Borderlands Bossman Gives Us the Lowdown on Loot Boxes

If You Don’t Like the “Grind,” Don’t Play the Game

With loot boxes and microtransactions serving the topic of debate and controversy lately, more and more industry persons are chiming in. This latest speaker is a particularly well-known individual in the industry: Randy Pitchford of Gearbox.

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On Twitter, Pitchford delivered a full-blown essay giving his thoughts on microtransactions. As far as he’s concerned, they shouldn’t be advocated by making games difficult. He elaborates, point by point, in a very lengthy series of tweets, considering the #280characters. See it below:

“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.”

Basically, DLC in the form of post-game content makes the most sense for obtaining additional revenue. Other forms are up for debate. Additionally, Pitchford had quite a bit to say about the arguments against loot boxes. Namely, he wanted to disambiguate “grinding.” With the inclusion of microtransactions in games like Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, players have derided that fact that games seem “grindy” unless you pay for better gear. However, if players don’t enjoy the “grind,” Pitchford simply recommends moving on or not buying the game, to begin with.

Shadow of War screen 3 (700px)

“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!”

Ultimately, Pitchford’s comments came down to games as a hobby (GaaH) as opposed to games as a service (GaaS).

We’ll just have to wait and see how Pitchford’s principles suffuse into Gearbox’s upcoming games, of which there are a few. We’re still awaiting Brothers in Arms, another Duke Nukem installment and, of course, the next Borderlands. Stay tuned for details on the upcoming projects, and feel free to deliver your own thoughts on Randy Pitchford and microtransactions by commenting down below.