Review Site OpenCritic Says It Will Start Keeping Track Of Games With Loot Boxes

Screenshot: Kotaku, OpenCritic

The review aggregation website OpenCritic announced today that games with loot box mechanics will now include a warning at the top of their OpenCritic page pointing that out.

On Overwatch’s OpenCritic page, for example, there’s now a bolded section highlighted in orange right below the aggregated scores that reads: “Please note: This game has monetized random reward mechanics, commonly referred to as ‘loot boxes.’” It goes on, calling loot boxes similar to gambling and pointing out that they are being investigated by regulatory agencies in Belgium and the Netherlands.

OpenCritic’s CEO, Matthew Enthoven, told Kotaku in an email that a total of 42 games currently have the warning, including Respawn Entertainment’s newly released battle royale game, Apex Legends.

“We weren’t able to find a programmatic way to identify all games with loot boxes, so I’m sure we’ve missed some,” he said. “We’re hoping the community will let us know when that happens.”

Enthoven and the rest of the people behind the site didn’t mince words about why they added the warnings. “The OpenCritic team believes that loot boxes are a net-negative for the video game industry,” it stated in a blog post today announcing the move.

“Loot boxes prey on human’s generally poor ability to accurately understand and internalize probabilities, especially at the extremes. Rather than offer in-game items directly, loot boxes are used to mask the underlying cost of extremely attractive items.”

OpenCritic was formed in 2015 as a competitor to Metacritic with a goal of being more transparent about how it calculated its aggregated scores. Metacritic currently doesn’t flag games that have loot box mechanics. On the issue of how it decides which games to assign the loot box warnings, OpenCritic listed three criteria that must be present:

  • Unknown, Random Rewards. Users do not know what item they’ll receive prior to purchase. Instead, users are purchasing a chance to receive one item from a set of items.

  • Monetized. Users are able to purchase the roll with real money, either directly or through an intermediary currency.

  • Encouraged Use. Users are encouraged to acquire and consume the loot box during the course of normal gameplay or game systems.

The site tweeted in October 2017 that it planned to “take a stand against loot boxes,” back around the time the issue of monetized gambling in games was being widely debated following the release of games like Middle-earth: Shadow of War and NBA2K18.

The release of Star Wars: Battlefront II a month later pushed the topic into a national spotlight, leading some state and Congressional legislators to weigh in on the issue.

Senate Inquiry Calls For 'Comprehensive Review' Of Loot Boxes

The Senate inquiry into "gaming micro-transactions for chance-based items" - otherwise known as the loot box inquiry - has tabled its report to Parliament, recommending that the Federal Government undertake a "comprehensive review of loot boxes in video games".

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In the year since, Belgium’s government has forced the removal of loot boxes from games including FIFA 19 and Overwatch in its country, while many games that still have them in the United States now disclose their odds.

Notably, the OpenCritic pages for Battlefront II and Shadow of War do not include the new warnings since loot boxes were eventually removed from both games following the public backlash against them.

“It’s our mission to help gamers make informed decisions when considering a purchase or download,” writes the site. “We feel that informing consumers about the presence of loot boxes is a key part of our mission.”

Below is the full list of games OpenCritic has currently flagged for including loot boxes:

  • Apex Legends

  • Artifact

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops III

  • Call of Duty: WWII

  • Destiny 2

  • FIFA series

  • Fortnite: Battle Royale

  • Gears of War 4

  • Halo 5: Guardians

  • Hearthstone

  • Heroes of the Storm

  • Injustice 2

  • Madden series

  • NBA 2K series

  • Need for Speed Payback

  • Overwatch

  • Paladins

  • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

  • Pro Evolution Soccer series

  • Rocket Leagu

  • SMIT

  • The Elder Scrolls: Legend

  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege

  • Trials Rising


Comments

    Is there any info on how it will discriminate between games that also offer lootboxes in a free manner versus paid?

    To use Destiny 2, you can buy coins and use them to get cosmetics lootboxes. Pretty much the definition of a lootbox. But you also get those same boxes just from playing, which should be recognised as well.

    Most players get those cosmetics that way, so the paid option is done right. Its not predatory, and I think that's important.

