It was recently confirmed that Ubisoft’s upcoming Trials Rising would feature cosmetic loot boxes- as you can imagine, that didn’t sit well with a lot of people. Microtransactions in and of themselves are a prickly topic among consumers, but when they come in the form of loot boxes (which are flat out considered to be gambling, and, as such, illegal by many), they become even more problematic.
Over on the Steam forums, a thread was created by one of the users to talk about this issue, and the response to the inclusion of loot boxes in Trials Rising was predictably negative. It didn’t take long for the thread to catch Ubisoft’s attention, and they soon responded. The problem? It was the most tone deaf response they could have possibly made, almost as if they looked at a checklist for “what not to say regarding the loot box controversy” and included all of that stuff in their reply anyway.
“As has been pointed out, these loot crates are purely cosmetic,” Ubisoft wrote. “I do appreciate why players feel the way they do about them (not a huge fan myself), however, as it was also pointed out, you can always just not buy them. Ultimately, they’re intended for players who want something to help them stand out from the crowd when playing online, or even just those who are big fans of the game and want to support us further.”
Not a good start, as you can imagine. “You can always just not buy them” can be a valid response for regular, run-off-the-mill microtransactions, but that is never a valid response when the point of discussion is loot boxes, which, thanks to their randomized nature, are considered by many to be predatory and exploitative of addiction problems, similar to gambling, as mentioned above.
But it didn’t end there, of course.
“Yes, it means that some players end up spending more on our games than others and that does result in increased profits for us,” the response continued. “It also helps us to put more money into new titles and to understand what players look for in their games. If players simply didn’t buy these crates, they would not be added into games in future.
“All in all, loot crates / cosmetic items in general have been a huge boon for the gaming industry, being a driving factor in the increased popularity of gaming over the past decade or so. They aren’t a bad thing if done right. Your feedback on the topic is still very much appreciated as this is a hotly debated topic. I do hope you consider the impact it would actually have on your enjoyment of the game though.”
So much to unpack there, and as you can imagine, the reaction to Ubisoft’s response has been quite negative.
“You do realize, that loot boxes are popular because they prey on vulnerable people who have addiction problems?” One user writes.
“Aaaand I just lost any interest I have had in this game (and trust me I had a lot of it). I was willing to accept microtransactions in Ubi games, by saying ‘at least they don’t have lootboxes’, and now this is 100% not buy from me,” writes another.
“I remember when getting cool item/armour actually meant playing game and achieving something,” says one more user. “Now all you need is to swipe credit card or play the game you bought while looking generic and uninspiring because all the artists are working on MTX content and base content needs to look like garbage to incentivise loot box gambling.”
For now, this hasn’t blown up like EA’s response did last year, but this is certainly an egg on the face moment for Ubisoft, and will hopefully inform their decisions regarding game monetization going forward.