How to Make the Players Love Loot boxes

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Loot and Loot boxes as Proper Game Mechanic

As players, we hate loot boxes because of how addictive they are. As developers, we see loot boxes as a proven monetization instrument. And as a researcher we know that loot boxes appeared years ago before Overwatch, Call of Duty or FIFA.

In this article we will tell you the origins of loot and loot boxes, how to use loot to entertain players and how to make loot boxes more enjoyable.

Ingame loot: its functions and mechanics

Word “loot” means all ingame items that players can find and use in game. The keyword is “find”: if a player got an item from the start, he won’t call it loot. Loot is usually to be found in chests, enemy corpses and as quest rewards. The main thing about loot is that the players need to do something specific to find needed loot. And it makes the game more interesting.

borderlands 3 loot

Loot has these functions:

  • task solving. For example, you need to find a zombie which drops a key to an important room.
  • crafting. You found two pieces of cloth and a bottle of alcohol, now you can craft a medkit!
  • variety of gameplay. Congrats, you found a bow, an axe and a magic staff. What do you want to use first?
  • level up. If you can’t level up your stats directly, you need to wear some loot to enhance your character.
  • emotions. When you finally found that rare sword you feel satisfied.

So the loot system is not so bad: it can diversify the gameplay and give emotions to the player. Why then the players hate lootboxes? Because they take away the emotions, which are possible only with ordinary loot systems.

Emotional problem with loot boxes

The players won’t play and pay if the game won’t give them emotions they want. Basically, the game wants a player to invest his free time and skills to get fun in exchange. But lootboxes say: “No fun until you pay”. Many players don’t want to invest time and money at the same time to get enjoyment because they see games as a free source of emotions.

To make the players pay game developers change their strategy: emotions which player can get from opening a lootbox a different than from ordinary loot.

For example, in the Borderlands series you have tons of loot. Every second enemy drops money, ammo, weapon, shield or grenade modificator. All items are divided by levels and grades: 20 lvl item will be better than 10 lvl, epic 20 lvl item better than common 20 lvl, etc. And on top of that most items are generated randomly, have different mag size, optics, damage, reload speed and so on. There are really tons of loot.

Every 15-20 minutes you spend in Borderlands you’ll be getting new better weapons. Most of the time you wouldn’t like them. For example, you play as the sniper and got a legendary shotgun, or you wanted a good automatic shotgun and got a muzzleloader. But it isn’t a big problem: you had your fun fighting enemies and in another 15 minutes of playing you’ll get what you want.

Loot boxes in Borderlands work differently: you buy a golden key and open a big chest in headquarters. From the chest you get a few legendary weapons of your level. Can you see a trick? After 15 minutes you’ll get a higher-level weapon with better specs just by playing the game. After this your excitement from getting a weapon from loot box will disappear.

What about loot boxes with cosmetic items, like in CS:GO, Overwatch, League of Legends and so on? Cosmetic items satisfy players for two reasons: they help to stand out of other players and they are a pleasure to look at. But the problem of uncertainty is still there: you may get not the skin you wanted to.

How game companies play with player’s emotions

The game companies know that the players would be disappointed from getting cheap things from loot boxes. They try to improve the player’s emotional state by enhancing the process of opening loot boxes: animations, sound, suspense and element of interactivity.

Here’s a great example: FIFA series. Players and game journalists say that FIFA has never changed from 2012 and EA is only adding new footballers every year. Also everyone complains about loot boxes, journalists even call FIFA “a casino for children”. The FIFA 21 rating on Metacritic is 8%. And still EA managed to earn $1.49 billion on a FIFA 20 only. But how can such a bad game earn so much money? Because of how they present the loot boxes. See it yourself:

Here is a boring Battlefield 1 loot box opening as a reference point:

And here is FIFA:

Notice how well it’s made, it’s a little party and not just an microtransaction. And don’t forget about the interactive element: while opening a FIFA lootbox you don’t see the result immediately. At first the game shows you a country, then a football club of the player you got. If you are good at football, you can guess the player and get additional emotions if you are right.

FIFA is a perfect example of exciting lootbox opening. Other games are much worse in it,  because they don’t treat the paying players like the elite ones.

How to make players pay for loot boxes

The trick is to give them good emotions not only from what they bought, but even from the process of buying. Imagine, that you’ve bought a new phone and it comes in a dirty plastic bag with tangled headphones. Now imagine the same phone but in a stylish black box. You’ll get much more happier with a phone in a box than with a plastic bag. And while selling ingame resources, items and lootboxes you must use the same principle.

First, think about great ideas within our game setting. In FIFA lootboxes opening looks like a real football player walking out on the field. In Call of Duty WW2 it’s the airdrop from an allied plane. Try to make a buying and opening process unique and entertaining.

Second, don’t lock the content behind a paywall. For example, in League of Legends you can either pay for skin or pray for getting it from a free lootbox. If payment is the only way to get something in your game, the players will be angry.

Third, make sure that the paid lootboxes will bring more joy than the free ones. In League of Legends they have three types of loot boxes: common ones where either skin, champion or emotion can be, “masterpiece” ones with skins and emotions only and “spheres”, which can be only purchased with currency you earn from tasks. Those who bought common boxes are risking to get a worthless champion instead of good skin.

Ask us to help you with monetization

Contact us if you don’t know how to make more money with your games. We will help you to implement an adequate monetization system, create paid content, and make good UI/UX. Just contact us and tell us what you need.


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