There has been much angst recently over what we might can call “Lockbox Syndrome” among F2P titles lately. Everquest II has jumped on the bandwagon. There are clearly moral, if not legal, evils at work in the Syndrome. And unless the sample size for the stats wasn’t big enough, the investment cost for the end game prize in such a scheme is fairly daunting. I don’t disagree with any of that. I’m not a fan of lockboxes or prize wheels or anything else that takes me back to that horrific childhood moment at Showbiz Pizza or the local arcade where I came flush from victory at the SkeeBall lanes to the prize counter…only to realize that my cash and hard work had combined to buy me a few plastic army men.
But there is a scheme that is even more nefarious than that. Even worse, its used not just by Free To Play games, but full bore Subscription games too.
It requires deep investment by the players. So deep that it can often lead to those life problems that have been tied time and again to gambling, including throwing around that “A” word – addiction.
It is random, and sometimes you get nothing out of it. You can save up your investment and go all in if you want to, but even volume investments may not net you any results. That end game prize will continue to elude you.
Likewise, it is in the best interest of an MMO to have this scheme in place, because it nets them money and subscriptions. Yep, that’s right, when the game is working off a subscription model, players have no way to say no to this scheme. It is built into the game, and they are being charged for it whether they intend to participate or not. It takes chunks of developer time and energy in updates, and is a money generating hamster wheel.
Even worse, players that do not want to participate will be at a disadvantage in their stats and ability to engage in some of the games activities! Its the most disgusting form of “Pay to Win” around, but nobody to date has had the guts to blow the whistle on it.
Well I do. So lets just get it out in the open: where is the angst and rage and protest around hardcore endgame raiding? You know, the kind that requires hours of investment so that you can get a chance at winning a piece of gear that will make your character measurably better. The kind that many players will never see and may or may not have interest in participating in. The kind that provides the best of the best in the game, with no other possible way to get those same prizes or ones that are comparable to them for their game time? The kind that brings out the worst in people – causing fights, racial and ethnic slurs, discrimination, and generally turns the part of the population involved into either a cesspool of brats or a flock of arrogant twits?
Where’s the angst over that? Because compared to that, if Perfect World or Sony or whoever the hell else wants to sell lockboxes at a $1 a pop for items that aren’t any better than similar items already in the game that you can attain for free, and that I can choose not to pay for, I’m not sure what the problem is.