Halo Infinite Says No to Loot Boxes

As 343 Industries confirms that its upcoming title “Halo Infinite” will not utilize loot boxes, what does the future hold for the controversial gaming mechanism? In a move that could mark a change in its stance on loot boxes, EA may also be about to allow some jurisdictions to opt out of the feature.

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According to some UK MPs, loot boxes introduce young people to gambling. ©cottonbro/Pexels

Microtransactions to Remain

343 Industries, the producers behind “Halo Infinite” have confirmed that their game will not feature loot boxes. The announcement was made as 343 Industries stated that they want to ensure that when the game is released, players know what they’re getting. Ryan Paradis, the Design Director for the Live Team behind the upcoming game, explained why it is important for developers to move away from loot boxes. In a Q&A, Paradis said:

“If someone invests their time or money in the game, they should understand what they’re getting and that it will be worth more than the investment. Examples of this in practice include no lootboxes, either through engagement or any premium route. And we’re not selling power or giving an unfair advantage in-game via any route.”

As one of Microsoft’s most popular series, the upcoming Halo game has a lot riding on it. “Halo Infinite”, when it is released will be the new Xbox Series X’s biggest game. It is vital for Microsoft that it gets this game right, however fans were dismayed at its first reveal. Consequently, “Halo Infinite” has been delayed by nearly a year, until the fall of 2021.

The studio went back to the drawing board, after gamers turned “Craig the Brute Gorilla” into a meme. Following that saga, it set to work on improving graphics and details to ensure that the game has the refinement expected of a next-generation title. Just like CD Projekt Red’s “Cyberpunk 2077”, it is hoped that it will prove better in the long-run to delay release and fix bugs than to release a game that is received poorly by fans.

Whilst “Halo Infinite” has ruled out using loot boxes or any kind of random rewards, the game will still include micro-transactions. The multiplayer mode will be free, and will include what the studio has describes as some “premium cosmetics”. Players will still be able to access customizable content through game-play, such as completing missions and special events. Lead Progression Designer, Chris Blohm, explained:

“Yes, being free-to-play does mean that there will be some premium cosmetics, but players will still obtain tons of customization content through things like playing campaign, challenges, skill, special events, legacy rewards (such as the Halo 5 SR 152 reward), the progression system, and more.”

But graphics were not the only concern raised by fans of the franchise when the first sneak preview of the game dropped in July. Some fans are unhappy about the inclusion of these micro-transactions. Similar to the kinds of player skins, weapons and vehicles found in games like Fortnite, “Halo Infinite” will feature what it has dubbed “coatings” in its multiplayer mode. Fans are disappointed that they will now have to pay to customize the colors of their characters, something which has up until now been free.

EA Reviews Terms of Play

343 Industries is not the only studio looking to distance itself from loot boxes, Electronic Arts has revealed that it is reviewing its terms of play in Europe, over the “Ultimate Team” mode in its popular FIFA series. It has been reported that the latest FIFA patch includes a code that will allow developers to disable the mode in countries where it conflicts with gambling laws.

FIFA’s “Ultimate Team” mode allows players to build teams using players from all leagues. Its online mode allows players to win coins, which can be used to buy players or random card packs. It is these card packs that have come under fire, as they have caused some players to spend compulsively, as can sometimes be seen in gambling.

EA’s loot boxes have caused the gaming company major problems over the last few years, as it has received penalties from regulators and has been in high court disputes. In the past it has preferred to describe them as “surprise mechanics” over gambling, but it seems now that it’s stance could be changing. The new code seems to be dormant at the moment, but it’s presence could bring the game into line in jurisdictions that legislate against loot boxes.

Loot boxes are receiving more media attention than ever, as evidence of their negative impact on young gamers mounts. A Scottish MP has called on parents to boycott video games that offer loot boxes this Christmas. MP Ronnie Cowan, who is vice chair of the Gambling Related Harm APPG, has warned parents to be mindful of games like FIFA, Fortnite and Overwatch, which contain loot boxes.

According to Cowan, such games normalize gambling from a young age, allowing the gambling industry to take advantage later on. Midlothian MP Owen Thompson has expressed the same concerns. He said that loot boxes can encourage gamers to spend beyond their means. Calling on the government to reign in its gambling legislation, Thompson stated:

“The Vice Chair of EA Games described loot boxes as ethical and fun, but as a gamer myself I find they can be a costly distraction at best, and capable of encouraging online harm at worst. I find it highly unethical to profit from excessive spend from teenagers on games of chance.”

In 2019, it was estimated that young people in the UK spent £270 million on in-game purchases. The government’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act is likely to take a close look at the issues affecting young people and gambling. While it is not yet certain whether the UK will ban loot boxes completely, it could crack down on aspects such as using real money to purchase them, or opt to apply age restrictions.

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