Monday, October 08, 2018

Lockboxes and Secondary Markets

Shintar at Going Commando makes a really interesting observation about lockboxes and secondary markets in a post about how SWTOR appears to phasing out cartel packs in favour of direct sales:
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".
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.

Of course, this only applies to games which allow trading or selling of items in the first place. SWTOR was somewhat unique in that pretty much everything on the Cartel Market could be sold for in-game currency.

It also devalues subscribing. One of the perks of subscribing to SWTOR is that you can hold unlimited currency (non-subscribers have 350k cap), and SWTOR is fairly generous with that currency. So it was very common for subscribers to use the currency they were swimming in to pick up cartel market items on the auction house. But now, subscribers will have all that currency, and nothing to really spend it on.

If a subscriber wants a special item, she will have to spend real money to acquire it. The option to spend in-game currency is effectively gone. I wonder if Bioware will end up having to increase the Cartel Coin stipend given to subscribers to compensate. When I played, I subscribed, and my only interaction with the Cartel Market was through the auction house.

Personally, I thought SWTOR's model of lockboxes was pretty decent. Most people are cheering the move away from lockboxes, but Shintar's post is a reminder that there may be less palatable second-order effects.


  1. Yeah, it's true that this might have some changes and I can see how this could have negative consequences.

    On the other hand I've been subscribed for a few months now (for the third time, iirc. At launch, with Makeb, and since this summer) - and I have *never* spent a single cartel coin on anything random, but I have spent roughly half of what I got through subscribing on individual items and unlocks. So for people like me who hate the fact they have to randomize the outcome... nothing will change at all, but I have no clue how many we are. FWIW, yes I did a few of those cheap items off the AH that people sold for ingame money, but not a lot.

    1. Well, if you aren't interested in cosmetics, the Cartel Market change won't affect you. The stipend has always been enough for general unlocks.

      I never bought packs either. But when you have millions of credits, it's easier to use the auction house instead of the cartel market.