The loot box controversy has sparked headline after headline among the press and an outpouring of fear and complaints from fans, but according to one industry analyst, so far it's much ado about nothing. NPD analyst Mat Piscatella told GamesIndustry.biz that AAA game sales remain steady, in spite of the negativity surrounding loot crates.
"I would not say that the presence of loot boxes causes games to sell at higher levels than games without loot boxes," said Piscatella. "What [this week's] release does suggest is that the loot box or microtransactions controversy has not yet resulted in clear noticeable limitations of the sales potential of the games with [those mechanics]."
While it's still early, particularly surrounding such games as Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, games like Destiny 2 and FIFA 18 are doing very well for their respective companies, the latter of which earns $800 million a year from the game's Ultimate Team mode alone, which is built on microtransactions. Destiny 2 is already the United States' best selling game of the year, surpassing the likes of Breath of the Wild and Horizon: Zero Dawn, despite getting chintzy with its Shaders and including purchasable loot boxes with real-world money.
Piscatella also said that the best selling games are ones that "strive towards achieving player engagement and extending retention," which is one of the things that EA is looking to do with with the now defunct-Visceral's Star Wars game.
Loot boxes could still very well have a negative impact on game sales in the future, and Piscatella says that nothing is set in stone right now. "Things continue to evolve, very quickly," he said. "I'm sure we're going to learn much more over the next few months."
Star Wars: Battlefront 2 has the potential to teach us a lot about consumer behavior towards Loot Boxes. It's been reported many times that the crates appear to lean closer to the Pay-to-Win variety, as what they contain does affect the gameplay. While EA has attempted to assuage those fears, we won't know for sure one way or the other until the game is out in full. And if it is as bad as is feared, what could its sales numbers mean for future business practices?