Video game review aggregator Open Critic is going to “take a stand” regarding the increased, and often ignored, existence of loot box microtransactions. Discussion regarding games including Middle-earth: Shadow of War, Forza Motorsport 7, and Battlefront 2 (among others) has led to a wide range of controversy. Loot boxes, in particular, are increasingly common additions to full-priced games but are rarely fully detailed prior to a game’s launch. Open Critic plans on taking the initiative to inform consumers.
Today Open Critic committed itself to making changes to its website in order to better inform its users of each game’s microtransactions:
“We’re going to take a stand against loot boxes. We’re looking into ways to add business model information to OpenCritic.” … “Let us know your thoughts on how we can categorize and display “business model intrusiveness” on game pages in a fair and scalable way.”
While Open Critic has yet to implement any new functionality, the website seems to be focusing on adding labeling and filter options in specific. Users will then be able to make decisions base on both the review scores listed on a game’s profile and the micro-transaction details that reviews may or may not wholly cover.
Just what kind of information Open Critic shares and how it’s labeled is another matter entirely. After all, Open Critic’s focus is on remaining an objective third-party in order to provide an informative resource. How micro-transactions are labeled may conflict with that. After all, micro-transactions are increasingly diverse. Cosmetic loot boxes are of a different nature than loot boxes with gameplay-changing items, and loot boxes with guaranteed drop rates, pure random loot boxes, or “sure thing” micro-transactions is another axis of evaluation. Clarifying micro-transactions without implying a preference for one type of content over another is Open Critic’s challenge.
We're going to take a stand against loot boxes. We're looking into ways to add business model information to OpenCritic.
— OpenCritic (@Open_Critic) October 9, 2017
While Open Critic’s objectivity is certainly a concern when it comes to this kind of labeling, there are few who’d argue that this kind of approach isn’t a smart and necessary decision. Micro-transactions, loot boxes, and DLC, whether for single-player or multiplayer, are increasingly common inclusions in games of all types. Opinions regarding premium, post-launch content are diverse, ranging from acceptance to complete outrage, but most agree that more transparency would be for the best.
Open Critic is in a unique position to provide this kind of information without encroaching into a mire of ethics questions. Reviewers, for example, continue to be focused on reviewing games independent of their premium content offerings. Evaluating premium additions complicates the process in a dozen different ways. But it also doesn’t seem right for reviewers to ignore micro-transactions and loot boxes entirely, either. Clearly, this conversation is only beginning.