It’s a strange time when a game announcing a lack of loot boxes is a cause for celebration, but here it is. The Coalition, developers of the upcoming Gears 5, has announced that there will be no loot box mechanics or season passes in the game. Microtransactions will be present, but they will be direct purchases without a random element.
This comes after its predecessor, Gears of War 4, was criticised for poorly implemented loot boxes. Character and weapon skins were locked behind loot boxes, which could be purchased either with real world money, or a large amount of in-game currency.
In a blog post, The Coalition has promised that Gears 5 will be a “player-first experience”, with no Season Pass or Gear Packs. Furthermore, all DLC maps will be free to download. Loot boxes have also been scrapped in favour of direct purchases, “so you always know what you will get”.
Instead, players can engage in the Tour of Duty mode, in which players can unlock new customisation content. The Tour of Duty contains Daily Challenges and seasonal Medals to rank up . It gives a clear path to each new skin or customisation content, and the content is available to all players; there will not be a “premium” path for players who pay more. The Tour of Duty will run in a seasonal format, delivering new content and challenges each season.
The closest thing to a loot box or random mechanics in Gears 5 will be Supply Drops. These are a unique pool of items that are earned through multiplayer play. Duplicate items can be turned into Scrap, which can be used to craft new Supply Items. However, Supply Drops cannot be bought with real world money, only gameplay.
Loot box mechanics have really come under a lot of scrutiny in recent years. Star Wars Battlefront II’s highly controversial loot boxes, which were accused of being pay-to-win, sent a shockwave through the gaming industry. Middle-Earth: Shadow of War patched out its loot boxes, and companies like Apple compelled developers to disclose the odds of winning certain items in loot box games. Governments were brought in, with the Belgian government declaring loot boxes as gambling. Even here in Australia, a parliamentary committee acknowledged that loot boxes and gambling have similar psychological effects.
Overall, it sounds like The Coalition is trying to curry favour with gamers who are sick of predatory microtransactions. Encouraging a model where players can play for their content, rather than being pressured to pay for it, is not a bad idea at all. Hopefully it sets a precedent that proves that a AAA multiplayer shooter doesn’t need gambling mechanics to be profitable.
Gears 5 launches on September 10 for Xbox One and PC, included in Xbox Game Pass.