Valve Now Lets Dutch Players Preview What's Inside Dota 2's Loot Boxes Before Buying

Players in the Netherlands can now see what's inside a Dota 2 loot box before opening it. The change is part of Valve's shifting approach to how it handles micro-transactions in some European countries that have made moves to regulate gambling in games.

Yesterday, a Dutch player, who goes by Larhf on the Dota 2 subreddit, posted a screenshot of what it looked like when they tried to buy a new treasure (the Dota nomenclature for loot boxes) containing skins for the game's characters.

Rather than show Larhf everything they had a chance of getting, the game only showed them what was actually in the treasure. According to more information Larhf provided in the comments, it wasn't possible to open multiple treasures at once, the animation for opening them had been removed and they still couldn't be re-sold on the Steam marketplace, which Valve took down for Dutch players in June.

Lots of other players from the Netherlands corroborated Larhf's account in the comments of the post, many sharing their own screenshots of what was in their next treasure.

It might seem like this would provide an easy way to game the system, only opening treasures when the player actually wanted what was inside, but as Larhf points out, the only way to get something different to pop up in the treasure preview is to buy the current one, meaning their contents are tagged to a player's account rather than to individual treasure instances.

If Larhf didn't want the Ax skin shown in their preview, they'd still have to buy the treasure to trigger a new drop which they could then preview again to see if it was one they actually wanted.

Screenshot: Dota 2, Reddit

These changes come after Dutch Gaming Authority announced in April that Valve wasn't complying with the country's Betting and Gaming Act because the value of loot boxes were predicated on chance and their contents could be sold on Steam's marketplace.

Then in June, Dutch Steam users received a notification from Valve telling them the company had removed item trading and Steam Marketplace transfers related to both CS:GO and Dota 2. Valve stated that it didn't agree with the Dutch Gaming Authority's findings, but that it needed to take action in the meantime while it tried to make its case to the regulatory agency.

Valve did not respond to Kotaku's request for comment.

Other countries like Belgium have also been giving loot boxes more scrutiny and putting pressure on companies like Valve, EA and Blizzard to remove the chance element involved in paid loot boxes.

While more developers and publishers have been disclosing the odds behind their loot boxes, Valve's move in the Netherlands to actually let players preview what's inside each one sets a new precedent.

As someone who has spent over $US100 ($135) on treasures on Dota 2, I know all too well how the different elements in the game can conspire to encourage impulse buys. Sometimes opening a treasure after a brutal string of losses acts like an endorphin boosting pick-me-up, while other times there's the desire to take one of your favourite characters and show them off with a cool, flashy new costume.

I've played more than 1000 hours of Dota 2, so I have no regrets about giving Valve my money. The chance aspect is what always feels pernicious though. The more treasures you buy without getting the thing you want, the more pressure you feel to keep buying until you finally do get it.

Being able to preview what's inside doesn't make it any easier to get a prized outfit for a particular character, but it does help put the breaks on an impulse buy when you see clearly that it won't actually drop the first time.

Valve could also very well convince the Dutch regulators to change their minds. Still, this helps show what's going on behind the curtain and how easy it would be for Valve to flip a switch and change how micro-transactions for its games work.


Comments

    So instead of gambling on what's in the current box, you're gambling on what is going to be in the next one. Genius

    Just a note on the inability to open multiple treasures at once; you can't do that in Dota anyway. Everyone has to open it one at a time.

    Wait, wait, wait. This could be the start of something revolutionary. Imagine if we took this to the next step and rather than just let people decide if they wanted to buy the loot box, we actually sold each item you could get from a loot box individually and people could decide which ones they want to buy...

    Nah, that's stupid. Why would we charge a fixed price for something when we have players spending indefinite amounts of money trying to get what they want?

    1000 hours, $100 dollars. Oh, my sweet summer child.

    I am up to $422 spent in the game proper (not including the Steam marketplace, which is easily another few hundred), and 2,650 hours. Probably double the number of hours if you included Dota 1 as well.

    God that game is a black hole. A stupid, amazing, beautiful black hole.

    They will be very carefully monitoring this to see if it impacts spending positively. I suspect people who never bought stuff may be more tempted for some good loot. But then people that have good stuff already skipping all the bad ones.

    Only way I see this being widely implemented is if you get to peek inside until you've bought x number of boxes.

      Define "spending positively" though. This may look good for gamers, but from a corporate point of view, if it drops their profits its a step backwards. And its those profits that dictate if a studio survives, and is able to fund the next AAA game they want to develop.

      FWIW, this is a step in the right direction. But just remember that these are still businesses that need to make a profit.

        I'm talking about from a publishers point of view here.

          Fair enough. Wasn't trying to be negative by the way, just pointing out that theres two sides to the debate. The issue has gone too far in a number of ways, but you also don't want it to go so far the other way that they cant show a profit any more.

          If this is that happy middle ground, sweet.

        Don't be absurd.

        Video games don't need gamble-boxes to survive.

          Do you deliberately narrow what you read to specific issues, or is it a natural shortcoming?

          I never said they did, I said that there are two sides to the debate - which is the consumer and the company viewpoints. It may surprise you to learn they can be vastly different.

          That company still wants to make as much money as it can, and microtransactions are the current way most games monetise their products post-release. It gives them a revenue source beyond that initial burst of sales, and lets them cover the costs of providing ongoing support for a long period of time. Most sane people understand that.

          That doesn't need gambling, I never said it did. But microtransactions aren't far removed from this whole debate, and they DO see them as necessary. If these versions of lootboxes show you the contents before you buy, are they still gambling?

          You clearly think yes, most will think no. Which makes you the minority.

            I wrote a big, long reply - touching on the nature of public companies (and how they will always push the limit under never-ending shareholder pressure to grow year on year), and just how just much money a number of games with chose to omit loot-boxes or MTX have managed to rake in.

            But then I remembered this is all about DOTA 2.

            To be honest, I've never played it, but from a quick glance it seems like a similar business model to Warframe / Path of Exile - completely free games which don't require any payment to enjoy.

            So in this case, I stand corrected and believe some form of MTX is fine.

    Still, this helps show what's going on behind the curtain and how easy it would be for Valve to flip a switch and change how micro-transactions for its games work.

    If it shows anything it shows how much money Valve must be making off these. Being so obvious about exploiting a loophole is a bad PR move. They know that this is going to be shut down as soon as they have time to react. How much money would they have to be making off a relatively small region in order to justify all that?

    Alternatively, is this the way the microtransactions work for everyone, but the Dutch players now get to peek behind the curtain?

    How would you even know if the loot drops were tied to individual instances of the loot box rather than a fixed pseudo-random sequence attached to your account?

      It most definitely is tied to the account rather than the loot box, because if you peek inside treasures being sold by different sellers, they all have the same reward (at least according to reddit)

    This is like when I clean by sweeping the dust under the rug instead of doing it properly the first time.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now