Tim Sweeney, CEO and founder of Epic Games, spoke to a large room of industry peers today for DICE Summit 2020's opening keynote. He spoke about interoperability between platforms, from unified friends lists to purchase portability across platforms, and eventually, arrived at games monetization, specifically that of loot boxes. Sweeney is not a fan.
"The customer has a right to know what they're buying and we should adjust our products to do that," Sweeney says. "Some people get very disappointed [when they see loot boxes in a game]. They want to buy a particular thing, so they spend over and over to buy loot boxes to get that thing and they don't get it. And they get increasingly frustrated, and develop a really unhealthy relationship with the game where they overspend and ultimately come away disappointed. You know, I think, we have to ask ourselves as an industry, What do we want to be when we grow up?"
Sweeney speaks at length about its recent acquisition of the game developer Psyonix, the creators of the hit car soccer of Rocket League. In December 2019, the duo came to a joint decision to scrap loot boxes in the game entirely, a whopping four-plus years after its debut. Sweeney notes that there was outcry from a vocal minority on Reddit, but eventually, Rocket League benefitted from the remodel.
"Over time people became happier with the game, and over Christmas-despite the game being many years old-it's all-time peaked in terms of engagement and monetization on a model stripped completely of loot boxes and randomized purchasing," Sweeney says.
Sweeney says the current loot box model that many esteemed publishers and developers adopt is directly adversarial to customers. But, as evidenced by Epic's own experiences of ridding of loot boxes across Fortnite Save the World and later Rocket League, it doesn't necessarily have to be that way.
"Do we want to be this?" Sweeney asks. "Do we want to be Las Vegas, or do we want to be worldwide, highly respected creators of entertainment products customers can trust?"