Xbox's evolving micro-transaction strategy is creating friction

Windows Central

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Dec 17, 2013
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Loot boxes are all but dead in AAA games, it seems, but the alternatives seem to be creating an even bigger backlash.
On the Xbox 360, Microsoft set up a digital store allowing developers to create "add ons" for their games, spearheading the shift away from one-and-done packaged games and expansions to on-going, evolving services, cash flowed by high-margin microtransactions (MTX) and season passes.
Over the years, we've seen an increasingly fractious discourse emerge between publishers, developers, and gamers, over the value proposition of DLC-type content, and balancing quality and on-going updates against what amounts to manipulation, and possibly even just plain old greed.
This all came to a head with loot boxes, which, despite the industry's protests to the contrary, are literally gambling. Players would spend money for a chance at getting quality loot, with visual effects not far removed from that of a slot machine you'd find in the sleaziest Vegas Strip casinos. When EA attempted to turn these mechanics into a "pay-to-win" slot machine in Star Wars Battlefront II, that became the tipping point, where gamers effectively, collectively, decided enough was enough. The outrage was covered in the mainstream media and led to legislation against gambling mechanics in games.
Since then, loot boxes have slowly dispersed from many major AAA games. Or at least remain entirely cosmetic in their reward mechanics, which is generally regarded as at least palatable.
Sensing this backlash, Microsoft and other publishers removed similar features from their games, opting instead for cosmetic DLC that you purchase outright in exchange for on-going free updates. At least, in theory.

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