Developers weigh in on why loot boxes and microtransactions are crowding games
It's all business.
Game developers have been under fire recently over the inclusion of loot boxes and other forms of microtransactions. From Activision filing a patent that uses a trick to push players to buy into microtransactions to loot boxes in upcoming or recent releases like Assassin's Creed Origins, Star Wars: Battlefront 2 and Shadow of War, microtransactions have been a hot topic in the industry.
The talk of microtransactions in games has been weighted on the consumer side, with gamers doing a majority of the talking. Now, industry veterans are stepping and offering their hot take on them in an interview published by Games Industry.
An anonymous studio director attributed the rise in microtransactions to the price of making AAA games these days:
"Development costs of AAA titles are five to ten times the price they were in the '90s.As technology moves forward, costs go up and teams get larger. Salaries also go up in that time both for starters and people employed for those periods of time.
"But sales and prices have remained pretty static - especially given the 'sale culture' nowadays."
Ben Cousins, CEO of The Outsiders and a former EA and DICE echoed the statements of the anonymous studio director, saying that developing games is expensive and people are buying fewer games.
Jason Kingsley, co-founder and CEO of Rebellion, said that loot boxes are for the more interested gamers.
"Some big games are just not selling enough copies to make the development and marketing costs viable. Loot boxes mean more revenue from those who are interested. For the biggest games that are made by thousands of staff, then yes the simple boxed copy sales may not be enough to make the economics work."
Former Bungie developer Niles Sankey, who worked on Halo and Destiny before leaving the studio, commented that if players don't like them, they shouldn't support them.
"Developers have retirement to save for and families to feed… If people don’t like loot crates and microtransactions, they shouldn’t support the game by purchasing them. And I’d suggest not buying games made by companies that have previously demonstrated insincere business practices.
"I stopped developing investment heavy games and I no longer play them. In my opinion, there are better ways to spend your time and life. There are so many great non-addictive/investment games to play.. and there’s so much more to life than video games."
As far as game development costs go, it might be worthwhile to note that plenty of game developers are located in extremely expensive locations - like San Francisco. Perhaps a move to a cheaper location with a lower cost of living could help mitigate some of the costs.
At least there's one developer that is saying no to loot boxes.