We should talk about Pokémon Go’s loot boxes

Pokémon has always been a game of chance: the chance you’ll find a particular creature, the chance that creature might be strong in a particular attribute, the chance it might be an alternate (“Shiny”) colour. These systems of chance have existed in every Pokémon game. The trouble comes when you start being able to pay for them.

As a free-to-play game, Pokémon Go is largely funded by paying for Pokémon, and over the past four years it has gotten particularly good at enticing fans to spend. It is now the model of a successful live-service game, accruing billions of dollars from its millions of daily players. Last month, several million people bought a £15 ticket to the virtual Go Fest event, raising $10m for charity in the process. Pokémon Go profits for the first half of 2020 were the highest of any year so far.

Day to day, Pokémon Go’s two biggest money earners are raid passes (tokens to battle a specific creature you then have an oppurtunity to catch) and egg incubators (a way to hatch or unlock a random creature from a pool of possible candidates). Both items offer chances at strong or Shiny versions of specific creatures. Some creatures are only available from these methods. And both raid passes and incubators are offered freely in small quantities, but can also be bought to receive more goes, more chances.

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