Squeezing more and more out of consumers

Squeezing more and more out of consumers

Loot boxes in video game world are obviously gambling

I’ve been a fan of video games since the late 1970’s; unless you’re roughly my age, you probably won’t be familiar with things like the Atari 2600, Mattel Intellivision or the ubiquitous video game arcade.

Video games really picked up steam in the late 1980’s after the North American release of the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES as it’s known. This was a home system you could hook up to your TV that played high quality games. You could buy such games for about $60, and everything you needed was included. In fact, the NES came with extra peripherals such as a light gun and a game cartridge that included both the Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt games. A good value.

However, once the internet made itself known in the mid-to-late 1990s, things slowly started to change in the video game industry. Before, if you bought a game, you bought a game. It included everything you needed to play; some games even included bonus content or hidden activities, all included with the purchase price.

This coincided with the fact more and more small video game companies were being bought up by large corporations like Sony, Microsoft, Electronic Arts and Activision. Corporations conduct themselves with corporate mentality, meaning profits and shareholders are more important than quality and customers and this shouldn’t surprise anyone. A rattlesnake is a rattlesnake, and if you step on it, you’ll get bit.

In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, “downloadable content” for video games made itself known. This is “extra” content that you could purchase over the internet and add to a video game you’ve already purchased. It was and remains controversial in the industry because the prices charged for content (some range from $40 to $60 or more) equal the price of the original game and many customers, after purchasing the content, would later regret their purchase as it didn’t match expectations. So publishers like EA and Activision, charging for downloadable content, saw $120 paid for a game that retailed for $60.

One of the main problems now in video games is also internet-related. The issue of “loot boxes” has motivated big companies like Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo to state they are now going to self-regulate.

What are loot boxes?

These are items a player can encounter while playing an internet-related game that you can open if you pay real money in the real world. The boxes may or may not contain something a player can use while playing the video game. For example, someone playing a police-related game might find a can of pepper spray in a loot box once the fee has been paid.

The question arising about loot boxes though is “Who determines what’s in a loot box, and is it worth paying for at all?”

There have been some pretty high profile incidents down in the States (well, for video game news anyway) about children, youth and even adults paying exorbitant amounts of money trying to find special items locked away in loot boxes. In fact, some critics have compared loot boxes to VLTs, casino gambling, lottery tickets and scratch and win, many of which are age-restricted activities.

Large industry members have now voluntarily offered to add “odds of winning” notices on loot boxes so players “know what they’re getting” (and if you’ve ever bought scratch and win tickets, you likely know what they’re going to get).

Loot boxes are obviously gambling, and the fact that children and youth can access them regularly is reprehensible. The lackadaisical attitude of the video game corporations doesn’t help (Electronic Arts calls its loot boxes “surprise mechanics,” very likely the same people who invented the word “monetization.”)

This issue should be looked into by the government and the police, as sleazy quick buck artists trying to trick kids into buying useless internet junk for good money is and should be considered a crime.

Stu Salkeld is editor of The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the newspaper.

Just Posted

Flora Northwest was taken to the Ermineskin residential school when she was six years old. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Ermineskin residential school survivor: ‘It just brings me back to the cries at night’

Discovery in Kamloops of remains of 215 children a painful time for survivors

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active cases of the virus

File photo
Update: Leduc RCMP request assistance to identify armed robbery suspect

Leduc RCMP are searching for suspect involved in an armed robbery at the Leduc Giant Tiger.

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

The Montreal Police logo is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Some Quebec politicians are calling for an investigation after a video was released that appears to show a Montreal police officer with his leg on a young Black man’s neck during an arrest. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Probe called for after video appearing to show Montreal officer’s knee on Black youth’s neck

Politicians call for investigation after clip evokes memories of George Floyd incident

Kobe Zembal (left) and Kale Rochette pose with some of the raised flower beds they have built. The flowerbeds are made from recycled plastic repurposed into plastic lumber. (Photo submitted)
Teens run successful plastic lumber products business in Bashaw

Pair of teenagers are learning first-hand about entrepreneurial spirit

Most Read