Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

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Civil War Man
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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Civil War Man » 2018-05-04 05:51pm

bilateralrope wrote:
2018-05-04 12:36am
Civil War Man wrote:
2018-05-03 10:29am
Honestly, the industry might need another big crash, if only to provide some incentive to change some bad habits that can't be regulated by law since they aren't actually illegal.
You're hoping that the industry crashes (unlikely). Then hoping that it will recover in a way you like, instead of the companies that survive (likely those making phone games) not changing their behaviour. Do you really think that is a better plan than changing the law ?
That assumes that there is something to legislate. That can work for stuff like lootboxes and predatory mobile games, but you are going to have a hard time legislating shitty shovelware garbage unless you start making early access illegal. The industry is already setting itself up for another crash, and not too dissimilar to how it happened in '83 with the market being flooded by trash games. My argument is that an industry crash has a better chance of fixing that problem than hoping the bad publishers decide to change their business models out of the goodness of their hearts.

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by TheFeniX » 2018-05-04 06:50pm

Civil War Man wrote:
2018-05-04 05:51pm
That assumes that there is something to legislate. That can work for stuff like lootboxes and predatory mobile games, but you are going to have a hard time legislating shitty shovelware garbage unless you start making early access illegal. The industry is already setting itself up for another crash, and not too dissimilar to how it happened in '83 with the market being flooded by trash games. My argument is that an industry crash has a better chance of fixing that problem than hoping the bad publishers decide to change their business models out of the goodness of their hearts.
I dunno, man. I feel you here, but I don't it will or even could happen. They're too divested. There's also enough people (or really one) doing it "right." Like, Nintendo deals with DudeBros (Xbox) and SDF (Sony) morons chanting "FALL FALL FALL" then they just keep on trucking and releasing gold. They don't even make bad games (Other M is just like such a screwball from them). They just go through sprints where they release "not great" or games that are just considered derivative and get shit for it unlike Squeenix who just keeps re-mastering (poorly) FF games and other RPGs in their stable.

Meanwhile, SDF morons (as Dudebros are essentially dead, or at least MS doesn't really fucking matter) are constantly on life support but then get a super-injection of "not shit" steroids like the just recent God of War exclusive that's actually not just a solid game, but fairly excellent. EDIT: Left out: fanboys are on a whole other level these days. The amount of bullshit that Sony got a solid exclusive, which "proves" their purchase was the right one is hilarious. Sega fanboys weren't half this bad and Sega always pushed that mentality./EDIT

The problem during the crash was the dive into licensed bullshit, spending MILLIONS on licenses and like a drop in the hat on development. Look at E.T. since it was the deathknell that lead to the crash. Now they spend that money outright on marketing their own IP, but that's something they COULD scale back. And some old IPs might have some breath left in them if left to ripen over a few years. Like if Microsoft hadn't beat Halo and Gears to fucking death.

And games fucking COST back then. Development was super expensive compared to today. Deciding to develop an (what would pass) for an engine back then versus licensing was a moot point because most kept their secrets under lock and key. FPS would finally take off mostly due to hardware but also the magic a guy like Carmack could shit out with software rendering. And this was a guy who, at least based on memory, was kind of a shitter when it came to using dedicated video processing hardware. Anyways, you can walk out today and decide "I wanna be the guy who makes the game" and you've got options on many things these guys just didn't have. And with all the shit I give suits today, they actually DO seem more knowledgeable about what's needed to shit out a good game (they just ignore it many times and hide behind pre-orders and review embargoes).

It's like saying Hollywood could crash. It's just not all that likely to happen. The ass kind of fell out of the action movie genre when a guy like Arnold "retired" and they spent over a decade looking for a replacement (The Rock was supposed to be one of those, but he's way to.... charismatic to "be" Arnold 2.0). They instead desperately looked for anything and settled on comic movies. A genre in of itself that has died many times. But Fox, MG, Sorny, all those assholes have multiple other genres and irons in the fires to supplment their income. Also, foreign audiences.

EA could lose it's shit, you know, because they suck, but even trash like Dungeon Keeper made them millions. They don't HAVE to go the loot box route, they can just go back to F2P mobile garbage with paid progression. Because the type of people who dump money into those games don't take "gaming" seriously to begin with and will just buy the next thing. They basically found the kinds of people who buy Madden and Fifa every year and made flash games that work on cell phones for them.

And they can (and would) weather the storm, find out what's selling after the fact, buy up a bunch of indies or flat out copy other groups actually MAKING GAMES. Then make shittier versions of those games and/or grind the people they bought up into dust.

Really though, I couldn't care less about a crash. Co-op is fucking dead and most the shit I play is dated. But even in the event of a crash, I would be worried (aside from Nintendo who would laugh all the way to the bank) F2P mobile bullshit is what we'd be dealing with out of the big boys for quite a while.

