Yesterday, at a workshop hosted by the Federal Trade Commission focusing on Loot Boxes, some shocking information was uncovered about a rather shady relationship between video game publishers and video game streamers. In a discussion with the CEO of Online Performers Group, a management company for YouTube and Twitch celebrities, Omeed Dariani revealed that there was an instance in which a video game publisher approached some of his clients with the desire to prevaricate the mechanics of loot boxes.
For those who don’t know, Loot Boxes are consumable virtual items that upon purchase using real world money or virtual money, or as prizes for completing some sort of quest, can be opened to receive a randomized selection of in-game items. Many games on multiple consoles use the Loot Box mechanic or something similar, such as the ever popular Overwatch, or Star Wars Battlefront II. There are many mobile games that also use a similar mechanic called Gachapon, in which the player pays actual money to buy a special type of item that allows them to roll for a character that they enjoy using, such as the increasingly popular game Fate/Grand Order, or Fire Emblem Heroes.
These mechanics have drawn heavy criticism from psychologists, and gamers alike as the mechanics are quite similar to gambling due to their addictive nature and their surprise elements. In a recent hearing in the UK Parliament on the subject of Loot Boxes, an EA executive denied that the mechanics in Star Wars Battlefront II were Loot Boxes, justifying the mechanics by stating that they are “surprise mechanics”.
However, another contributing factor to the consumption of Lootboxes comes from YouTube and Twitch Streamers. In the exchange between Omeed Dariani and the FTC, he had this to say. “I’ve definitely been in a room where a publisher said, ‘We could do better odds on the packs that this person opens for promotional purposes.'” He went on to add that, “That’s only been one time.” While there may have been only one instance of this, this instance shows that companies that use loot box mechanics in there games need to be more transparent about the probabilities of acquiring rare items from loot boxes so as to ensure that consumers are not misled. In fact, several companies, such as Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, already agreed to do this at the Loot Box Workshop. This workshop comes at a time when many games are adding Loot Boxes or some similar mechanic. It reveals some of the inner workings of Game Streaming, and is assisting in increasing the transparency between Video Game Publishers, Video Game Streamers, and the average consumer.