Thursday, August 8th 2019

Console Makers, Publishers Agree to Disclose Loot Box Odds for "Ethical Surprise Mechanics"

We've been covering the loot box controversy for a while on TechPowerUp now. Independently of which side of the fence you're on - that loot boxes are akin to gambling and thus unethical in some of their implementations, or just cold to the entire issue - it's likely good news for everyone that these so-called "surprise mechanics", as they've been called, will now see their odds being disclosed by console makers and publishers.

The commitment has come out of an agreement between the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and major publishers and console makers such as Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, Bethesda WB Interactive Entertainment, Take-Two Interactive, Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namco Entertainment, and Wizards of the Coast (not all of them are listed here), struck while in a loot box workshop with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

A big part of this change will come from console makers, who will enforce new platform-wide policies regarding loot box marketing and implementation on their platforms. It's expected that these changes will come into effect sometime next year - which could coincide with the new generation of consoles from at least Microsoft and Sony. It remains to be seen if profits from loot boxes remain the same after gamers see the odd for that uber-mega-mythical item they're chasing stands at 0.000369587% per box. Source: Forbes
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40 Comments on Console Makers, Publishers Agree to Disclose Loot Box Odds for "Ethical Surprise Mechanics"

#1
sam_86314
"This only has a 5% chance of killing you - I mean giving you a surprise funeral."

Such ethical, much fun.
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#2
PopcornMachine
Compulsive gamblers at casinos and race tracks know the odds of their bets.

Doesn't stop them from being compulsive gamblers.
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#3
64K
Possibly it would stop a lot of people if they knew the ridiculous odds of getting the item they want but it won't stop some. Odds aren't well understood by some people. Some will think that the more loot boxes they buy then the better the odds of winning what they want but that's only true if the program is written to record what items have been received from loot boxes in the past and not allow those to be duplicated in future loot boxes. Otherwise every additional loot box bought would still only offer the same 0.000369587% chance no matter how many you bought.
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#4
Renald
I don't care at all since I'm not interested in loot boxes (since it's only cosmetics).
But revealing this will have the opposite effect : a market is going to bubble around those odds creating a gambling-like system. It's certain, like all games in history, revealling odds of things transform them into an "offer and demand" system.

It's gambling if you know the odds (like counting cards in a casino), so you can decide to act.
If you have no idea of what card could be in the deck, you can't count, and so you play and don't gamble, despite the money involved.

This is the difference of gambling and playing with money.
Posted on Reply
#5
Vario
64K, post: 4094674, member: 148270"
Possibly it would stop a lot of people if they knew the ridiculous odds of getting the item they want but it won't stop some. Odds aren't well understood by some people. Some will think that the more loot boxes they buy then the better the odds of winning what they want but that's only true if the program is written to record what items have been received from loot boxes in the past and not allow those to be duplicated in future loot boxes. Otherwise every additional loot box bought would still only offer the same 0.000369587% chance no matter how many you bought.
Correct, this mistaken belief is known as the Gambler's Fallacy. In fact, the probability of successfully winning at .000369687% is the same no matter how many times purchased as the probability distribution function is independent and identically distributed.
Makes it hard to justify gambling at all, doesn't it?
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#6
neatfeatguy
64K, post: 4094674, member: 148270"
Possibly it would stop a lot of people if they knew the ridiculous odds of getting the item they want but it won't stop some. Odds aren't well understood by some people. Some will think that the more loot boxes they buy then the better the odds of winning what they want but that's only true if the program is written to record what items have been received from loot boxes in the past and not allow those to be duplicated in future loot boxes. Otherwise every additional loot box bought would still only offer the same 0.000369587% chance no matter how many you bought.
Had a friend in high school that was just math stupid....and logically stupid....he was pretty dumb overall.

When he turned 18 he was all excited about being able to buy lottery tickets. He picked up $20 in the Power Ball (back when it was $1 a ticket). So he had 20 tickets and he kept telling us that he improved his odds at winning. Lots of explaining and simple diagrams couldn't get the it through his head that his odds at winning did not improve with the more tickets he purchased.

Then again, this was the same kid that swore up and down (even wrote this as his answer on worksheet) that "when you're going down on a Ferris wheel, you're moving faster than those that are going up on the Ferris wheel." Lots of explaining and diagrams and math couldn't get it through his head that the Ferris wheel moves people at the same speed regardless if they're going up or down on the wheel.

So, some people are just stupid and won't understand nor care.

