I came into the office for 2018 with a smile on my face, ready to explore the newest and most exciting trends in video games.
Of course, this means my first feature of the year is to write about loot boxes, the discourse that dominated the industry during 2017's last breaths.
I've got quite a high tolerance for loot boxes generally, and our Seth argued that adding gambling to games isn't necessarily a problem but GamesDeal's attempt to turn the process of buying games into a loot box of its own just about takes the biscuit for shady practice. GamesDeal are a key reseller operated by Glory Profit International Ltd, and they are proud to offer consumers the chance to buy a copy of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds for just £12.69. The catch? You only have a 50 per cent chance of actually receiving the game.
In a time when loot boxes have taken a kicking by the media and the general gaming public, this is a pretty bold move. Read the room, GamesDeal.
To be fair to GamesDeal, they're very open about what they're offering. These terms and conditions are copy and pasted from their website:
"Returns, refunds or replacements are excluded for all 50-50 chance products."
"Please take notice that this is a gambling service! We cannot guarantee you will always win the advertised product, but we can guarantee that there will always be a 50 per cent chance of winning it."
GamesDeal have offered a 100% chance of receiving the game, previously referred to in retail as a purchase, in addition to a random code if you pick up the product twice, but only if you buy them both at the same time, meaning you can't use previous purchases to up your odds of winning. Showing expert comedic timing, they have actually managed to make their loot box system pay to win, too.
The site does remind you several times that you only have a 50 per cent chance of getting the product you've just paid for. It also reminds you that refunds or exchanges aren't applicable for buying this item.
Honestly, the level of cynicism here, selling a game online and offering only a 50 per cent chance of actually delivering is remarkable, and I can't imagine too many people willing to take the punt if they can afford to get the game in the first place. That means that this service only really exists to take advantage of habitual gamblers and those from backgrounds that don't have enough money to just buy PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds for themselves, and while there aren't a lot of consumer practices that I'd deliver the hard 'Don't do this' on, this is one of them. Don't do this as a business, and consumers should vote with their wallets and not support this by getting involved in the whole mess. If there was a finer example of anti-consumer practices, I haven't found it yet.
Obviously, I bought one. The payment, paid for with Paypal, was quickly blocked by GamesDeal's security system and I was asked to input my phone number to verify my identity. Then to wait three minutes for a phone call. Which didn't come. It took three attempts for me to actually get a phone call, and a further fifteen minutes before delivery of my game. I hadn't won, but I had received a copy of Hockey Space, a fast button-based low rule local multiplayer hockey game which the developer describes thusly "I think it's fun with friends, but most things are." If I can kill 100 people in a field in this game, it certainly doesn't look like it from the store page.
Hockey Space is available now for £1.99 on Steam.