03/10/2018

SWTOR Seems To Be Phasing Out Cartel Packs

I was talking to some guildies about this the other night and some of them had no clue that this was even happening - I've said before that as a subscriber the cash shop is very easy to ignore - so I thought it might be an interesting subject for a blog post.

Whether we've liked it or not, SWTOR's cash shop has heavily relied on random lootboxes since its introduction back in 2012. (I previously wrote a post about why calling them lockboxes is misleading, since unlike in other games there is no attempt to lure you into purchasing with keys or anything of the like.) There were always some things up for direct sale, sure, but it was clear that the vast majority of artistic effort went into producing content for the Cartel packs, with a new type of box being released every two to three months or so.

In April however, Bioware decided to release the "Ultimate Cartel Pack", a box that promised a selection of random loot pulled from everything they've ever released... and I guess the name should have been a hint: synonyms for ultimate are "last" or "final".


Since then we haven't seen any more Cartel packs. The Ultimate one is still there and for sale, and they've added new items to it as they were released, but it's not always on the store front page anymore. Instead the focus of new releases has been on direct sale items.

It's hard not to see this as a consequence of the Star Wars: Battlefront II lootbox disaster from last November, whether EA actually officially ordered Bioware to cut back on the lootboxes, or the sudden spotlight on the practice gave the team at Bioware increased wiggle room to try out different things instead. They certainly haven't made any kind of official statement about it as far as I'm aware; things just started to change one day.


You can tell that there is now more of a push for quality over quantity in the new releases, as some of the armour sets they've added since then are absolutely gorgeous, with much more detail than we were used to previously. It's a win for those who just want to buy things from the Cartel Market directly - less so for those who preferred to buy new items for in-game credits for other players. For the latter group, people opening Cartel packs full of items they didn't necessarily want for themselves provided a constant supply of new goodies. Even when it came to the rarest of rare items, there were always spares to go around, and if you weren't only after whatever people considered the latest "must-have", you could snatch up some other decent-looking and more common items at incredible prices.

With everything new being direct sale, there is much less of that. Sure, there'll continue to be a very small influx of random drops through the Ultimate Pack, but aside from those the only new things being put up for sale on the GTN will be those purchased from the store with the specific intent to re-sell, which makes for a much smaller number than when players were constantly opening new packs in search of the newest drops and thereby stacking up on goods to sell on the GTN more or less "by accident".

As for how well this is working for Bioware... who knows? If you think that random lootboxes are the devil, you're likely to assume that sales must be much better now because everyone hates lootboxes, right? In truth though, none of us know the actual numbers. So far there haven't been any obvious signs that things are going badly, such as sudden attempts to find new parts of the game to monetise, but it hasn't even been six months yet, so it's probably a bit early to tell anyway. I can't say that I miss the constant flurry of new lootboxes (not that I was paying much attention to them), but as someone who preferred to buy things for credits instead of Cartel coins, it does suck a little that supply on the GTN is now less than it was.

7 comments :

  1. That's a very insightful point about how the randomness of a lootbox or pack promotes a thriving secondary market. And how losing that randomness dries up the secondary market.

    You trade the items you don't want, so if you get exactly what you want, you have nothing to trade.

    A lot of games don't let you trade, though. For example, Overwatch. I think SWTOR is one of the few games where everything from the cash shop is can be traded. And of course physical games like Magic: the Gathering. So maybe the general implications are limited.

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  2. You're right; I've never noticed it at all. I suppose that the general decline of of lootbox acceptance (with the notable exception of Blizzard, whose fans seem to not care very much at all about trends) means that MMOs that rely heavily on lootboxes/lockboxes for income are going to start feeling a pinch.

    I sure hope that Bioware continues to commit to SWTOR long term, because the shakedown in MMO space means that there are fewer and fewer games like it out there.

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    1. I think Bioware is fully committed to SWTOR, you just never know what's happening with EA and the licensing. But there's no point in worrying about something you can't influence.

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  3. Personally, I'm happy with the move away from boxes. Previously I'd almost always also buy the CM stuff I wanted from the GTN; and I either use my monthly grant on collection unlocks or let it build up until I'd buy a few boxes with no expectation of getting anything I actually wanted (which was fine, finding something neat that I didn't know I wanted could be fun). Now my grant rarely lasts the month. As you said the direct sale items have been nice lately, and sometimes the daily deal is too good to pass up. Whether this translates to more subs or Cartel Coin sales, I wouldn't know, but I did treat myself to some extra coins during the big spring sale. The other side of it is that I'm spending less on the GTN and my credit stash has increased. I'm buying less, but when I do, I am willing to spend more rather than wait a few days to see if I can get a bargain. I'll let someone who knows economics parse that all, but I think Bioware is on the right track here.

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    1. I've definitely been spending more of my complimentary coins as well. Looking for a good deal from a re-seller is too much of a hassle when you can afford to buy it right there and then.

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  4. EA is currently being sued by multiple countries in the EU over their lootbox practices, with 2 countries (Belgium and I think Finland?) outright banning them.

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    1. Yeah, I've read about that, and I think the second country is the Netherlands. That's over FIFA though, fortunately SWTOR isn't big enough to draw that kind of attention. :)

      Also, I'm probably in the minority but I'd actually prefer for EA to win that one, simply because I don't think that lootboxes are gambling either. (Have they banned Magic cards yet?) Though it's no skin off my back either way.

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