The upside, at least people will know what kind of odds they have of obtaining whatever item(s) they're trying for in a loot box - that's a move in the right direction, if you ask me.
Posted on Reply
#7
Vario
neatfeatguy, post: 4094707, member: 70848"
Had a friend in high school that was just math stupid....and logically stupid....he was pretty dumb overall.

When he turned 18 he was all excited about being able to buy lottery tickets. He picked up $20 in the Power Ball (back when it was $1 a ticket). So he had 20 tickets and he kept telling us that he improved his odds at winning. Lots of explaining and simple diagrams couldn't get the it through his head that his odds at winning did not improve with the more tickets he purchased.

Then again, this was the same kid that swore up and down (even wrote this as his answer on worksheet) that "when you're going down on a Ferris wheel, you're moving faster than those that are going up on the Ferris wheel." Lots of explaining and diagrams and math couldn't get it through his head that the Ferris wheel moves people at the same speed regardless if they're going up or down on the wheel.

So, some people are just stupid and won't understand nor care.

The upside, at least people will know what kind of odds they have of obtaining whatever item(s) they're trying for in a loot box - that's a move in the right direction, if you ask me.
Well its not i.i.d as each drawing changes the odds of a winning ticket in the outstanding tickets, but the probability of a win are so incredibly low theres no point in buying more, or even playing in the first place.
https://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bs-bz-powerball-maryland-odds-20160111-story.html
Buying multiple $2 tickets in the multistate game may seem logical, but it represents a misunderstanding of the towering odds against claiming the biggest prize, said Ronald Wasserstein, executive director of the Virginia-based American Statistical Association.

Purchasing 10, 100 or even 1,000 tickets in a game in which the odds are 1 in 292 million "increases your relative chance, but your absolute chance is tiny — so tiny that people don't grasp it," Wasserstein said.

Even increasing your chances 50-fold leaves the possibility of winning "so ridiculously, unimaginably small that it's just a 50-fold waste of money," he said.
edit: the term 'surprise mechanics' makes me think of what happens when you have an older car and you take it to the mechanic for something routine ... and they surprise you with a big bill!
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#8
xorbe
Long time ago I bought one key to unlock a TF2 box because I didn't know what it was all about. Took about 3 microseconds to realize it was gambling after the fact. I was actually in disbelief that that's all it was, quite shocked. I guess I am an idiot that I am surprised it has become a huge problem wrt video games.

Vario, post: 4094706, member: 18224"
Correct, this mistaken belief is known as the Gambler's Fallacy. In fact, the probability of successfully winning at .000369687% is the same no matter how many times purchased as the probability distribution function is independent and identically distributed.
Makes it hard to justify gambling at all, doesn't it?
Per gambling instance. Your total odds do increase with multiple gambles, but it doesn't increase linearly. ie, you could gamble an infinite number of times, but the odds won't ever be 100%, statistically you could have an infinite losing streak.
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#9
64K
Vario, post: 4094714, member: 18224"
edit: the term 'surprise mechanics' makes me think of what happens when you have an older car and you take it to the mechanic for something routine ... and they surprise you with a big bill!
Yep. Not all surprises are pleasant. I think EA coined that name (surprise mechanics) to try to make loot boxes and children gambling look more harmless.
Posted on Reply
#10
danbert2000
Renald, post: 4094693, member: 130756"
I don't care at all since I'm not interested in loot boxes (since it's only cosmetics).
But revealing this will have the opposite effect : a market is going to bubble around those odds creating a gambling-like system. It's certain, like all games in history, revealling odds of things transform them into an "offer and demand" system.

It's gambling if you know the odds (like counting cards in a casino), so you can decide to act.
If you have no idea of what card could be in the deck, you can't count, and so you play and don't gamble, despite the money involved.

This is the difference of gambling and playing with money.
And yet most people aren't following your rules and "gamble" for a specific skin, or soccer player, even without knowing the odds. I don't think your distinction matters much in the larger conversation about loot boxes.
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#11
Vayra86
Nice worthless bandaid. But then what could you expect from ESA.
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#12
FeelinFroggy
Loot box sales are like sex dolls. They would not make them if there was not a market for it. So dont be mad at the manufacture, be mad at the people who buy them.
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#13
xorbe
FeelinFroggy, post: 4094817, member: 174277"
Loot box sales are like sex dolls. They would not make them if there was not a market for it. So dont be mad at the manufacture, be mad at the people who buy them.
Are you speaking from experience? Tell us more ...
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#14
infrared
I just think that term is amazing lol.. "Ethical Surprise Mechanics" What a time to be alive :rolleyes:
Posted on Reply
#15
Renald
danbert2000, post: 4094761, member: 165365"
And yet most people aren't following your rules and "gamble" for a specific skin, or soccer player, even without knowing the odds. I don't think your distinction matters much in the larger conversation about loot boxes.
This is more like :
  • Gamble as a hobby
  • Gamble as trading
Not knowing the odds is gamble as a hobby. It's dumb (as said before) to think otherwise.
Knowing the odds is either a hobby or trading, or both if you like to trade.