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by bilateralrope » 2018-05-10 12:37am

The only crash I can see coming is "live services". They rely on keeping players in them for a long time so that those players keep paying money. Something I've noticed from MMOs is that the players who can be easily convinced to drop game x for game y will also easily drop that for game z. They aren't the kind of player that live services want but the longer live services are pushed, there will be less players who will stick with a game available for new games, because they have already found their game of choice. Leading to a point where old live services keep doing well, but new ones have trouble. Just like the MMO market where nobody came close to topping WoW until MMOs started going F2P.

On that note, EA only has a single game on their coming soon page.

To updates on lootboxes:

The full Belgium report. I haven't had a time to give it a full read yet, but I did notice two interesting recomendations:
Age verification in supermarkets when purchasing codes or gift cards for video games. Minors may not make payments associated with video games that are not suitable for minors.
With regard to game platforms that facilitate payments that can be used in video games:
 The age requirements of the platform and the used video game must be the same. If a game is not approved for minors, they must also not be able to make any payments.
My understanding of those is: If Steam has a single lootbox game, then the entire Steam platform becomes adults only and any physical store selling a Steam wallet code must check the age of the buyer. Ouch.

Also, EA seem to think themselves above the law:

EA CEO: We’re ‘pushing forward’ with loot boxes despite regulation
Belgium and the Netherlands have ruled that many loot boxes in games like FIFA Ultimate Team are equivalent to gambling and in violation of their laws, but FIFA publisher Electronic Arts says it plans to continue its loot-box Ultimate Team mode.

“We’re going to continue pushing forward [with FIFA Ultimate Team],” EA chief executive officer Andrew Wilson said during a conference call with industry analysts. “We’re always thinking about our players. We’re always thinking about how to deliver these types of experiences in a transparent, fun, fair, and balanced way for our players — and we’ll continue to work with regulators on that.”

EA also confirmed that its Ultimate Team modes in FIFA, Madden NFL, NHL, and NBA Live on PC, consoles, and mobile are its biggest live-service moneymakers. These modes bring in more than the Sims games or Battlefield, and they lean on the sale of card packs that act like loot boxes. These card packs include random soccer players that can improve your team and your chances of winning against friends and others online. And some people, policymakers, and regulators — including the gaming authorities in Belgium and Netherlands — that those card packs have are gambling.

Wilson explained to investors that it is working to protect this valuable revenue source, which has helped the company grow year-over-year to $1.25 billion during its last quarter even without releasing a major new game.

“We’re working with all of the industry associations globally and with regulators in certain regions and territories,” said Wilson. “Many of [the regulators] we’ve been working with for a long time, and they have evaluated and established that programs like FIFA Ultimate Team are not gambling.”

EA, of course, says it doesn’t think FIFA Ultimate Team and other video game loot boxes are equivalent to slot machines. Wilson explained why.

“First, players always receive a specified number of items in every FUT pack,” the executive explained. “Second, we don’t provide or authorize any way to cash out digital items or virtual currency for real-world money. And there’s no real-world value assigned to in-game items.”

But on the internet, where there’s a will (and money) there’s a way. You can find a number of sites that will exchange your virtual currency and items for real-world cash that will work at the grocery store. EA says that it is aware of this as well.

“While we forbid the transfer of items and in-game currency outside of the games, we also actively seek to eliminate that where it’s going on in an illegal environment,” said Wilson. “We work with various regulators on that.”

EA will have to convince policymakers around the world that it is doing enough and that its mechanics are not the same as the kinds of games you’d find in a casino. For now, however, it is telling investors that the FIFA Ultimate Team factory is still printing money.

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by TheFeniX » 2018-05-10 12:29pm

EA is just that Good at being Terrible. SWTOR, a miserable trainwreck as released, is making the considerable bank. And they managed to cut their fixed costs down to (I assume) a fraction of what it was with their mega-server merges. They can shit-out hilariously low quality costumes, lightsabers, and other shit like mounts and decorations and just make bank. Even without the lootbox shit. There's a lightsaber staff thingy they released a couple weeks/months ago that was like 5200 coins. That's ~$52US. There were tons on the auction house (going for hundreds of millions of credits). Just selling ONE of those probably pushed the time/money spent into the black.

They have so many avenues to make money. Though it makes perfect sense for them to fight this on all fronts because it's another layer of money on top of their original The Sims setup where they make "Free Mod" quality assets and sell them for cash. Now they can hide those low quality assets under a gambling system, making you spend more money on the HOPE you get that unlock.

EDIT: Fuck man, remember when innovation in video games was about like..... Havok? or laughably bad AI? I know EA was never about that, but other people?

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Esquire » 2018-05-10 10:04pm

Frankly, if I were Steam (/EA, and whoever else), I'd just write off Belgium entirely given that regulatory environment (or else filter available content by IP, but there will definitely be lootbox-enabled games that slip through whatever filter they set up and I don't know enough about international video game finances to make that cost-benefit assessment). It's too small of a market to be worth placating, unless the wider EU gets involved. Not that EA isn't run by a bunch of dicks, just that corporations' whole deal is to make a lot of money and lootboxes clearly do that, annoying as they are.

