Microtransactions: It’s part of doing business
2K Games is one of several publishers that have embraced the use of Microtransactions and Loot Boxes to further improve their profits. The development of some of the biggest titles is a huge investment for a game developer/publisher. Some developers invest tens of millions of dollars, if not hundreds of millions, in a single game. If that game doesn’t return those investments and more, the company may go under. Before, many companies added “Downloadable Content” to further increase the amount of money they could receive per customer. They created more content for their customer to purchase. The problem was that they had to add something to the game that took effort. That, and they had to sell it to the customer…who may not want it. A new plan was needed, and that plan created Microtransactions.
“VC is an unfortunate reality of modern gaming. Every game, at some point, in some way has currency and they’re trying to get additional revenue from each player that plays the game.” — Rob Jones, senior producer NBA 2K19
Slow down the progression of the game while advertising ways to speed things up for a dollar or two. Offer players an unfair advantage against other players for some real money. Add in randomized rewards (Loot Boxes) that could prey on a player’s gambling tendencies and inadvertently encourage such tendencies to grow. Turn a blind eye to sites who offer to allow players to resell randomized rewards for real money. All of this helps increase revenue flowing into the game developer/producer.
NBA 2K18 Backlash
NBA 2K18 released to a lot of public outrage. Game progression slowed down while enticing players to spend more money to progress at a normal rate. Cosmetic hairstyles being overpriced. If you changed your hairstyle and wanted your old one back, you had to repurchase it. There wasn’t even an option to preview the hairstyle you wanted. Then, with the addition of “My Team”, players could spend VC to purchase card packs (Randomized Card Packs). Of course, VC (in-game currency) could be purchased with real money. This allowed them to prey on players who are susceptible to manipulation and addictive tendencies.
Nearly every aspect of NBA 2K18 was built around monetization of players to increase revenue. Players became outraged over the monetization practices, but 2K was not going to back down from the money rolling in. Of course, players could earn VC by playing the game. But the “Easy Button” of spending money is always waved in front of the player. In the end, though, VC sales depend on those players who are too lazy to grind and EARN what they have. Instead, they give in and buy it. However, they did build the game to slow down progression.
Loot Box Controversy
With the enormous outcry against Star Wars Battlefront 2 (EA), many countries began looking into Loot Boxes and Microtransactions. Stories of teens and young adults seeking therapists for their gambling habits formed from loot boxes began to pop up. Some countries came to the realization that Loot Boxes could actually be addictive much like gambling. Some cases of players spending money on loot boxes and reselling the rewards on 3rd party sites came into the light. Clearly, there were instances where Loot Boxes DID hold a monetary value after purchase. Thus, Belgium and the Netherlands have pushed back and have regulated Loot Boxes. Loot Boxes have been removed from purchase for players in Belgium. The Auction House (Player-to-Player Item Trading) will also be disabled for players in the Netherlands.
NBA 2K19 Wants You…to Protect Loot Boxes
2K sees a growing threat of government regulation over their favored monetization plan. NBA 2K19 is out and they want every penny they can get after all they have invested into this game. The Belgium Gaming Commission (BGC) is already cracking down on Loot Boxes. Their decision could also gain support in other nations who may follow suit in regulating/banning Loot Box sales in video games. 2K released this Statement:
The Belgium Gaming Commission (BGC) has stated that games which include certain ‘loot box’ style mechanics violate gambling laws in Belgium. While we disagree with this position, we are working to comply with the BGC’s current interpretation of these laws. As a result, we have made some local changes to the MyTeam mode. These changes are necessary in order for us to accommodate the BGC’s interpretation of the Belgian Gaming Act. Specifically, we will be turning off the ability to purchase packs with premium (non-earned) currency/VC. Gamers are still able to acquire packs with MyTeam points. We will be continuing conversations with the BGC in order to explain our view on how NBA 2K and MyTeam pack purchases already comply with local laws. If you agree, we recommend that you contact your local government representative to communicate your opinion. We will keep the community posted on any developments. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Despite the volume of upset players over all the monetization of NBA 2K18 and 2K19, 2K Games wants players to defend their Loot Box practices.