I play a lot of Rocket League, mostly for making my car look pretty, because I’m trash at the actual car-football part of the game.
As you play the game, you randomly acquire items that you can use to change the cosmetic appearance of your car. There are also crates which will give you a random item and you have to pay real money in order to purchase a key to open the crates with. Outside of crates, you can also acquire items by trading with other players, either you give them an item or more likely you give them keys in exchange.
I like the way Rocket League does this for the following reasons:
The most important reason - It allows the player base to continue to spend money to support the continued development of the game/
It gives the players something tangible in exchange for their time investment in the game, which might help with player activity and retention.
Purely cosmetic items have no effect on the gameplay so it’s not pay2win.
It opens up free2play options in the future which would help with player count.
Now of course, I don’t expect my ship in Infinity to be wearing a top hat. But other spaceship videogames have demonstrated that there is plenty of scope for cosmetics, with paint jobs, body kits, cockpit decorations etc. I personally always go for the vibrant orange on all my ships in E:D, even though it’s a game where you hardly ever see the outside of your own ship.
I imagine that the biggest objection to this course of action with Infinity is going to be the fact that a small team of developers with finite developer resources choosing to implement cosmetics while the game is missing core features is not great optics, and that’s a very understandable objection. But I don’t know what Inovae’s finances are like, I’d rather see them have a sustainable and renewable income stream with cosmetic microtransactions, rather than relying on continued game sales and donations. I’ve been following this game on and off since 2006 and I’d be rather disappointed if the devs just ran out of funding and had to shut her down after all this time.
Something about the “lootboxes are gambling” controversy goes here. That’s a topic which is getting progressively bigger as time goes on, and it’s a very real concern to be kept in mind when designing a game’s monetisation. When (not if) laws are put in place to curb things, they’re highly likely to be catch-all laws against the “gambling” elements, so ANY kind of randomised lootboxes are going to be restricted. The ones that involve real money are most likely to get shut down the hardest, but there’s a good chance of additional limitations being imposed on even games with purely in-game randomised rewards. I hope there are some cosmetic items added to the game, but I don’t think the devs need to be in any kind of rush to add that, for the optics reasons you mentioned.
“Loot Boxes” are quite effective at what they do. Still there are different options that would be good enough in my opinion.
Classic loot and drops as well as direct rewards are not affected. As to how much of an “Animation” you can do before you reveal what has been dropped is a question … as that Animation is pretty much what makes loot boxes work. So where’s the line between a loot drop and a loot box? I don’t really know.
Keys could also be done by not having keys for boxes but “licenses” for items. Items can be sold and bought but using certain items require “licenses” that can only be bought with real money. If those special items only drop or also buyable in some kind of market is another question.
So periodically you may get loot that is rad but you won’t be able to use it. Either sell it off for some cash, store it for later or buy a license and apply it to use the item.
In classic free to play manner it could be allowed to also grind for licenses … that’s a base decision I-Novae has to make though.
I think it is ok to have some items behind some cash requirement.
Some other games have shown though that it has been much to long that a full game has just handed out cosmetics … Borderlands 3 shows that actually yes … you should expect a game to have those. Sadly, I-Novea does not have the resources to provide heaps of cosmetics.