Lootoxes and microtransactions are (probably) here to stay, but for the most part, major AAA releases tend to steer clear of offering pay-to-win solutions within their games (looking at you, EA). But while the need to pay to gain an advantage is largely unpopular in the West, the Chinese market is more than willing to pay to get ahead.
That difference may stem from the way in which games made their way into Eastern and Western markets. While major early releases like Pong and Space Invaders could be easily accessed in the home in Europe and America, game consoles weren’t legally recognised in China until the 2010s.
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In an interview with CNBC, Piers Harding-Rolls, director and head of games research at IHS Markit notes that “in Asian territories such as South Korea and China, the traditional consumption model has been via the PC and originally internet cafe pre-paid game time or subscription.”
That meant that players in the East were already used to having to pay on a recurring basis to play, making it easier for them to migrate to free games with microtransactions. According to Newzoo consultant Tom Wijman, that means many players in territories such as China are more willing to accept games that sell progress rewards or in-game boosts, something that is largely frowned upon by European and American markets.
Despite the bad reception publishers such as EA and Warner Bros have seen to the inclusion of microtransactions in games such as Battlefront II and Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, a recent report by Newzoo predicts that in-game spending will continue to rise. Wijman says that “the difference (between East and West” is becoming less pronounced every year.” As China surges to become one the largest PC gaming markets, don’t expect to see lootboxes disappear any time soon.