Dust from the stampede of enraged gamers is high up in the sky these days, following atrocious exploitation policies from two publisher/developer tag teams - EA/DICE and Activision/Bungie. Yet while these two outfits are taking the heat over the gambling controversy, there are others doing just the same but going unchecked.
It seems like developers and publishers these days are trying their best to shove the "new normal" of gambling in games down our throats, but the real worrying fact is that most of them are getting away with it. EA/DICE and Activision/Bungie are in the spotlight because of bad execution, they simply weren't subtle enough and the public came knocking on the door with pitchforks in their hands. Meanwhile, gambling in gaming is rampant in titles other than Destiny 2 and Star Wars: Battlefront II.
PLAYERUNKNOWN'S BATTLEGROUNDS is one of the most popular games out there right now and as a consequence, prices for its cosmetic items are through the roof. Camo hot pants can set you back £140 and black mini skirts go for about £212. Now if you don't mind spending some money on skins but find these prices ridiculously high, you will most likely get tempted to test your luck with a loot box. If you choose to do this, a Gamescom Invitational Crate is now your only viable option, and you just got baited into gambling high amounts of money for a piece of virtual clothing you may or may not get.
PUBG isn't the only game that's doing business this way. League of Legends has had the same system in place since March 2016. It was then that the first loot box exclusive skin was released and the gamble fest commenced. Gambling in these two games isn't nearly as malicious as EA or Activision's greedy handling of Battlefront II or Destiny 2 but they are both appealing to your desire for the skins/outfits and more importantly - the thrill of uncertainty.
Random Number Generators have been always present in games, whether to invoke a twist of fate where we land that critical hit that decides the outcome of a duel, how the bullet spread will affect our aiming or to decide whether we get the epic loot from a raid boss. On the flip side of the coin, we could end up with hours, days or weeks of wasted time we invested into getting that loot. That uncertainty plays a huge part in the reason why games keep us amused and provide exhilarating moments and when we get something to show for it, we get that feeling of immense satisfaction. In short, we have always been gambling in games, be it with our invested time, involvement or honing our skills. And it felt good. We invested ourselves and eventually reaped the rewards.
So why not throw a quid or two in for a little bit of additional uncertainty? Why not invest our money so we can reap the rewards? Because that way we skip all the fun in the game, just to get to the end product. Anyone who has ever bought anything in a game should be able to relate here. It took me over eight months in League of Legends to get Soulstealer Vayne from loot boxes and in the end it proved to be a rather small window of happiness and fulfilment. A month of effort that it took me to reach Platinum bracket back in Season 5 kept me hyped for months, and is a reason I still play the game.
Players are sometimes unaware that it's the journey that brings us joy, not the destination - and fall for the trap of quick entertainment, one they end up paying a lot of hard-earned currency for. In today's business models publishers will rarely stop to consider whether the players will have fun and will press on with the quickest way to cash in on the game. Right now it's gambling through loot boxes and it is dragging the entire industry several steps backwards. Games will gradually offer less content and more gambling, in order to grab the money sooner. The sooner we snap out of it and stop falling for the quick entertainment traps, the sooner the industry will go back on its original course of pursuing new procreative ways to provide entertainment, instead of online casinos.
PUBG has the fastest growing playerbase in recent gaming history and League of Legends is an eSports giant that has ruled the competitive scene for years now. If these two pinnacles of modern gaming could not escape the gambling trend, then what chance will other, smaller titles have? If we don't snap out of it, gaming as we know it could collapse in a rather foreseeable future - and it will be our own fault.