG, right? They license the Unreal Engine from Epic, build a game, it sells as arseload. Hooray!

              Meanwhile Epic have a failing co-op shooter. Boo!

              They see their client PUBG is pushing towards a billion dollars in sales. So they borrow the idea, pivot to a battle royale mode in the style of PUBG, and save their game.

              At this point PUBG is rightfully a bit pissed. Their own partner is now directly competing with them. Is eating their customers. Furthermore, exactly how much insight did Epic have with the development of PUBG from that relationship and supporting the development of PUBG on the Unreal Engine? Did Epic learn anything from the PUBG implementation on their engine, via the client relationship, that helped them?

              Anyway, apparently they came to a licencing deal over it. PUBG licenses Epics engine and Epic licenses PUBGs game format. Seems fair.

                Well thats good timing. They apparently just sued. Oh well.

                  On top of that, PUBG doesn't own the game type... There's nothing for Epic to have had to license from them.

                  And I mean hell, Ubisoft have had what is basically a battle royale mode in The Division since before PUBG released.

    So "no loot boxes" is now a marketable feature?

      Yes.
      Absolutely when you last game was smashed and had terrible sales figures because of how you implemented loot boxes.

    I think there is an element of that, but given the conversation around Battlefront I think EA had to make a strong clear statement to avoid people assuming it would be the same.

      True, though I'm a little concerned that their statement is pure PR. The language around the deluxe edition says it contains '20 airlifts each containing one cosmetic item' - as opposed to '20 cosmetic items'.

    This makes me happy. Moreso than the end of loot boxes I am pleased to see the end of Season Passes. What an awful practice. Do an expansion sure but map packs are the worst. I have BF4 and they eventually released all those map packs for free on Xbone still try to find anyone ever playing on them it's always Seige of Shanghai or that Ice Prison level (the name escapes me) all the time. What a waste of a game.

      'All players have access to the same maps and modes in #Battlefield V'

      This is a big call, and we should all be holding them to this statement. This is amazing if it's true. Based on this there should only be free expansions for maps and modes. No more fracturing of the comminity. I wonder what other types of monetisation they will add to the game though.

      I'm going to hold a healthy cynicism about this for the time being though.

    That's because you can make more money selling Dab emotes.

      Well, I mean it worked for Team Fortress 2, so...

    So no loot boxes hey?

    "20 Weekly Items with Airlift: Battlefield V Deluxe Edition lets you receive vital supplies with 20 weekly Airlifts, each containing one customization item"

    hmmmm....colour me suspicious.

    Same EA bullshit , just release 3 different editions of the game and make us pay for all future content... unlike other games, which release 1 and only one copy with future content free.

    I highly doubt there won't be micro-transaction's, that's just a flat out lie because that's half EA's revenue scheme.

    i don't really see that big of a deal loot box wise, i mean yeah battlefront 2 made the mistake of adding player affecting items in the loot boxes which sucked but bf 1 loot boxes are just skin and i don't mind having that kind of loot box in bf v either. Even bf 4 loot boxes where just diff variants of the basic weapon sights which you have gotten from just playing the game. If bf v has same system i don't think people should have a problem with that. Also the premium pass was not really that bad i mean no one forced people to get it since eventually all those map packs become free to get.

    I can't wait until it's announced that the game will contain "I can't believe it's not a Loot Box".

    But they have things on the Preorder page that if you get the Delux edition, you end up with 20 'Air Drops' a week. I thought that's what we're calling the loot boxes this time around. Does someone want to explain this to me?

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