Over on his Medium page, Defiant Development Founder Morgan Jaffit posted some fantastic thoughts on the hottest subject in gaming at the moment: loot boxes. He discussed why they’re happening in major AAA titles like Middle-earth: Shadow of War, and also broke down why they aren’t in his company’s upcoming action game, Hand of Fate 2, doesn’t have them. The whole article is well worth a read, but here are some fantastic excerpts that we’ve reprinted with permission from Jaffit.
Here’s Jaffit explaining why a game like Shadow of War being just as successful as its predecessor would be considered a “catastrophic failure” for publisher WBIE:
In the case of Mordor, though, the unanticipated success doesn’t help to fund the next iteration. The profits made are siphoned off into the WBIE (Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment, the parent company) overall results for that year, and then a new project is begun. While the sequel, Shadow of War, retains the goodwill from the first title, the money is gone. It needs to be bigger and better AND it needs to pay for that additional scale by being an even bigger success than the first. In fact, the baseline for success has been reset. What was “bigger success than anticipated,” for SoM would be considered a catastrophic failure for the sequel. More has been invested this time around, so more money has to be made in order to keep the profit margins high.
He contrasts that situation with his own studio’s structure, which he describes as a luxury:
We have the luxury (and it is a luxury) of funding the games we want to make from our own resources. We don’t have any idea how Hand of Fate 2 will sell. If it sells as well as Hand of Fate 1, that’s great! If it sells a lot worse, then we’ve made a bad decision and we’ll move on from it. If it sells a lot better, that’s great too — and it gives us more opportunities to invest more in HoF2. It allows us to create DLC (free and paid), expand our feature set, and do more with the game. Ultimately, we consider each sale an investment in our ideas from our player base — and we try to reward that investment by turning it into an investment in the titles we create, and in the team that creates them.
He goes into other reasoning for why Hand of Fate 2 doesn’t have loot boxes (they don’t have shareholders, aren’t a CCG, their game lacks disposable content, etc.), and ultimately ends with a powerful conclusion:
Outlining the logic behind our choices should also give you some insight into the decision making process that leads to Loot Boxes in other games. I’m not trying to say there’s anything inherently wrong with Loot Boxes (I think most people would agree that Overwatch does them well, along with Magic: The Gathering) but merely to outline the decisions that result in people implementing them.
Unfortunately with most of the recent and controversial cases (SoW, Forza) the reason doesn’t seem to be “It makes the experience better for the player,” and it’s a little unfortunate that many studios are in the position where that can’t be their leading requirement.
This might seem like a value judgement. It’s not. There’s a reason Shadow of Mordor has 50 times the development budget of Hand of Fate 2, and a lot of the pressures we don’t have come from the luxury of having less mouths to feed.
That said, I’m glad we’re able to put the player experience first and foremost in our decision making — you’ll get a chance to see how that worked out soon, with HoF2 coming out (finally) in November.
If you liked what you saw here, make sure to read Jaffit’s full post. It’s full of insight on Shadow of War loot boxes from a developer’s perspective, and is well reasoned throughout.