As we close out 2019, most publications look back on the best of the year.
But, when it comes to news, we often like to look ahead to what’s on the horizon for the video games industry and we have to say that 2020 could be huge in terms of the industry coming to grips with one recent phenomenon.
What is it, you ask?
Nothing other than the modern scourge of the medium – microtransactions and loot boxes.
As gaming devs and publishers rake in huge amounts of cash for these gimmicks, politicians throughout the year have questioned the mechanic’s fairness, morality, and even legality.
And it doesn’t look like it is going to get any easier going forward. This is why we think 2020 is going to bring a sea of change with regard to how governments and the industry handle loot boxes and the microtransactions associated with them.
Aside from being hated by most anyone raised on classic gaming, loot boxes and microtransactions based upon elements of chance are compared by many to electronic gambling.
The biggest contention surrounding loot boxes is not only that they milk money out of a player base but they do so in ways that are subtle and perhaps not as obvious to unsophisticated players. Because of this and the fact that so many younger people- including children- are part of the broader gaming audience, governments around the world are starting to look at loot boxes and microtransactions as something to be regulated or even banned outright.
It is one of the few times when some gamers and their respective governments converge in terms of general interests, leaving developers and publishers that rely upon this business model biting their nails with anxiety. That’s because this model has fueled some of the biggest titles of the past year, chief among them being Fortnite.
Proponents of this model praise its ability to bring gaming to people who might not otherwise be able to afford it. On the other hand, critics point out that so-called “whales,” as the industry terms them, often spend inordinate amounts of money on a single game, bringing up questions of exploitation. This often draws into question the utility provided by that expense as well as if parts of the game are missing to encourage such spending habits.
Naturally, parents absolutely hate this gaming mechanic and with good reason. They sometimes end up footing the bill for a lot of these microtransactions and nothing could be quite as infuriating as finding out your child has just wasted $300 on a “character skin” or something else for a game they considered to be “free.”
The double-edged sword for the industry is that publishers have become addicted to the cash infusions this business strategy offers them, but consumers are also quite aware of this same phenomenon. That’s why most gamers are increasingly questioning the “why” behind all of this and many are refusing to even participate no matter how cheap or desirable microtransactions become.
Interestingly, the lootbox and microtransaction philosophical dilemma has drawn quite a real distinction in the modern era between what is considered a game and what is “not.”
There seems to be some kind of feeling that games that require gambling or constant expenditures of real money are not “real” games. There’s no doubt that real games can have this as part of the overall scheme of things but there’s a real skepticism about games driven purely by chance mechanics. Whether or not this is the future will be decided by the market, but 2020 seems to be shaping up as a real inflection point for the industry for how to proceed forward with microtransactions in a fair way – or to get rid of them entirely.