League of Legends publishes its Hextech loot crate odds

League of Legends Hextech Loot Crate
As various governmental forces consider imposing restrictions on the sale of boxes of random goodies in games, it seems that at least one major industry player has decided to demystify the process of earning and buying loot crates, perhaps trying to preempt more popular legal proposals to make publishing such details mandatory.

In a fairly lengthy guide (which Riot say will be updated as and when odds change, or new random drops are introduced), the League of Legends studio lay out exactly what’s in one of these Schrodinger’s goodie-bags, and the external factors involved.

Riot’s guide is surprisingly comprehensive, opening with a glossary of all key terms, explaining the exact limits of what can be earned by who and how. Nicely, they also confirm that while you can earn new Champions through these hex chests, there are no low-tier ‘cheap’ characters included. Only characters costing 4800BE or higher are included in the pool. They even include some handy tips on working the system, like how it takes a day or two for new shop items to be filtered into the loot lists, so you should hold off on drawing rewards until things have had a time to settle.

While the information provided is helpful, I feel it would be nice if they could provide a full in-game descending percentage-list of odds for every item available in the crates, as I’ve seen some mobile games with Gacha-type character unlock systems do. Being able to clearly see that there’s only a one in a thousand chance of drawing one of the rarest tier of characters is helpful, and at least allows buyers (or those happily using boxes from free giveaways) to adjust their expectations accordingly. One figure I would love to see published is an estimate of how much real world money you’d need to pour into chests (on average) to earn a specific reward – that’d help put things in perspective, and probably put some people off throwing cash at such systems.

Interestingly, though fitting in with League of Legends’ continuing push to combat toxicity in their community, being a big dumb jerk will result in exemption from earning Hextech crate & crafting rewards until they believe that you’re honestly turned over a new leaf. There’s no hard and fast rule on this, so it’s all down to how the moderation staff think you’re behaving. So, don’t be a dick, alright? While I have my issues with loot boxes as a whole (especially ones that contain gameplay-affecting goodies like playable characters), the level of transparency is refreshing, and I’d like to see this become the new base-line industry standard before legislation has to be passed to make it (or stronger restrictions) mandatory.

20 Comments

  1. Baines says:

    It may be worth mentioning that this was already the case in China, where a “display your loot box odds” law went into effect in May of last year.

    It should also be noted that Blizzard, in a blatant act to dodge the law and keep its crate odds hidden, immediately changed how it “sold” Overwatch loot crates inside China. Instead of buying loot crates directly with real money, you instead received “free” loot boxes when you purchased set amounts of in-game currency for real money.

    • upupup says:

      Also known as the Pachinko Defence.

    • Excors says:

      On average, an Overwatch loot box gives roughly 30 credits (through coin drops and dupes) plus items worth several hundred credits. The rarest items cost 3000 credits.

      In China they apparently sell 5 credits for ~$2, with a free bonus of 2 loot boxes.

      It seems kind of like saying “I’m not selling drugs, I’m selling absurdly expensive little plastic bags (containing free bonus drugs)”. It really is quite blatant.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        Amusingly, the “free bonus drugs” defense actually works with the odd legal status of cannabis in Washington DC, where gifting is legal but not sale. Or at least everyone’s currently pretending that this works, because I don’t think prosecutors are very interested in taking it on.

    • pseudoart says:

      Has been in effect in Japan since September 2012.

  2. Xocrates says:

    “it would be nice if they could provide a full in-game descending percentage-list of odds for every item available in the crates”

    To be fair, the page states that, for skins at least, every skin has equal chances of dropping, so there isn’t a “rarest tier”.

    Also, and I’m pretty sure this is new, the highest value skins now drop as auto-redeeming instead of shards, which is strangely generous.

    You know, despite how much I hate loot-boxes, I still feel riot has come the closest to doing them right. Of course there is a long list on conditionals to this:

    1) It’s a f2p game
    2) Nearly all (with a sadly growing number of exceptions) the contents of crates can be purchased directly, so no need to gamble on the stuff you want.
    3)Surprisingly small amount of litter *cough*sprays*cough*.
    4)Because you need to disenchant the stuff you get in order to actually unlock stuff, even a bad drop can feel useful.
    5)It exists in addition to other reward systems, not as the only one.
    6)And of course, cosmetic only.

    By comparison, Overwatch meets 1 of those conditions.

  3. Servicemaster says:

    I can’t wait until anything resembling child-focused gambling and any form of gambling where you can’t make a profit is outright fucking BANNED.

    State Lotteries in the US are an absolute cancer on the Lower Class and lootboxes are no different. We may be sentient but we are fucking addicted to recurring rewards and finding patterns, etc. By we I mean the entire human race.

    They’re rarely fun (it’s in the code!) and often a massive time waste. Unless you’re playing I Can’t Believe It’s Not Gambling GOTY Edition then I’d have to recommend you play it because it’s cheap and fun and lets you realize just how much of a waste of time, resources, money and energy it is when gambling for digital fashion and merchandise.