If the player don't see that as a hobby, but as trading, we can't really associate it with "addiction", don't you agree ? (sure, there's addiction to work).
If it's a hobby, it can go to addiction depending on the person behind the keyboard. But I'm not a psychiatrist.


It's doesn't change that lootboxes are a plague ... Producers care more about skin customization than the actual game, because it's money in the end, whatever the game, they don't care.
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#16
64K
Renald, post: 4094843, member: 130756"
It's doesn't change that lootboxes are a plague ... Producers care more about skin customization than the actual game, because it's money in the end, whatever the game, they don't care.
The sad reality is that there is a gold mine in loot boxes/ microtransactions. Ubisoft said a while back in one of their Financial Statements that they now generated more revenue from microtransactions than they did from actual game sales. A game like League of Legends has generated billions and billions of dollars in revenue from microtransactions over the years. Fortnite has made Epic rich enough to throw money after exclusives to build their store. These garbage microtransactions aren't going to go away when there's so much easy money to be made by Producers.
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#17
dirtyferret
64K, post: 4094849, member: 148270"
The sad reality is that there is a gold mine in loot boxes/ microtransactions. Ubisoft said a while back in one of their Financial Statements that they now generated more revenue from microtransactions than they did from actual game sales. A game like League of Legends has generated billions and billions of dollars in revenue from microtransactions over the years. Fortnite has made Epic rich enough to throw money after exclusives to build their store. These garbage microtransactions aren't going to go away when there's so much easy money to be made by Producers.
I believe EA made a similar statement on one of their quarterly earning calls.
Posted on Reply
#18
AsRock
TPU addict
PopcornMachine, post: 4094667, member: 74515"
Compulsive gamblers at casinos and race tracks know the odds of their bets.

Doesn't stop them from being compulsive gamblers.
It's not all that though, you got games for 3+ year olds with this like crap in it too. Were the perant buys some thing in game and parent not understanding that that data is saved and can be used to buy more stuff. So kids see's some thing but now with the data needed is auto charging the parents card and no ones the wiser until it's way to late.
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#19
danbert2000
Renald, post: 4094843, member: 130756"
If the player don't see that as a hobby, but as trading, we can't really associate it with "addiction", don't you agree ? (sure, there's addiction to work).
I don't agree. I do not see there being a distinction if the end result is someone spending money they don't have for the dopamine hit. And sure, "sanctioned" gambling exists all over the world and US, but it doesn't change the fact that that behavior preys on people and is designed to hook them.

Any form of gambling is a social ill, much like alcohol is a social ill as it causes death and violence. I still like beer. People still like gambling. But that has no place in video games in my opinion. And if it does end up in videogames, the least they can do is disclose odds and prevent children, with their squishy, unformed brains, from getting hooked on a vice before their time. Let the adults gamble, give them the odds so they can only blame themselves, and don't make it core to the game experience if it ends up exploiting people with addiction issues. Is that so hard to ask?
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#20
Air
They are just afraid to get lootboxes totally banned, so are doing the absolute minimum possible to try to make it look like they care.
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#21
krykry
Whenever I hear the term "Surprise mechanics" I'm reminded of the "surprise butt s*x" meme.
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#22
lexluthermiester
Air, post: 4094893, member: 152268"
They are just afraid to get lootboxes totally banned, so are doing the absolute minimum possible to try to make it look like they care.
Exactly.

This nonsense isn't good enough. Lootboxes need to be banned unless the player knows precisely what they are receiving BEFORE they pay.
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#23
Mamya3084
You have a 1 in 10 chance of winning the *insert fake cosmetic object*. Pay only $2.99.

So that means I will definitely get one if buy 10. I'm sold.
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#24
Onemanlan
Will Nintendo need to disclose what the odds are of getting a mushroom VS star VS flower when jumping / head butting a brick in Mario?
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#25
lexluthermiester
Onemanlan, post: 4095033, member: 165251"
Will Nintendo need to disclose what the odds are of getting a mushroom VS star VS flower when jumping / head butting a brick in Mario?
No because you're not paying anything for them on a per instance basis. With loot boxes you do.
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