EDIT: Belgium. Not the Netherlands. It's been a very long day.
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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by bilateralrope » 2018-05-11 12:44am

Disabling microtransactions just in Belgium might run into problems with consumer protection, false advertising laws or the EU's push for a single digital market. Not releasing at all in Belgium would get lots of people who hate lootboxes to start asking about if the game is released in Belgium. If not, they won't buy it.

It seems likely that the EU would get involved.


Also Techdirt thinks that lots of gamers are unhappy with lootboxes.
Gaming Industry And Game Consumers On A Collision Course Over Loot Boxes
If you're a gamer, you know all about loot boxes. We haven't covered them or the associated controversy here, as both are slightly outside of the usual topics we cover. But we do in fact cover digital marketplaces and how companies and industries react to market forces and it's becoming more clear that the gaming industry and the gaming public are on something of a collision course over loot boxes.

As a primer, a loot box is a digital randomized thing, typically purchased in-game and resulting in a random reward of in-game content. Some content is more valuable than others, leading to some referring to loot boxes as a form of gambling, particularly when some of the game content can provide benefits to players in multiplayer settings. Overwatch popularized loot boxes somewhat in 2016, although mobile games have used some flavor of this kind of monetization for pretty much ever. The gaming public never really liked this concept, with many arguing that it breaks in-game competition by giving players willing to pay for loot boxes an advantage. But the loot box fervor hit its pique after the release of Star Wars Battlefront 2, with EA being forced to massively alter how its loot boxes worked in game. Since then, loot boxes are a topic of consumer backlash as a general rule.

Making it somewhat strange, therefore, that the gaming industry seems to want to embrace loot boxes as its dominant business model.
With all the controversy, scrutiny, and international regulation randomized video game loot boxes are facing these days, you might think the practice of charging players for a chance at unknown in-game items might be set for a precipitous decline. On the contrary, though, one analyst sees spending on loot boxes increasing by over 62 percent in the next four years to become a $47 billion piece of the industry. By then, loot boxes will represent over 29 percent of all spending on digital games, the analyst said, up from just under 25 percent currently.

In a newly published forecast of the global game market, Juniper Research concedes that developers are "effectively encouraging a form of in-game gambling" with loot boxes and using that addictive potential to "extend both the lifecycle and engagement of games titles to their audience." These kinds of non-traditional money-making techniques are a practical necessity for developers squeezed by increasing costs and stagnant or declining up-front game prices, Juniper says.
Whatever your opinion of loot boxes, it should be clear that there is trouble on the horizon. Individual opinions will vary, but it seems clear that the majority of gamers are strongly against loot boxes, and that majority is very, very loud. Put another way, the vocal reaction to loot boxes is almost universally negative, with barely anyone at all praising their use in games. The market is sending the gaming industry a very clear message and the industry has apparently decided to place an awful lot of poker chips in dismissing that message.

Even governments are getting in on the backlash, actually, for a variety of reasons. Some seek to protect consumers from blatant attempts to extract more revenue from them by gamemakers, while others want loot boxes regulated as a form of gambling.

Yet the gaming industry is so all-in on this that Juniper thinks both the public and governments will allow loot boxes to exist merely because gamemakers are making so much money off of them right now.
"Whilst some restrictions may be put in place by government and regulatory bodies, the practice is unlikely to be banned outright simply due to the effect it would have on the games industry as a whole," Juniper writes in a recent white paper on the subject. And while platforms like Steam have recently cracked down on third-party "skin gambling" sites, Juniper argues they've resisted calls to ban skin trading altogether for the simple reason that they make too much money from their five-percent transaction fee.
That all works at the governmental level, where regulatory capture is indeed a thing and monied interests likely will indeed sway politicians, but the market forces in the public are another matter. Already the public has thought of loot boxes as generally abusive of the industry. Free to play mobile games are one thing, but the moment EA tried this in a paid-for console game, the shit hit the fan.

Loot boxes aren't the only business model available to the gaming industry, but they are fairly unique in how disliked they are. If the gaming industry doesn't correct course soon, we could easily see a slowdown in an industry otherwise primed for massive growth.
At this point, I'm expecting EA to force lootboxes upon Anthem (the only game on their coming soon page). Then, when that fails due to the backlash, EA kills Bioware.

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by TheFeniX » 2018-05-11 02:11pm

bilateralrope wrote:
2018-05-11 12:44am
At this point, I'm expecting EA to force lootboxes upon Anthem (the only game on their coming soon page). Then, when that fails due to the backlash, EA kills Bioware.
Bioware is already a hallowed out husk since SWTOR. I don't know if there's still an original employee left. I think someone, on this forum, said the former president was doing self-help seminars now or something crazy like that. Supposedly Andromeda was cobbled together from 3 or so rookie teams with little experience both in the industry and working like they did. I'm honestly surprised the game shipped as complete as it did.

But yes, it wouldn't surprise me to see EA finally plug the plug on Bioware. It's basically just giving an official time-of-death at this point.

And it all fits EAs system. I think the ONLY reason they even bother releasing new games is for the $60 price tag, but more about being able to brag about "pushing units." Just giving themselves happy endings in their jerk-fests about loot box transactions doesn't feed their ego as much as "I just pushed out X million launch copies."

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