      Doesn't that cover what most loot box games do though? Either by directly giving them to the player or by giving them small amounts of the premium currency to buy them.

      It's there to give the player a taste of the system with the promise that they can get their next hit right now by fronting some cash.

      There definitely need to be better sub-classifications for in-game purchasing systems - I still always find it annoying on the Google Play store that there is no way to differentiate whether 'game contains IAP' means 'game uses predatory lootbox mechanic' vs 'game has some DLC available'.

      For another example; I see Fortnite BR in that list, but I thought only the STW campaign had them, and most are from grinding in-game currency (gold and event tickets from mission completion) - especially since they just changed the ones bought with Vbucks (which you can earn from daily missions without having to pay extra) to always show you what you're getting. Paid loot llamas are now 'X-ray llamas' which randomise their content daily, but show what you'll get in each specific one before buying.

      Most games with lootboxes give you some for free. That's the point. They give you a small taste with the hope you'll splurge some cash.

      Do we distinguish heroin dealers that give out freebies to their clients, from those that don't?

      The entire premise of lootboxes are founded around addiction, and for you to actively seek that next reward. Even if you don't spend money, they keep you playing the game - grinding away for that loot, which in turn keeps the player base up and increases likelihood of others spending money.

        By that argument, you may as well ban every game that has a randomised reward. Super Mario Bros 3 has a gambling element in it at the end of every stage. Ban it!

        Plenty of games encourage you to keep playing by randomising the rewards in boss fights. Don't get the drop you want, redo the fight. Its not the random reward that's the problem. Its the monetising.

        Your response is a classic example of why I want the granularity. Congratulations, you've just decided that boss fights in WoW are as bad as someone selling crack to kids. After all, they need to keep paying a subscription to play and theres no guarantee the raid boss will drop what they want. See? I can extrapolate as well. And obviously its a ridiculous argument to make.

        Do you distinguish between a heroin dealer and your local chemist? Of course you do, because one is dealing with drugs legally. Where someone is doing wrong, do something about it, but don't punish the good examples just because someone else is doing the wrong thing.

        That's my point. Where there is predatory monetisation, do something about it. Where there's just an alternative way, stop being a snowflake.

      It'd require some fine granulation. Some games use "free" (i.e. earnt with in-game actions) as the "hooker" to get players interested in what's essentially gambling for highly sought items with frankly ludicrous probabilities.

        That's what I'm getting at. How big is the hook?

        Again, Destiny 2. I was earning cosmetic lootboxes roughly one every session. Plenty to keep my cosmetics balance well stocked. Would be hit and miss on rare skins for weapons and my ship, but they came at a decent enough rate I didn't remotely feel a need to buy silver coins and gamble. As an aside to that, there was zero difference in probabilities between what I earned free, or what I might pay for.

        To me, that's exactly how it should be, but people seem to think that the mere fact the option to fast track is there is enough to burn the game to the ground. Thats wrong to me.

        This isn't a black and white issue, there are shades of grey, and times where its done properly. There always has been, so why is it suddenly an issue across all games now, and not a decade ago?

        Not all lootboxes are trying to make people addicted to gambling. Plenty of games are happy with a relatively small portion of whales to cover costs.

          No it's a complex issue similar to drug addiction. But no matter how complex the problem they create drug dealers are pieces of human filth that prey on their fellow people in moments of weakness.

          Also when did it become OK to milk a few players of $1000's of dollars. The whales are actually the population in our midst that require the most protecting, sure some of them may have more money than sense but most of them don't. It is not normal to spend $1000's of dollars on a game let alone in a game.

          That's why it's like drugs because for some poor people that is exactly what it is, lootboxes can literally affect a person's brain chemistry if they are so wired that way.

          Oh and in b4 the rubbish argument that "these people shouldn't be playing games in the first place if they are at risk'
          Games are for everyone to enjoy!

          Casino's have gambling laws to protect people, games don't. The smarmy CEO's just managed to find a loophole that let them stuff gambling mechanics into their games with none of the regulation.

          The whales you refer to... Some of them are children.

      The first hit is free.

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