The Division - Encrypted Caches
In one of its latest updates, The Division finally got loot boxes, because of course it did. From a presentation standpoint, they’re pretty amazing. The light lock twists, the top pops and emits smoke for christ’s sake, and then three panels ca-chink ca-chink ca-chink of it like a toolbox clown car. But all that ceremony inevitably leads to a dull surprise. The box unfurls only to reveal icons describing bottom-of-the-barrel Goodwill finds and gun skins. It’s hilariously disproportionate, like hiding a jar of pennies in bank vault.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds - Crates
It’s in Early Access, this I understand, but I expect at least a little ceremony. Right now, you just look at a menu that resembles STALKER’s inventory UI, a crude grid of icons, and click. New items pop up on the screen, a t-shirt here, a balaclava there, but no light or energy or brass duet in sight.
CS:GO - Cases
It’s little wonder that a major gambling controversy emerged over CS:GO’s marketplace. When you open a crate, the reveal is Valve’s take on the slot machine. Guns spin by, blurred barrels and stocks and dreams spinning into truth. Seeing so many possibilities fly by, it’s hard not to be thrilled. And in the CS:GO community that thrill is tied to a certain prestige. Longtime players will recognize skins at a glance and know how rare they are, when they were released, and what you needed to obtain in: luck or a lot of money. It’s too simple for such a huge game created by Valve, a developer capable of much more.
H1Z1: King of the Kill - Crates
Of all the loot boxes, King of the Kill’s might be the most contentious for me. It is as clever as it is dull, an interactive mini-game of sorts where, from a locked position, you shoot the hinges off each box. OK, cool, great, loving it so far. But what awkwardly emerges is a cheap PNG accompanied by colored dust and fireworks, like every skin and t-shirt are worthy of celebration.
LawBreakers - Stash Drops
In the future, hulking gravity-defying closets will fall from an automated track to deliver footprint decals to the people. The moon exploding really screwed up everything, didn’t it? LawBreakers has some decent character cosmetics, but the act of opening each stash drop carries as much excitement as the lunch horn blowing at the moon dust refinery. There’s a nice hydraulic whoosh, metal sliding against metal, and then it’s back to defying gravity with a new boot print you’ll never see. At least the the closets increase in rarity as you level up. We can always get behind a player-friendly measure like that.
EVE Online - Strong Box
I don’t think EVE’s Strong Boxes are bad, exactly. They’re just incredibly depressing. It’s a quiet, nearly indecipherable sequence: a crate sits stage left while a grid of sigils light up. Debris floats by in the background and all you can hear is the merciful whoosh of space, an effect meant to evoke the void instead of having no sound at all. I think the idea is that you have more currency or cunning or something afterwards, more leverage to con other players and tear down their thousands of dollars of space investments.
Black Squad - Random Box
Familiar and safe, Black Squad starts with a simple chest. Open the chest and, on cue, light spills out. Its particle effect is one of my favorites, accented by clearly visible orbs moving upward to really drive home the intensity. But what emerges isn’t your loot—yet. It’s a card. That’s right, the two pillars of cosmetic microtransaction macguffins are finally together in Black Squad, where you open a chest to flip a card by dragging your mouse across the screen. Simultaneously amazing and abhorrent, the aptly named Random Boxes point to the future and omnipresence of loot boxes, a bizarre nesting doll of expectation, reward, and sustained desire.