Fortnite: World’s Biggest Game to Drop Paid Loot Boxes Over Gambling Concerns
“V-Buck llamas” — the loot boxes found in the world’s biggest video game series, Fortnite — are about to go see-through, in a bid by publisher Epic Games to duck comparisons to gambling.
On Monday, Epic announced in a blogpost that, starting with the new update v7.30, players will be able to see the contents of paid loot boxes before they buy — and if they don’t like what’s available, they can simply wait for the store to refresh and they’ll get a new selection.
This will not affect the crates players encounter through natural gameplay, which will remain a surprise, and the changes only relate to Fortnite Save The World — not its more-popular Battle Royale counterpart, which does not employ paid loot llamas.
The crates are known as “llamas” because they take the form of llama pinatas that are beaten with sticks to yield desirable virtual items. V-bucks, meanwhile, refer to Fortnite’s in-game currency.
Don’t be a Llama Farmer
The microtransaction trend in modern video-gaming is facing a backlash not just from parents and politicians but from gamers themselves, who resent that some titles are effectively incompletable without resorting splurging on loot boxes to acquire the necessary skills or items.
Meanwhile, questions are increasingly being asked about whether the luck-based mechanisms of paid loot boxes constitute gambling, or at least expose children to a close simulation of gambling.
A survey of 2,865 children aged between 11 and 16 by the UK Gambling Commission found that 31 percent had spent either real money or in-game currencies on opening a loot box.
Last year, the Belgian Gaming Commission ruled that paid loot boxes constituted illegal gambling, naming major hits like Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and FIFA 18 as offenders, and warned publishers they could face fines and imprisonment if they did not bring their games in line with the law.
Fortnite Battle Royale was the top-grossing free-to-play game globally in 2018, generating profits of $2.4 billion for Epic Games. The free-to-play survival shooter garnered 125 million players within a year of its release — it’s now 200 million and counting.
The game has become such a cultural phenomenon that Netflix recently told investors that it sees Epic Games as a bigger threat than competing entertainment channels when it comes to the battle for “consumer screen time.”
“We compete with and lose to Fortnite more than HBO,” said Netflix. “There are thousands of competitors in this highly fragmented market vying to entertain consumers. […] Our growth is based on how good our experience is, compared to all the other screen time experiences from which consumers choose.”
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