Crating a Fuss
Multiplayer shooters have been around since the moment we discovered screens could be split in four, and with the boom of them on consoles, DLC practices changed from the good ol’ days of free community and developer built maps to play on while you’re waiting for the next expansion pack to come out. The new way of doing things was charging for Map Packs every few months. While players accustomed to getting maps for free were a tad annoyed, the obscurity of it all was understandable. Online Multiplayer games took less time to develop, gave the community something to grasp onto and keep playing, and funded the developers to make the next game.
We’re now coming into another phase of DLC for Multiplayer Shooters, and a lot of content is getting released for free. Rainbow Six Siege has new Operatives to try (though these are released early for those who pay for a Season Pass) and given out maps for free. Halo 5: Guardians also gives players big updates monthly for free, which include free maps (though there is some arguing in the community due to the nature of these maps), new cosmetic items, and even new weapon variants for Halo’s new Warzone gametype.
While Rainbow Six has their traditional Season Pass to pay for development time for these pieces of free content, Halo 5 uses micro-transactions in the form of REQ Packs. These unlock a randomized set of items in the game, whether it’s boosts for XP, a new Helmet or a Weapon. REQ packs can be bought using the in-game Req Points, earned just by playing, or by putting down real money. It seems fair, as it only speeds up the process if you’re paying cash for them. It’s also pretty common for this system in shooters.
The fascination with crates seems to have its roots in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, where a number of different crates are available and drop during game time. Unlike Halo, to unlock these you must put down real money for a key. Generally the crates just have skins for weapons, and some of them go for upwards of £200. No, I’m not kidding. The Knives are ridiculous if you want to just straight up buy the skin you want.
Even Call of Duty has crates now. Advanced Warfare started this, and it’s extended into Black Ops 3. In the latter, you earn “Cryptokeys” for playing Multiplayer games. 10 Cryptokeys buy you a common crate, and 30 buy you a rare crate. They give you a chance of unlocking new emblem pieces, weapon skins again, emotes, and camo for your Specialists. You can also put down money to buy CoD Points to straight up buy these crates and a number of other features in the game.
Blizzard have even extended this into their newest IP Overwatch. A Team Fortress 2-esque FPS. In the newest Beta which started recently, a crate system has been added along with a progression system. These contain skins for each hero, sprays that you can put around the map, voices, and some extremely cool “Heroic Intros” for when you perform a great feat during the game. There’s a lot of different things to unlock, and it’s all free. The best thing about this system in particular is that the currency you earn can be used to buy a specific item that you so desperately want, meaning that that good old RNG isn’t as much of a factor. There’s no way to buy these crates of currencies with real money at the moment, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see that in the future to gain more income from the game.
So what’s up with these crates? Why are they becoming so common in multiplayer shooters? Well, in my opinion, it’s the gambling factor. You don’t know what you’re going to get. It’s exciting to see the wheel spin, and it feels good when you unlock something you think is really cool. There is clearly something more to it though, as there are some streamers on Twitch that specifically open these crates in games for viewers. Some viewers even donate money to the streamer so they can open even more, which we have seen many a Hearthstone streamer do.
There’s just something so satisfying about opening a crate and getting loot out of it. It could just be a gamer’s inherent desire to get loot. I know I’m one of those players who will become over-encumbered in RPGs by way of loot hoarding. It’s wired into our brains that we need something rare, something shiny, and something that not many people have. The developers who add these features seem to know this, and are exploiting it for their own gain. It’s not a bad thing, not at all. Especially when it’s not breaking the bank, or taking up all your time just to get enough points to unlock that next pack of goodies.
I think we’ll be starting to see this in most multiplayer focused games in the future. It could certainly lead to more free content if done right too. There’ll be some people who will just want to see what they can get and will pay that small amount of money to open a new crate. It benefits everyone, developers get the money and players get something they can show off with. It’s a really interesting obsession within the games industry right now, and I know I enjoy the feeling of opening the next crate or pack in most of the games I’m playing at the moment.
Editor’s Note: We are fortunate enough to have Chris Peebles, formerly of XBLG, contribute this piece to the site. You can find his works on sites like RealmOfGaming or find him on twitter @Sitoxity. You can even watch him play an eclectic mix of games on his YouTube Channel.