Gearbox Boss Chimes in on Loot Boxes, Says Studios Need To Avoid Turning Gamers Into Addicts

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Nov 11
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Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford took to Twitter today to chime in on the still hot topic of loot boxes, monetization in games and its relation to grinding.

It’s a huge thread, even more so considering that Twitter recently doubled the maximum character count, so we’ve copied the text below.

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I am generally very much against predatory monetization schemes in F2P games for consumable goods and even more so against them in premium games. I tend to oppose such techniques both as an artist and creator and also as a customer and a gamer.

Evidence of my position is that we never sold Golden Keys (an arguably consumable good) in the Borderlands game. We had non-trivial levels of demand from customers to do so, but we did not relent. We chose to only give Golden Keys away via social media and partner relations.

Contrarily, I tend to be very supportive of post-launch monetization of durable goods as DLC in *almost* any form. Again, as a customer and as a creator, I think that new, discrete content that took energy to create deserves to have the effort compensated.

I do, however, object to some of the arguments and language being used to fight against the predatory monetization schemes I have just derided in the first post in this thread.

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As an artist and creator who very much *loves* the nature of the “loot box” as it appears in our Borderlands games, I’m concerned that the words “loot box” are being used as shorthand for a practice I am not in favor of. Can we find another term for what we object to?

Also, I have seen arguments against consumable goods that are for customers who want to speed up progress along these lines: “Grinding sucks, I shouldn’t have to pay to avoid grinding.” I have an issue with this kind of argument…

In the case where “grinding” is, well, playing the game and in the case where the player does not want to, well, play the game but doesn’t want to pay cash to skip playing the game, I recommend considering another choice: don’t play the game.

If the “grinding” is the game and the game is not fun, the rational choice is to play other games that are fun. If playing the game is fun, it should be a reward, not an obstacle to play the damn thing.

If playing the game is not fun and the desire is to skip it, well, that’s a game that should be skipped and passed upon.

I realize that there are some people who want the status of having beaten a game or having achieved a certain degree of progress in a game and are willing to pay in order to achieve that. Those are precisely the sorts of minds those kinds of games are for.

But if you are the kind of mind who does not want to pay for progress and is not actually enjoying the “grinding” of playing the game, then, well, frankly, you should take it upon yourself to vote with your attention and just stop playing that game and move to something else.

I love games. I love playing them. I love creating them. As a customer, I am very happy making sure that I am helping to finance the efforts of artists who entertainment. As a customer, I can make free choices about where my time and money goes. So should you!

Essentially, Gearbox’s Pitchford maintains that ultimately it is the responsibility of gamers to avoid supporting those games that offer grinding that’s not fun and microtransactions to speed up progress.

A few hours later, he wrote another couple tweets pointing out that game developers/publishers should have with their customers the same kind of relationship an entertainer has with an audience, rather than the one tobacco companies have with addicts for instance. He then added that this kind of analogy was inspired by the kind of tactics Facebook employs with its users.

Lastly, Pitchford proposed the label GaaH (Game as a Hobby) in place of GaaS (Game as a Service) for what Gearbox is doing in this regard.

At this point, we’ll have to see how Gearbox is going to implement monetization in their next games. One will be a new Brothers in Arms entry, which Pitchford just confirmed again is being worked at. Gearbox is also working on a new Duke Nukem project, but the most significant example of their stance on monetization will be the next Borderlands game given that its mechanics could, in theory, suit microtransactions perfectly.

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