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PUBG’s loot box system has one big flaw

Remember when your crates didn’t come with a microtransaction?

Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds - man and motorcycle at sunset PUBG Corp./Bluehole

The loot box system in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was close to perfect, and that lofty status was earned through the ability to mostly ignore it. If you didn’t want to pay into the system or give it any attention at all, you could just leave it alone. Every so often you would earn a free loot box, and that was nice.

The newer system feels like a step backward.

When you have to pay, or ignore your loot

The loot box system is now split between a few different types of crates, some of which require the purchase of a $2.50 key to open. The problem is that you have no control over which crate you earn when you cash in your in-game currency, which can often leave you with crates you can’t open if you don’t want to spend any additional money.

This is how it works: You earn BP by playing PUBG, and your earnings go up as you kill other players, do damage to other players and survive as long as possible. The more players you shoot and the closer you are to earning that chicken dinner when you die, the more points you receive.

You can then cash in your BP toward crates, and you have no control over which crate you’ll receive for your currency. If the game gives you a Desperado crate you can either spend $2.50 to buy a key and open it, you can leave it alone or you can sell it on Steam’s marketplace. The rest of the crates are free to open.

The Desperado crate is currently going for around 30 cents.


The original introduction of the Desperado crate said that you have a 40 percent chance of pulling that crate when you spend your BP, which means you’re going to be stuck with a lot of crates you can’t use if you don’t want to pay real money for keys. The crates are just about worthless on the open market. The game wants you to spend money, and it’s a bummer to have such a high chance of pulling crates you can’t use without paying for keys.

This is one of the rarest items in the game, and can be sold for big money on Steam’s Marketplace
PUBG Corp.

The economy of PUBG seems primed to create rare items that will be worth money on the Marketplace, which makes buying the keys feel more like buying a scratch-off ticket than an item in a game. We’re already seeing stories of players who “hit it big” by finding the rarest items, along with breathless speculation of what they’ll buy with the money they could make by selling their rare items.

People are spending big money on rare items, like this bandana

That rarity comes at a price. You can only earn six crates a week, and the price goes up with each crate. It feels futile to spend 7,000 BP on your final crate for the week only for the game to randomly give you an item that requires yet another microtransaction, this time one that costs real money, to open.

The keys were originally introduced with the Gamescom Invitation Crate, but at the time, players were given a choice about which crate they wanted to buy with their points. They could pick up the for-pay crate knowing they were given the chance to win better loot, but they also knew they would have to purchase a key.

The randomly assigned crates no longer give you that option; if you get a Desperado crate, you have to pay for a key, ignore the crate or sell it on the open market. The devaluation of the Desperado crate shown above is evidence that many of them are finding their way onto the secondary market.

It would be nice if you could select an option that would limit your random crate to one that would be free to open, but of course the developers are hoping to nudge you into buying keys or at least participating in the selling of your crates if you’re not willing to pay for keys. They make money either way.

This is a small complaint about a game that does so much right, but it’s a bummer to get asked to cough up a few bucks as you passively grind BP for crates. I’m not playing for lottery tickets, I’m just on the lookout for some comfortable pants, or maybe a new shirt. As it stands, this is a lottery that all but demands your participation unless you want to waste crates, and that’s a shame.

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