Since last year, there has been huge controversy surrounding loot boxes in video games and whether they are acceptable. Games including Star Wars Battlefront 2 were lambasted for including the randomized loot mechanic, leading to several developers and publishers to rethink their business models. With BioWare's sci-fi RPG Anthem being an open-world game with customization options, many fans wanted to know whether that game would feature loot boxes too.
During the EA E3 2018 press conference, developer BioWare answered that question directly. The developer confirmed that Anthem will not have loot boxes, something which will come as great news to many prospective players of the game. The game will have vanity microtransactions, explained BioWare, but players will always know what they're paying for. There will be no randomization meaning that the vanity loot players unlock will not be subject to loot box odds.
On the one hand, the confirmation that BioWare isn't including loot boxes in Anthem will delight those who are staunchly against loot boxes. Many gamers have expressed frustration at the business model because it means that they can so often lose money as they spend in the hopes of getting good loot, only to get common rarity unlocks instead. It also means that they may be locked out of cosmetics that they really want just because the odds are quite literally not in their favor.
But on the other hand, this may well be a smart business choice for EA. Just days before Star Wars Battlefront 2 was released, the publisher opted to drop loot boxes from the game, vowing to rethink the game's progression system in response to player feedback. However, this was not enough to protect the game's sales and sales of Battlefront 2 were down massively compared to its predecessor with many chalking it down to the business model backlash.
Moreover, many authorities across the world have discussed or have even introduced legislation designed to tackle loot boxes in games, with the idea that the business model may constitute gambling. The Belgium gambling authority has even discussed pursuing criminal prosecution to those developers and publishers who have violated the country's strict gambling laws.
By leaving loot boxes out of Anthem, the publisher doesn't put itself at risk of having to change things later depending on legislative developments nor does it risk alienating players who aren't a fan of the business model. There are still details to be revealed about the game's monetization but at the moment, it seems to be a solution that will satisfy most.
Anthem will be released on February 22, 2019 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.