Lockboxes: Loot For A Price
By now, it seems that just about every free-to-play game includes some form of lockboxes. I've picked up a gazillion in Team Fortress 2, The Lord of the Rings Online, and Star Trek Online (and have over a hundred in the non-F2P Guild Wars 2), and my feelings about them are mixed. On the one hand, I can see how they're an easy way for F2P games to give players an attractive option for spending money: buy a key, get loot. Instant gratification!
On the other hand, there's a certain kind of... I don't know if I want to go so far as to say “deception.” Obfuscation? Insidiousness? Maybe those are better terms. Lockboxes aren't an evil on par with pay-to-win, but they're definitely a cunning way to make you pay for something you already have.
Well, even that's not really accurate. Just because a lockbox dropped for you doesn't mean you really “have” any loot. You have nothing until you go to the cash shop and buy a key. Depending on whether you can sell the locked boxes, you might be better off with a piece of vendor trash you can hock for a few pieces of copper.
The lure is there, though... you've got this shiny little chest that contains untold treasures, and all you have to do to access them is plop down a dollar or two. Of course, the game could just sell you something called a “Random Loot Box” direct in the cash shop for the same amount that a key costs, but you probably wouldn't be as enticed to buy it because you don't already have half of the equation sitting in your inventory, tempting you with its promise of riches.
Amazing revelation here: Some companies are really good at figuring out clever ways to separate you from your money. It's how the casinos stay in business. In effect, a lockbox is really just an ad directing you to the cash shop to buy a key.
And if your attitude is, “I don't really like lockboxes, but I buy a few keys every now and then,” I'm sorry to say you actually do like lockboxes and you want to see more of them. Because when you spend money on keys, that tells the developers that they can make money on them, and thus encourages them to put more in the game, or in their next game, or to add them to their game that doesn't already have them. Lockboxes keep popping up for the same reason you keep getting e-mails offering cheap Viagara from the work-from-home (making $55/hour) Nigerian Finance Minister – because they work.
Lockboxes aren't quite as deceptive as e-mail spam, since they generally give what's offered, albeit randomly. Me, I prefer not to spend my money on random loot; I got enough of that during my trading-card-game days. Maybe you feel differently, and that's fine. After all, these companies have to make money somehow, and if they can find someone willing to shell out for treasure of dubious quality, good for them. As always, the power is with the player to decide what will and won't be acceptable, and players by and large have spoken.
What's your opinion on lockboxes? Do you open them or junk them? And how do you feel in general about the practice?
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.
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I do not open them and probably won't open any of them, because paying a subscription or using real-money to get in-game advantages isn't fair, and the bigger problem is, that it costs money. I do not play F2P games or buy games so that I can spend money later, I buy them to be able to play without further expenditure.
Also, they're a very annoying kind of advertisement, just like the ones before a video on Youtube (thank goodness AdBlocks exist).
Videogames are not Vegas. We are not winning the megabux lotto with a lockbox.
Simply offer a player the ability to pay outright and they will fork over cash happily. Where I live it isn't Asia. Lockboxes have limited appeal to me as a US gamer. Sorry to the companies that use these. They could be scoring my cash, but lock boxes will never be anything, but a novelty to me.
never going to open one cause waste of money...
The world is wide and huge, just like eBay, you'll never understand why some people buy junk stuff. But hey, i'll cool as long as people kept buying all my junk boxes, tht helps me out by earning some in game cash to spend on pots.
Because it was deemed to be "online gambling with real money by kids"
IE: Minors Gambling on Poker with Real Money (same thing, it's just a game, but it still have money involved)
Here's the catch, though: Gambling is not bad per se. Lockboxes can provide some fun in the thrill of getting that awesome item you wanted or being surprised by something you didn't even expect would be cool. What IS bad though is UNCONTROLLED gambling.
Lockbox systems basically circumvent the legal checks on gambling present in many jurisdictions - and THAT is not okay. These systems should be able to be switched off client-side (disabling lockbox drops) and, when enabled, come with a WARNING regarding their potentially addictive nature.
In summary: lockboxes, as a form of gambling, are not bad per se (gambling CAN be fun if you have a grip on your spending), but they should be declared as what they are instead of being imposed on gamers through frankly dishonest means.
Lockboxes in sto and gw2 are the worst, I have opened quite few in swtor & neverwinter (same developers of sto I know) and stuff that comes out of these are at least useful to use or to sell...my main objective in opening lockboxes in neverwinter is to collect enough tarmalune bars. As for sto, keys are for auction only....& gw2, haven't logged in for long time now.
I hate lockboxes its just another way a gaming company tries to milk more money from its players. Even if it was guaranteed to give you a piece of gear you might not even get an upgrade or something you can actually use like a caster getting a 2 handed warriors sword. I would prefer a game drop lottery tickets you take to an NPC to try for a good chance at loot for free and sell a cash shop item like a good luck charm to put in the NPC's ticket redeem window to increase the chances at a good item that way I could use tickets for free and those that like the "buy from cash shop" lockbox system could still buy the charms and get the same items or chance at items they did with the keys.
And u can get Boxes and Keys in Instances.
When I go to Vegas, it's for the free booze and cheap buffets. I do NOT gamble. And that's precisely what lockboxes are: the stupidest form of gambling ever.
I never, ever buy "keys", but if one comes my way via random drop or quest reward, then (and only then) *might* I use it to open a lockbox... but only if I can't sell the key itself.
And btw loot boxes are shit :/ I cant believe people spend money on this :/