Lootbox Controversy & REM Renewal

**Disclaimer**
Some points of this article may be out of my scope of knowledge

Introduction

Over the past several months there has been significant focus on gambling within Video Games which has led to the entire Lootbox system being put under scrutiny. This has led to additional transparency from Apple for disclosing true rolling/summoning rates.

In essence, the Lootbox system involves the opening of randomized rewards that can either advance your own level of progression or are simply cosmetic in nature.

While cosmetic items are less detrimental overall, it is the notion that you can be gated by luck in progressing through a game that has drawn negative attention as it can be considered a negative form of gambling, especially when most of these games are targeting minors.

This article will attempt to summarize my thoughts on this topic along with my predictions for how this will impact Puzzle and Dragons moving forward.

Video commentary

–video coming soon–

What are Lootboxes?

Lootboxes are an umbrella term for “boxes” that contain randomized in game loot/goodies. Gatcha-style games is another term that utilizes a Lootbox System and enables players to acquire cards to use as they play through. Regardless, the type of loot that is distributed varies from game to game, but can be broadly categorized as either Cosmetic or Progression-Oriented.

While the concept of Lootboxes is not new, they have now become a monetized item throughout many popular games. Unfortunately, it is this monetized concept that has drawn a negative light on the gaming industry as it is thought to encourage gambling while having a portion of their audience being minors. This has led to changes being made within Europe and Apple.

Cosmetic

Cosmetic rewards from Lootboxes are anything that will alter the appearance of your characters or game. Cosmetic items have no impact on your performance and will not help you progress through the game, you will just look prettier.

Overall, Cosmetic Lootboxes are the healthier form as they are not required to excel and are purely for vanity purposes. Games such as Overwatch only utilize Cosmetic Lootboxes and the negative backlash has been small by comparison as you do not need them to advance and improve.

Progression-oriented

Progression-Oriented rewards include anything that can alter or improve your game play and overall ability to progress. This can include, but not limited to, weapons, new characters, gear, or in game currency to buy new loot.

Compared to Cosmetic Lootboxes, it is the Progression-Oriented ones that have drawn negative attention across the gaming community.

This is because these Lootboxes are usually gated by a Premium Currency (Magic Stones in PAD) that have either a small trickle or are unavailable outside of purchasing them. This is a double edged sword as you have to either get exceptionally lucky or pay more money to progress/stay relevant in the current meta. Furthermore, because of the random nature of Lootboxes, you do not know what you are going to get and you can spend large sums of money and not actually receive your target item. This can naturally lead to feelings of frustration or continuously feeling like you are missing key aspects to a game.

While the concept of Progression-Oriented Lootboxes is not new (it is the business model for all Gatcha games such as PAD), it began to draw negative attention in Europe and can be largely attributed to EA Games and their latest Star Wars Battlefront game. This Star Wars game had a massive paywall that gated players from accessing in game content. This level of greed combined with a mainstream franchise inevitably led to changes within the European gaming industry.

Europe

Europe has begun to crackdown on gambling within the gaming industry and their prime target is Lootboxes and their variants. Now, it is my understanding that they are targeting those that only grant Progression-Oriented rewards as these are required to succeed within the game.

It is most likely these changes that have signaled the end of Magic Stone purchasing in Europe and GungHo is either going to shut down the Europe server or completely remodel the IAP-structure to comply with these laws. With that being said, I have no clue nor idea what will happen with PADEU.

Apple

Apple is one of the primary platforms for mobile games and they are now forcing developers to disclose the true rolling/summoning rates within their games. This is important because it will enable players to make an informed decision as to whether or not they should roll or IAP.

From the company’s point of view, this is a major problem as they do not wish to disclose the true rates as it will most likely result in fewer people participating. We have been able to guesstimate the rolling rates within PAD based on thousands of rolls and is probably quite accurate, but is never confirmed by GungHo.

As a result of the Apple changes, PAD is now undergoing a REM Renewal.

Puzzle and Dragons REM Renewal

Taking all of the above points into consideration, GungHo has unveiled a REM Renewal across all regions at the same time. From past experience, it is rare to ever see NA/EU receive new content at the same time as JP as we are almost always 2-3 months behind. Thus, it is safe to assume that this stems from the Lootbox Controversy.

