The Uncertain Future Of Loot Boxes

With the recent news that the major console manufacturers will be requiring game developers to disclose the probability of obtaining “randomised virtual items” from loot boxes, as well as Rocket League’s announcement that the game would be ditching loot boxes altogether, I wanted to discuss the shifting attitudes around these monetisation schemes and even the potential for the US federal government to intervene.

I sat down with Kotaku’s Heather Alexandra to discuss how we got here, what the future may hold for loot boxes, and whether game companies disclosing the odds percentages of obtaining rare items is good enough or if there’s still more that the industry can do.


  • I like the idea of disclosing odds and I think it will affect there revenue whatever comes next will be interesting either they go back to everything being for sale individualy or maybe more subscription based games or “seasons” like how Siege does it.

  • There’s a lot more the industry can do but I also think that disclosing odds is only one of many small changes that have been happening for a while now.
    Alone they don’t seem like much but together I believe it gives the industry a strong case of arguing they’ve been proactive in self regulation far beyond the issue of loot boxes.

    I often see people saying the industry was caught off guard with the announcement of the “Protect Children from Abusive Video Games Act” and that they are scrambling to react but I think that’s far from the case.
    I think we saw the rumbling of change on an industry level back when Hawaii first attempted legislation and on an individual level following the Battlefront loot box debacle.

    Ubisoft stood out to me following the Battlefront anger, you can really see they pursued other models of microtransactions and seem to have settled around the mechanics of boosters and timed challenges that relate to currencies and vanity items like skins and clothing.
    (Wildlands went through a lot of changes toward that end and we’ve seen the results in titles like FarCry, Assassins Creed and The Division)
    Following Hawaii the 2018 E3 showed more companies were shying away from the traditional loot box mechanics and recently we’ve seen some are willing to pull them from existing games.
    Now we have the big boys calling for the disclosure of odds which might appear half arsed but they represent the bulk of the gaming market and games obviously won’t get on those platforms without playing ball.

    Other non loot box changes we’ve seen are Sony introducing stricter content guidelines, Microsoft taking steps to curb toxicity and Nintendo creating more robust parental controls.

    (I could go on but I’m not writing a story)

    To finish up I’m more for self regulation than handing things over to the government, I honestly don’t believe their interests really lie in protecting kids so much as taking control for their own interests and ends.

    • Yeah, I think there’s a level of self preservation with what they’ve done, and not wanting legislative control. Its always preferable for self regulation to dictate what they can do as it leaves open enough grey areas if they want to exploit them. Like still having microtransactions for boosters and the like.

      Then again, when companies like EA try to fight even that, and try to convince people they didnt have lootboxes but surprise mechanics, they leave the door open for some sort of official control.

      I see some are trying to do the right thing. They tried to nickle and dime us (and I can understand why) but realise they went a step too far so are looking at ways to scale it back to a better point.

      But I also feel its gone too far now, and that enough countries will be legislating that their efforts to get back to self regulation will be moot. This has been an ongoing pokitical discussion for coming on two years now.

      The EU for example are likely to put legislation in place. That covers a large enough part of their market that theres little point having different versions of their stores for EU and US, so they just have the same mechanic across both. Which means no lootboxes as we know them. We’ll probably do something, and you can be sure that multiple US States will do something as well.

      But they’ll find some other way to nickle and dime us. They always do, and again, I can understand why. If we want fresh content there needs to be a way for them to fund it beyond the initial sales. Some form of store is going to be there.

      And with that thought, while I prefer self regulation like you, I think that for the sake of the next wave of microtransactions, some form of law needs to be put in place regardless.

      It makes it easier to deal with anything else they try to throw at the consumer down the track if its just amending laws already in place. If the self regulation they’re trying is good enough, it wont change what they’re doing anyway.

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