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Is It Time to Say Goodbye to Black Lion Chests (Lootboxes)?

By Steven Weber on June 15, 2018 | Columns | Comments

Is It Time to Say Goodbye to Black Lion Chests (Lootboxes)?

It has been widely accepted, albeit begrudgingly, that as companies looked for ways to make monetization more enticing, we the gamers have often been at a loss when it comes to directing how these companies actually do it.  Enter, the age of the Loot Box. In their simplest form they are miniature RNG loot containers, but in their most devious form they are Pay to Play slot machines with deceiving rewards.  Guild Wars 2 has implemented these loot boxes in the form of Black Lion Chests for a very long time, and with loot boxes under the microscope both by gamers and governments alike, is it time that we say goodbye to Black Lion Chests for good?

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A Case Against Black Lion Chests

In Guild Wars 2, we have years of content which has accumulated so many tiny tidbits of exceptional game perks that I’d argue most gamers aren’t even privy to them all.  There are quite a few special knick knacks that players will acquire such as revive orbs, experience and crafting boosts, and all manner of airship passes that will teleport you to special vendors throughout Tyria.  In many cases, these items are available in the Black Lion Market, thereby basically equating real money for many of the items players may sometimes obtain for free.

In very rare cases, aside from the one per week story mission key “farm”, players may obtain a Black Lion Key during their game play which is the only way to open Black Lion Chests, which are a fairly commonplace drop, and dirt cheap on the auction house if you find yourself with a key and at a loss for a chest.  Unfortunately, the most common outcome will be a player that has stockpiled plenty of Black Lion chests and next to no keys to open them, pushing them into purchasing the keys from the Market using the cash currency of Gems.

As anyone familiar with loot boxes knows, anything inside these kinds of chests range wildly from what the player actually wants, to items that aren’t worth the time spent opening them. Therein lies the crux of the issue with Black Lion chests. Much of what you obtain in these chests, including the Black Lion Material Bags, are items that players can and will accrue in game and aren’t tied directly to the cash shop, making your purchase useless in a wide number of cases.

But You Still Get Something at Least

Black Lion Chests should be rewarding, every single time that you open them.  Like many loot boxes, Arenanet began giving a special currency away in every chest called Black Lion Statuettes, which, when you accrue enough, will allow you to choose from a number of items, or transition that currency into Black Lion Ticket Scraps, which can then be transferred into a Black Lion Ticket that can then be used to purchase skins of your choosing.  Simply explaining this shows how deep the rabbit hole goes in terms of the secret monetary “grind” that is hidden within areas of gameplay few players may actually tread.

What is really interesting in the grand scheme of things, is that Black Lion Chests, pound for pound are actually fairly good deals when you consider a dollar to gem ratio even with poor RNG.  For the purposes of this article, I decided to do my due diligence and open 25 Black Lion Chests, record my findings, and equate what I found to gems on the closest possible market items, often taking the lesser priced of them, to determine if what I’m getting from the Black Lion Chests are worth the cost of the keys to open them.  Here is what I found.

After 25 Boxes, what I ended up with was:

  • [2] Season 1 Memory Box – 200 Gems Each
  • [1] Season 2 memory box –  - 200 Gems Each
  • [7] Toy Mini Egg – 350 Gems Each
  • [7] Revive Orb – 250 Gems Each, 900 Gems for 5
  • [2] Teleport to a Friend -  No Estimated Gem Price
  • [30] Transmutation charge – 150 Gems for 5, 600 Gems for 25 – 30 total.
  • [7] Dye Pack – 200 for one, 800 for 5m 4000 for 25 – 7 Total
  • [5] Guaranteed Wardrobe Unlock Similar Unlock, 400 Gems Each, 1800 Gems for 5.
  • [4] Premium Skins 200 Gems Each.
  • [2] for Self-Style hair kit 250 Gems Each
  • [2] 2 commemorative coins (2 gold) – 11 Gems
  • [2] Black Lion Scraps, (calculated) 50 Gems Each
  • [25] Black Lion statuettes – (calculated on Scrap Claims for 1 premium skin), 6 per scrap, 200 gems
  • [1] Upgrade extractor, 250 Gems Each.
  • [27] Black Lion Heavy Crafting Bag – (Calculated based on average pricing of Top Tier Materials) 2508 silver is 25 gold.  = 135 gems

Total Gems Worth of Items – 10,546 Gems = $131.82

Cost for 25 Black Lion Chest Keys – 2,100 Gems = 26.25 ($1.25 per 100 Gems)

When parsed out like this, the costs of what you get to what you spend in terms of Black Lion Chest Keys is fairly staggering. As a whole though, the actual prices and costs are next to meaningless.  For example, I have a stack of revive orbs in my inventory I’ve never used. I didn’t even count the Teleport to a Friend in my gem cost simply because you can’t buy them at the Black Lion Trading Company anymore, and I have dozens of them just taking up space in my bank. The commemorative coins are essentially just 1 gold each, and the materials, which make up the majority of what I received, are frivolous, and I don’t believe anyone opens a black lion chest hoping for these “rare” materials when they dole out free Laurels by the dozens quite often, and heavy crafting bags only cost 1 laurel per bag.

No, what most people want are the cool wardrobe and mount pieces, which are the big-ticket items. If I were to cut out the chaff, I’d still come out ahead, with wardrobe and premium skins more than covering the amount I spent on keys, until I realized, aside from one mount skin I found really amazing, the rest of the items were for weapons I don’t often use, or skins I certainly won’t be slotting.

In the End, is it Really Worth It?

Arenanet has made some strides in making Black Lion Chests more approachable, but despite all the crazy items I ended up with and the exceptional value of them all, I only received one item that I really wanted.  In comparison, the Black Lion Trading Company has a ton of items in their shop where you pay for what you want, and get what you want, and in reality, the whole gambling on loot boxes is no longer necessary.  Maybe for those that find slot machine gameplay enticing would find more to love with the Black Lion Chests, or perhaps players that are new to the game with some hefty money in hand hoping to round out their inventory with various items they may come to use in the future to craft legendaries or customize their characters may find some value here, but in my estimation, in 2018 we need a better approach.

Keys shouldn’t be as rare as they are, or items in the black lion chests need to be more straight forward. I’m not saying they need to give players everything they want, that’s what the trading company is for, I’m saying the field needs to be narrowed to coveted items, or higher chances of scrap ticket currency so players can redeem them for what they want instead of shoveling cash into a pay wheel that is mostly spinning on disappointment with just enough hope thrown in to keep players on the hook.  I’m glad that I took a chance to confirm my suspicions on the Black Lion Chests. I learned that purchasing more keys may just not be for me, but whether you are for or against them, I hope it reaffirms whichever position you end up choosing as a player.

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