Notable changes

The REM Renewal does come as a bit of a surprise and is GungHo’s answer to disclosing true rolling rates. Players have never known the actual odds of acquire a particular card, but were able to guesstimate through large sample sizes. However, it is a general agreement that it is challenging to acquire the better cards. As such, the Renewal will try to put on a better front by altering the odds before transparency becomes mandatory.

One key aspect of the Renewal will be the removal of countless 4* cards that were arguable garbage. The only major exceptions would be Exa-Hydra Zeta Hydra and the 3-turn bind clearing Dragon Knights.

Furthermore, various 5* Godfest Exclusives will now be restructured into normal 5* status that will rotate within the REM moving forward. This comes as a bit of a surprise as the term GFE may become a thing of the past and we have no clue as to how that will impact their rolling rates. While most 5* GFE have become lackluster, some still retain relevancy such as Green Odin 3390, Saria , Urd , and Verdandi 

As a result, Gold becomes the new Silver as it is my belief that the 6* GFE will retain their elusiveness and still be challenging to acquire.

The core line up of the Rare Egg Machine will rotate periodically and Highlight different cards.

Godfest formatting

In addition to the changes within the Rare Egg Machine, GungHo is now releasing a new format to deliver Godfests. These new events still retain the name Godfest but instead of stating increased rates, they use the word Highlight to showcase featured cards along with being the only time you can roll 6* GFE.

As a result, Godfests will now use the Renewed REM compromising the core of rolls with the 6* GFE sprinkled in as the “Highlight” with no indication of increased rolling rates (some will still be missing and will also follow a rotational pattern).

Furthermore, cards that are not included in their long list will not be able to be pulled during these events. This line up is not permanent and will rotate around periodically.

Judging from the list of highlighted cards, we will be able to acquire what were 5* GFE, certain Pantheon cards, along with miscellaneous cards that no one really wants.

It is my belief that future events will follow this rough template:

  • Featured 5* Pantheons that will rotate
  • 6* Non-GFE that will rotate
  • Junky cards will always remain (those at the bottom of the list)
  • Some 6* GFE will only be available during their Godfest events and will also rotate

This new format will condense the pool of available monsters so you should in theory have a higher hit rate for a card you are chasing. At the same time, this will also improve or at least create the illusion of better rolling rates just in time for the transparency from Apple.

The official Godfest post from GHNA can be found HERE.

Upcoming event

I am not sure how I will be delivering my Godfest reviews moving forward due to the formatting change as we have no idea if these events will be worthwhile.

Conclusion

The landscape of Puzzle and Dragons is quickly changing and this REM Renewal comes at a time when I was actually in the middle of writing a new article about how PAD has changed over my 1,500+ day career (still a work in progress and coming soon).

The clampdown on Lootboxes along with rolling rate transparency will all have an interesting impact on Puzzle and Dragons. However, I do not foresee an improvement of rolling rates, just adjustments to give the illusion of better odds.

Let me know what you think about the changes in the comments below.

Finally, I do not know the future of PADEU so asking about that will do no good.

Happy Puzzling!

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38 thoughts on “Lootbox Controversy & REM Renewal”

  1. I’m still not convinced the lootbox controversy is a direct causal factor here (for godfests OR EU’s situation). If they were happy with the money they were making, they could have just revealed the rates (approximately) to comply with Apple’s demands.

    They had massively bloated and confusing godfest rules, and I suspect this revamp is a way to “reset” what is a GFE and what isn’t, and increase the value proposition for players to encourage more rolling. It’s also probably paving the way for future REM tech for events to layer on top of this new baseline.

    Anyway, as a guy in the industry, I don’t hear of anyone else scrambling to change their gachas and loot boxes, so I suspect this is FAR more related to declining revenues at GungHo JP.

