The rise of loot boxes has definitely been a heated topic, especially so in recent months. The dependency on these sorts of microtransactions has become a cause for concern among gamers and linear-style developers. With EA taking a strong stance of "all titles" having a microtransaction system, and many other big time publishers following the same path, many in the industry have become more and more vocal. This was definitely evident at this year's Game Awards, and even more so that many areas globally are investigating this trend as gambling.
Blizzard's hit FPS Overwatch offers a loot box system, but it isn't in anyway seen as pay-to-win. That's where the issue lies with many, not that they are there for cosmetic reasons - but when publishers start implementing them and tricking down to the developing teams for loot boxes that allow players to pay-to-win, or pay for bonus, that's where the community started to raise their hackles.
But not all games take advantage of this system, as evident in the previously mentioned Overwatch. Many have compared the game to how loot crates can be done correctly if they must be done at all. Besides, it is fun trying to unlock some of those hard to get skins for your main - and everything offered in those crates can be earned by organic gameplay. When discussing the matter in a new interview with PCGamesN, Game director Jeff Kaplan had this to say:
“There were a couple of core philosophies that were very important to the team when creating our loot box system. One was that it had to be a very player-centric system. As players ourselves we don’t want any sort of power increase in our system. We wanted the system to be purely cosmetic, so that was one of the core philosophies.
The second was that we wanted every item that was available in the loot boxes to be obtainable in some way that didn’t have anything to do with luck, so we [compensated players for duplicates], and did the credit system, and the unlocks. That way, if you ever felt like ‘There was that Junkrat skin that I’ve always really wanted but I don’t seem to ever pull it out of the loot box’, that you had an avenue of obtaining that that wasn’t loot box driven, or random driven.
The other reason that our loot box system has been successful so far is we try to listen to our players as much as possible. They’re very vocal when they’re unhappy about things. An example is the first Summer Games event, where you couldn’t get the items for credits, and our players said ‘Hey, that’s not cool, we’d really like to get the items for credits.’ So, as soon as that event ended, we added the ability for the next event. Then, shortly after the Anniversary event, we made it so that duplicates were far rarer in the loot boxes. I can never say that duplicates don’t exist, because we don’t have infinite content, so at some point a duplicate will exist. But we were hearing feedback during the Anniversary event like ‘Hey, these duplicates aren’t really cool, what can you do about it,’ and we made a change.
So, we’re hoping to show players that we play the game too: we’re involved in a dialogue with them, we’re happy to make changes, the system’s cosmetic-only, and you can obtain everything in the loot boxes through other ways. That’s what’s stayed important to us.”
It's a good point though, cosmetic items can be fun ... as long as it isn't forced. It's fun to grind for that wanted gear. With the correct approach to this practice, we can only hope that big companies like EA will take note.