As the resident Old-School Specialist of Digital Crack, I tend to be their unofficial curmudgeon. I like – sometimes love – the state video games are in now. But the old fart in me tends to come out and bemoan certain things. Loot boxes are one of those things. That’s not necessarily a maverick position for me to take; nearly everyone hates the blasted things. But Dragon Ball FighterZ is putting a spin on the loot box that both pleases and bugs me.
Bandai Namco’s upcoming 3v3 fighting game is a game I’ve been anticipating since it was announced in last year’s E3. I have played the open beta of the game that just ended and loved every second of it. Needless to say, it’s a game I’m dying to get my hands on.
Yesterday, however, a post on the Reset Era forums threatened to douse my anticipation with cold water. The post included some screens that showed loot boxes in the game. The loot boxes are purchased with either Zeni or premium Z Coins, the in-game currency. Speculation ran rampant among gamers, assuming that the Z coins would be purchasable with real-world money. I assumed as much, too. To say that I was upset is an understatement. The old curmudgeon in me began to shake his fists wildly, ready to yell something unflattering to “whippersnappers.”
Bandai Namco, however, was quick to step in and set the record straight. Responding to an article posted by Attack of the Fanboy, they clarified that while there are loot boxes in the game, they cannot be purchased with real-world money in any way, shape, or form. Zeni is earned entirely in Dragon Ball FighterZ by playing the game and cannot be purchased. Z Coins, the “premium” currency, is only attained when players receive duplicate items from loot boxes and want to cash them in. They also can’t be purchased.
That is a welcome bit of news. People like me have grown weary of all the loot box bullshit that’s been popping up lately. It’s good to see that both a developer and publisher are staying away from predatory pseudo-gambling mechanics like loot boxes. It’s also good that I can avoid having yet another argument with loot box apologists (you know who you are) who either accept them as a cost of playing a game they want or laud them as a form of “player choice.”
(That latter statement would make my spleen rupture. You know, if I still had one.)
While it’s pleasing to see that the loot boxes in Dragon Ball FighterZ won’t fall into the same pay-to-win or greed-driven traps that have claimed EA and Bungie, the curmudgeon in me still wants to bitch. Yes, Bandai Namco did the right thing…in a way.
I mean, it still has them damn loot boxes!
Look, I get that loot boxes by themselves are not entirely evil. If I’m brutally honest, even though I despise the loot boxes in Overwatch for attempting to manipulate players into throwing money at blizzard, I get giddy when I level up and receive one. All those dopamine triggers in my brain light up with the thrill of opening one up and seeing what’s inside. The dopamine triggers plug up the moment I find nothing but sprays and emotes, but still. Loot boxes can be cool if there’s no money attached to them.
But the curmudgeon in me comes out and counters that line of thought. Dammit, I miss unlocking things in-game through progression or meeting certain criteria. The unlockable content is some of the things I love the most of games like GoldenEye 007 and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Little secret unlocks like Tofu Survivor in Resident Evil 2 and Akuma in the arcade version of Super Street Fighter II Turbo were awesome to find. Loot boxes take away the ability to earn things through actual gameplay and force players to pray to the RNG gods to get those things.
Moreover, the fact that there are loot boxes at all worries me. Sure, they don’t require real-world money. For now. But in the era of downloadable patches, who’s to say Bandai Namco won’t fix that? What’s really stopping them from mandating “special” loot boxes that can accept real-world money for a chance to win something ultra-rare or time-limited? Further, what’s to stop them to do it with the excuse that they need the extra revenue to “expand the core gameplay?” I mean, what’s to stop them other than the potentially huge backlash from players?
I know, that’s a silly position to take. I already admitted that I like the thrill of opening a loot box in Overwatch. There should be – and is – no difference in Dragon Ball Z. Hey, I’m not even paying to open the blasted things! I also know I’m being a bit of a Cassandra for predicting such doom-and-gloom events when there has been no evidence that it’s been considered.
But there’s still that part of me that rails against having to depend on the same evil forces that make me keep grinding mount runs in World of Warcraft. That same part of me doesn’t trust an AAA publisher further than he can throw them. And with his hip as battered as it is, he can’t throw anything very far.
Like I said, old curmudgeon. Physical emphasis on the “old.”
All this bitching notwithstanding, I’m happy that Dragon Ball FighterZ will not be another greedy cash grab. Yes, there are loot boxes, and yes, it’d be better if they were not there at all. But the fact that both a developer and a publisher decided to eschew a chance to cash in and concentrated on making a fun – REALLY fun – fighting game set in the Dragon Ball universe is awesome.
Just know that the curmudgeon in me is still in the background, fist shaking, bitching about the old days while gumming on Werther’s.