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    1. Perhaps it is related to GHJP declining revenue, but why would they alter the format at the same time across all servers? This means we will not be receiving some 5* GFE in the same way we have in the past or certain events etc

      As for their level of comfort in disclosing, I feel they were probably not comfortable and this coupled with a lower revenue stream may not go over well. For example, if “filler” cards had 50% chance before, the removal of the 4*s may may things look more appealing overall etc

      I do agree that previous GF were bloated and somewhat confusing so this reset does make it tidier overall and with a smaller pool, you can hopefully target specific cards with more efficiency.

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  2. How is PAD different than collector cards (Pokemon, Magic the Gathering, Baseball / Hockey Cards, etc.)? Are they being scrutinized in the same way that these Lootbox style games are facing? If not, why not? And if cards are ok, why is PAD not? Is it the convenience of being able to purchase from your couch? Just some thoughts. Who knows.

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    1. That is a good point comparing PAD/gatcha games to other tangible collecting items and I do not know the fate of those other mediums

      Perhaps it is the digital format, convenience, or maybe accessibility for minors?

      Maybe it is the mainstream-ness of EA and Star Wars that brought these points to light and I can see how it can be negative overall

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      1. I believe the big downfall of EA is that it’s been selling -full price- retail products, AND including freemium monetization models in them. That combo is a big slap in the customer’s face. Like you call out, it’s easier to get away with it if your freemium stuff is purely cosmetic.

        Regarding cards, the rates are pretty well known at the “X Rares per Box level”. They also allow unrestricted trading because there’s a physical object. I don’t think there’s a strong correlation in the markets.

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        1. That is a good point about EA with their attempt to double dip at the expense of consumers. I know Overwatch requires you to purchase it and then all their lootboxes can be purchased with real $ but they only award cosmetics and are not truly required for performance. However, there is still some unrest as players cannot directly buy a skin and have to go through lootboxes and dupes/selling

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    2. The difference with trading card games is I can buy any card second hand. Where in PAD you can only roll and get the cards you want in PAD at very low rates of return. I know they have added trading, but that is still far from being able to buy every individual card like in a trading card game.

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  3. I have no idea what highlights mean. The REM renewal provides no details, and the godfest post doesn’t actually mention anything being highlighted at all.

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      1. Sure, they list a highlight, but we don’t know if it means increased rates. And there are no highlights listed in the godfest announcement, it just lists greek 3 with everyone else.

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  4. I don’t think Apple’s updated terms make a difference in this case. As per their terms in section 3.1.1, the addition says “Apps offering “loot boxes” or other mechanisms that provide randomized virtual items for purchase must disclose the odds of receiving each type of item to customers prior to purchase.” Since the loot box isn’t for purchase in this case and is not the actual product, PAD will never have to disclose the rates themselves, unless Apple modifies what they just added, which is unlikely. By purchasing the stones you might just use them to stone stam or for box space; the “loot box”, or REM, is not for sale (except in the case of the 1 time bargain pack). It seems like this is just a change PAD made, and the timing is really ironic?

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    1. But PAD’s primary revenue stream/stone consumption is the REM so it could also just be a matter of time before that is enforced. It is easier to preemptively prepare yourself and be ready to comply early on.

      If we had got the REM renewal 2-3 months later as per usual this would not have been so odd

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  5. Whether this REM Renewal is in response to the need for transparency on rates or not, i can’t answer.

    As far as the new REM, i did some pulls and still can’t really critique if it is better or worse. My main account rolled some…my alt account rolled some. 10 rolls on my main and of note i got Gan Jiang, Uranus, Raijin, Kaede and Ameno as my diamond pulls. So i thought: “this rem is great! I got so many diamonds!

    Then my alt pulled a few times and got Riders, Riders, Riders.

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    1. Looks like it’s based on Apple’s new requirements. GungHo JP announced they’ll be revealing rates in the next update.

      So, I guess the story is something like this: lootbox controversy in the US causes Apple to re-assess policies for lootboxes/gacha systems, requiring revealing rates; this affects most markets simultaneously. This motivates GungHo to streamline/simplify the REM to a) make it easier to reveal the rates, and b) clean up some rate shenanigans they used to be doing under the carpet.

      (The EU situation probably remains motivated by financials and low player base.)

      In the future, I suspect we’ll see a return to some boosted rate events that are more exciting than last godfest, but hopefully they’ll be pretty simple and clear.

