The Game Developers Conference (GDC) has conducted its yearly State of the Industry survey for 2018, and found that 11% of game developers are making loot boxes a main feature of their games. The survey also shows tons of other statistics for the industry, with the PC becoming a more popular platform to develop games for each year, while the mobile market is losing traction. Additionally, since the console’s release in 2017, developers say 15% of games will launch on the Switch.
The survey showed statistics on what business models game developers were using to monetize their games, with 49% using a pay-to-download model, and 39% using a free-to-download model. While 11% of games will feature loot boxes, 20% will have free updates and DLC, and about 22% will feature some form of in-game purchases through items or currency.
Loot boxes are microtransaction-based boxes in games which give players a random item, usually of varying rarity, and they’ve had an increasingly negative reputation in the past year. In 2017, EA released Star Wars Battlefront II, which had such an intense grind for items, spending hundreds of dollars on loot boxes were mandatory in the game to progress.
This egregious design choice resulted in the Belgian government deeming they are forms of gambling, demanding all games with loot boxes be banned from the EU. Additionally, Hawaii and Washington legislators are drafting bills which bar minors from purchasing games which feature loot boxes.
In the GDC survey, developers defended their inclusion of loot boxes, with some claiming they could only be cosmetic, and some claiming there was a limit to how much they affect gameplay. One unnamed developer went as far as to say fighting the inclusion of loot boxes is a danger to developers’ job stability. “Microtransactions have to be a part of your strategy in AAA gaming. So everyone will need to figure out what works for them — I’m sad [Star Wars] Battlefront [II] got it so wrong,” the developer said. “This whole controversy will have a lasting impact on the industry and I am most worried it will affect game creators’ jobs more than anything.”
This statement may come as a surprise to some, seeing as despite the controversy, Battlefront II was the second highest selling game during its November release, only behind Call of Duty WWII which, according to SteamSpy, sold just under 900,000 copies on PC alone.
GDC will take place in San Francisco later this year, from Mar. 19 to 23.