OpenCritic now Flags Loot Box Mechanics Header Image

OpenCritic now Flags Loot Box Mechanics

Written by on | OpenCritic

Over a year ago, fresh off releases such as Star Wars Battlefront II and Middle-earth: Shadow of War, we promised on Twitter that we would take a stand against loot boxes. While it's taken us a little while to actually implement these changes, we're proud to announce that we've finally introduced this new label.

Games that use "loot box" mechanics now have a prominent notification.

Why are we doing this?

The OpenCritic team believes that loot boxes are a net-negative for the video game industry. Loot boxes prey on human's generally poor ability to accurately understand and internalize probabilities, especially at the extremes. Rather than offer in-game items directly, loot boxes are used to mask the underlying cost of extremely attractive items.

Industry leaders have tried to spin loot boxes as "fun" game mechanics, similar to opening presents on Christmas morning and discovering what's inside. These institutions downplay the significance of loot boxes, claiming that they are cosmetic only, or completely optional, or can be earned through the course of normal gameplay. These arguments ignore the perceived value of cosmetics, the progression systems built on them, and the sluggish pacing that effectively locks content.

We want to be clear that this isn't a claim that all randomization mechanics are negative. The Gwent system inThe Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was a valuable addition to the game. Watch_Dogs and Red Dead Redemption (2010) both had gambling mini-games that were fun and immersive. Roguelikes thrive on randomization.

However, over the last year, much of the industry has failed to address the uncomfortable reality of loot box mechanics: they're gambling. Pay a few dollars for a chance at something with perceived value.

Government bodies, legislators, and researchers have begun researching and understanding the impact of this form of gambling on all types of consumers. While officials conduct their analysis, we encourage developers and publishers who are considering loot box mechanics to consider the impact of these mechanics on players.

It's our mission to help gamers make informed decisions when considering a purchase or download. We feel that informing consumers about the presence of loot boxes is a key part of our mission.

How does OpenCritic decide what is and isn't a loot box?

OpenCritic looks at the following for determining whether a game uses loot boxes:

  • Unknown, Random Rewards. Users do not know what item they'll receive prior to purchase. Instead, users are purchasing a chance to receive one item from a set of items.
  • Monetized. Users are able to purchase the roll with real money, either directly or through an intermediary currency.
  • Encouraged Use. Users are encouraged to acquire and consume the loot box during the course of normal gameplay or game systems.

A game is mislabeled! Who do I talk to?

We may make mistakes. Email us at [email protected]