Column: See-through llamas and the gamble of surprise

In Plain View by Lachlan Labere

“We believe it’s important that the llamas you buy have what you want.”

That little nugget of a quote was released in January of this year from Epic Games about their online juggernaut that is Fortnite.

An update to the game was going to allow players to actually see the contents of reward-bearing loot llama pinatas available for purchase.

Epic and Fortnite have been in the news a fair amount lately in relation to a lawsuit filed in October by a Montreal law firm, Calex Legal, on behalf of two people who allege their 10- and 15-year-old sons are addicted to the game.

A lawyer with Calex said the boys “had all the symptoms of severe dependence – addiction – (and) it caused severe stress in the families as well.”

It’s not the first time Epic and other game makers have been accused of feeding addictive behaviour.

Electronic Arts faced a backlash over its game, Star Wars Battlefront II, that offered players the opportunity to make in-game purchases of “loot boxes” containing random surprise rewards, hooking gamers seeking an advantage.

In February, a U.S. legal action was initiated against Epic for their opaque loot llamas, the plaintiff alleging the company “made a fortune on in-game purchases, preying…on minors who are especially susceptible to such predatory tactics.”

And now, see-through llamas.

While I enjoy video games, I’m of the old-school mindset of pay once and know what you’re getting.

Read more: Quebec parents seek class action against makers of ‘addictive’ Fortnite game

Read more: No more Fortnite: Vancouver Canucks ban video games on the road

Read more: B.C. Fortnite gamer donates $164,000 in winnings to SPCA

To my son’s dismay, there is no Fortnite being played at our house. Our version of loot boxes would be the blind bag/box toy surprise packs available in stores.

These typically contain random bits of junk…er, I mean “collectible” figurines and accessories. They range in price from a few dollars to more than $100 for the L.O.L. “Bigger Surprise.” (The only one laughing out loud after that purchase will be the manufacturer.)

I’ve been through surprise pack purchase experience many times now, and can see how it might be compared to gambling.

If the toy is one your kid wants, you’re a winner; if not, well, you’re not.

And either way, you’re likely going to be stuck paying/playing again.


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