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      1. I am actually quite excited to see the true rolling rates post-REM Renewal

        However, I do agree that we will probably see “spicier” godests in the future as this one was laying the groundwork/template.

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  6. One doors closed another opens, gung-ho will always find a way to get players money. Loot box is just one method that the “pay to play” type of game uses, their are tons of other things they can do, such as pay to unlock certain content, paying for some kind of membership or even increase the number of stones required to roll. After all, we will always be trolled one way or another…

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  7. There is a groundswell towards a major lawsuit to have all IAP refunded. If successful, that should be the end of this criminal company.

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  8. It’s a really interesting problem that to me sheds light on many major problems the gaming industry has been suffering from as a whole, they went unnoticed/unfixed, and now we have so much controversy stemming from it. Here’s my own insight from long discussions with my husband who is a software developer and with my own design background..

    How much are we willing to pay? What is the “anchored price point”, so to speak, of what we purchase? New car, for example, everyone has variable standards of what they will pay, so you see economical small Hondas and luxury Ferraris that people buy. This “anchored price” once set into our brain is hard to change and is why I personally would never, ever spend more than $25 on a shirt (it’d have to be a damn good fine shirt to pay even $25), because my parents have shopping patterns that I imprinted on.
    So what is the price point of games? AAA games have locked at $59.99 for years, technically speaking we are paying less and less because inflation grows around ~4% a year (America-specific statistic). But at the same time average middle class wage has stagnated while other costs like rent (huge biggie), insurance, tuition, etc. have gone up, leaving less money to spend in retail. Plus, the $59.99 price is “anchored” in gamers. Who would pay $69.99 instead? Many say they would for a “true quality game” but what is that and would you really?
    Mobile games! Ah, this one is so painful! Mobile games are forever cursed to be FREE. Our price point for mobile app is FREE. Seriously, I see people giving 1* ratings to Deemo, one of the best rhythm games EVER, for it costing $4.99, and if you play it you full well know it’s worth it. And when Rayark ported it to Switch complete with ALL the microtransaction song packs for $29.99 people still rioted, yet all those song packs add up to over $100 in the mobile version. If people want their game to be downloaded at all on mobile space it more or less has to be free, and then to recoup losses? Microtransactions.
    AAA budgets specifically are spiraling up. They are beginning to rival and put to shame Hollywood grade productions, but they can’t charge more for their games. I know, everyone is sick of hearing this argument, “That’s still no excuse for shitty microtransactions”, but numbers don’t lie and the numbers don’t look good. I see a lot of people citing The Witcher 3 as an example of this argument being moot but TW3 is an exception to the rule in my eyes and tbh that game had a massive mofo budget that just happened to sell like hotcakes.

    The above point is interestingly why it was so easy for Nintendo DS to turn a profit, small games from small studios cost less than $100K to produce and thus had to sell very little to make bank, to speak nothing of Pokemon and other heavy hitters.

    If nothing is changed and things keep going this way there will be microtransactions in video games as commonly as they are in mobile games. Developing in full native 4K/60FPS with technologically advanced AI and other groundbreaking bleeding-edge tech costs money, and with the push for VR as well that only adds to it. Something has to be done, I can’t think of anything or else I would suggest but yeah that’s my thoughts. Sorry for the wall of text, I am very passionate about this issue as you can see :>

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought I replied here but must have missed hit post

      I greatly enjoyed reading you and your husband’s thoughts on the perceived value for a game.

      I completely agree with the mentality that an app has to be free to be considered for downloading, especially if it is a game. This is probably why developers use the Gatcha format for income. I don’t think anyone would pay $65 up front for PAD (and never have to spend again) but we have players who IAP a $65 pack without blinking an eye. Players justify it in various ways, but that same player would probably never have bought PAD for $65 upfront.

      I guess we have become accustomed to things being free and being able to IAP to get more/progress faster. I personally prefer how Starcraft 2 handles their money generation as you can play for free, but can purchase additional campaigns or coop commanders. Not needed to actually play the game, but adds value.

      Regardless, I do not foresee the mobile market changing from the Freemium platform

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