When Pong was released in 1972, nobody believed two paddles would be ground zero for a multi-billion-dollar entertainment industry spanning across the globe.
Video games have become one of the largest pillars of modern entertainment, with Grand Theft Auto 5 selling 11.21 million copies on the first day.
That’s $815.7 million made within 24 hours.
Add in the micro-transactions in the game’s online feature that allows players to exchange real cash for large quantities of it’s digital counterpart, and you’ve got profit on steroids.
However, micro-transactions in video games have been under fire by the very audience these games are tailored to for some time.
The audience contends micro-transactions have caused publishers to push out incomplete games, or games with pay-to-win functions, rewarding players based more on what they pay over how well they play the game.
“We should have to get to a certain level to get what we want, instead of paying money for this certain item. That’s what I like in games, like how they did it in the old days,” said Delta Student Treyvion Bonner.
The problem was inflamed last year, during the demo period of Electronic Arts’ Star Wars: Battlefront II.
The game offered players the ability to purchase an in game loot box or Crate as the feature is called, for items usable in the game.
This is nothing abnormal, as game developers usually program cosmetic items such as character costumes, color palettes, animations etc. inside of them.
“If I have the extra money sitting around, then yeah, I’ll buy a cosmetic. But if it’s like ‘oh I already bought this and now I have to turn around and buy that too,’ then no I couldn’t do it,” said Kaevon Shearer, another Delta student.
However, in Star Wars the loot boxes would also come with upgrades for the players trooper, star fighter and hero classes that would substantially affect game play online, the more powerful the upgrade.
For example, a trooper class could be upgraded so that it’s laser weapon will cool down faster, requiring less reloads.
A hero class, Han Solo for example, can be upgraded to increase it’s weapons fire rate for several seconds with each consecutive headshot.
The only way to obtain these upgrades was to purchase one of the loot box options.
“What’s fair about games like Dead by Daylight is that even if you don’t buy those new characters and perks that come out, they still let you get them through the Blood Shrine. You can earn points and purchase these items. That’s what makes it fair, you grind for it,” said Bonner.
The controversy forced EA to temporarily remove all micro transaction options in the game before release.
The damage was already done.
The controversy brought the concept of loot boxes to the attention of various governments across the world, including: Britain, Norway and the United States, who are looking into whether or not this is gambling. You purchase a loot box in the hopes of progressing in game or gaining some edge over other players but the contents are randomly generated and nothing is guaranteed.
“You can put in a $1000 and not get anything, that’s pay to win or pay to lose … if they guaranteed rare items at least in every box, I’d say it’s okay. But then they can give you one guarantee and two common items. What’s the point?” said Bonner.
Bill 6266, written by three Washington State Senators Kevin Ranker, Reuven Carlyle and Karen Keiser met with the Senate Committee of Labor & Commerce on January 31st.
Bill 6266 would have the Washington State Gambling Commission study the use of loot boxes in game and determine whether or not they should be considered gambling by the states law.
Several more states are also looking into this, including North Carolina, Hawaii, Connecticut, Minnesota and Georgia.