    Shame on EA, Blizzard, Valve and every other company that embraces such a toxic profit model.

    • Nauallis says:

      Yeah, how dare people choose how to spend their own money, we have to stop that practice right now!

      • Daymare says:

        How’d you like the idea of heroin and crack being legal?

        Since people should be allowed to spend their money on what they like.

        • Reefpirate says:

          Personally I’m all for crack and heroin being legal. As far as I can tell studies show that reduces usage, and it’s a lot better than sending addicts to prison.

          • RedMattis says:

            Yeah, no. If Heroin and the like was legal every other kid would end up a mentally unstable (or DEAD) wreck before they reached adulthood. Stores/vending machines would be selling that junk like candy to every age.

            The reason we outlawed that kind of thind was because we realised that most people who used it without restriction turned into useless husks who did little more than weigh down the mentally stable and working population. In order to keep this stuff from turning society into a complete dystopian hell-hole it was outlawed.

            If being legal neither profits the individual’s health, nor the large society overall, then there is no reason to ever permit unrestricted use.

            People aren’t smart enough to take responsibility for their lives. That’s a big reason why we have laws. Darwin isn’t going to somehow create homo-superior without traits which could lead to self-destructive behaviour. If it was that easy we wouldn’t have been susceptible to such things in the first place.

          • ColonelFlanders says:

            Redmattis, the rationale behind decriminalisation of these drugs is NOT to do with making it attractive or accessible to addicts. Multiple studies have shown support for decriminalisation, not to mention someone who wants to take illegal drugs will find a way if they want to do it. The idea behind regulating it is to make it easier to research, to provide support for addicts instead of just throwing them in jail, and to prevent criminal organisations from cutting it with nasty fillers to maximise their profits.

            I suggest (if you’re interested) to go and read some of Professor David Nutt’s work. He makes an excellent case for the harm reduction benefits of drug decriminalisation.

          • ludde says:

            Heh, I have a hard time believing legalization reduces usage. Maybe with better support systems, but not just from legalization in itself. It’d be the same as making guns legal and thinking there’d be fewer guns around, which looking at the U.S. is clearly not the case.

          • Daymare says:

            The whole idea that in a real-world scenario legalization of drugs would actually reduce usage is so abominably wrong.

            Like, let’s think about a drug that’s legal. Alcohol! Now let’s look at my country (Austria), we’ve got a population of ~9 mil, 8000 of which die of alcohol usage each year. And that’s just the people who actually, literally die from it instead of “only” ruining their and others’ lives with it, but surviving!

  4. Premium User Badge

    Serrit says:

    One figure I would love to see published is an estimate of how much real world money you’d need to pour into chests (on average) to earn a specific reward

    My worry with that would be that that you have to keep your knowledge of statistics in mind to avoid seeing that as close to a “price”.
    If you see something on average cost say £20 as you figure you can afford that – what do you do if you spend that and don’t get that item? You can start getting into sunk cost fallacies.

    • Excors says:

      It may be better to present it as a graph of the cumulative probability distribution. Then you could easily see there’s a 2% chance of getting it when you spend £1, 50% chance when you spend £20, 80% when you spend £40, 99.9% when you spend £200, 100% when you spend £infinity, or whatever. It’s still gambling but at least you’re better informed and can make a more rational decision about how much you’re willing to spend.

      • Premium User Badge

        Serrit says:

        Yeah that would be more useful I think, though would probably need some kind of “more info” area in the UI to attach it to (maybe a link from the basic “average” figure).

        Just thinking about all this though just gets me back to the view that any such “pay for a random chance to get something desirable” systems are just icky gambling mechanics. I would much prefer digital assets for sale on an item store.

        (edited for typos)

  5. Menthalion says:

    Shame they had to sink to this level. What was wrong and unclear with selling skins for real money ?

    And Blizzard’s actions in China are truly detestable. Just shows the masquerade these people are trying to keep up.

    • Xocrates says:

      They still sell skins, and when the system initially launched they straight up said it was a terrible way of getting skins.

      The system does allow to get skins for free, which is a huge boon for players.

      This does not mean it was done out of the good of their hearts, and they’ve certainly started to lean more on it, but so far it’s still the best one I’ve seen in that it neither particularly encourages to spend money on it, while still feeling rewarding for free users.

  6. juan_h says:

    Instead of the average amount that people spend, I’d rather see something like the amount I’d have to spend to be 90% certain of getting the item of interest. A simple average can conceal a lot of variation. There’s no mathematical reason that anyone’s actual experience should ever resemble the average unless the developers design their game that way on purpose (or possibly by happy accident). If the developers report average spending but the spending distribution has fat tails then they’re going to be confronted by a lot of angry customers who spent more–possibly significantly more–than the average. A figure like the 90th percentile (or the 95th, or maybe even the 99th) will not only help players make more informed decisions but should save the developers some grief.