Letters From Tamriel

An epistolary gaming blog

Crown Crates

@Zells - sepia stone - smallCrown Crates, the Summary: You spend actual $ to get crowns, then you spend the crown points to buy (usually cosmetic) goodies from the Crown Store.  In the case of Crown Crates, what you’re buying is, per crate, 4-5 random prizes from a set pool.  Items range from common to “apex”, the most rare items – in this round (they will be seasonal) all apex items are mounts with a storm atronach skin.

I was in retail a long time, so I really grok the idea that money needs to come in to keep the staff paid and the doors open.  I love TES & ESO, and I am a subscriber partly because I believe in paying for art I consume – I love the game and play it a lot, so I feel a moral obligation to contribute to its financial upkeep.  So far, so good.

But… paying real money for random chances at virtual stuff.  That has some problematic consequences.

I’ve been wanting to post about the crates, but have put it off because I still can’t say for certain I won’t spend this month’s 1500 subscription crowns to buy a 4-crate bundle, and I don’t want to be a hypocrite by bitching and then being part of the problem.  I’m still really conflicted – the random chance element makes it fun for some people, I get that, and some of the items are seriously cool.  But I feel the premise itself is sketchy territory, and the execution worsens my concerns.

Most of my issues can be summed up by watching this YouTube vid of Deltia’s Gaming opening $100 of Crown Crates.  (Don’t worry about him neglecting Baby Max, the money was a gift from a fan.)  It’s a hard video to watch – he opens 15,000 Crowns worth of crates, 45 of them over the course of the 12 minute vid, and then buys and opens one more, because that’s how compulsion works, that’s the “addiction” effect that random chance prizes leads to, and ZOS knows that.

Spoiler: he does not get a single apex item, no mount.  That’s why he bought that extra crate at the end.  In fact, he doesn’t get any of the next step down (“legendary”) either.  His rarest item is the Storm Transformation Memento, which gives your character a storm atronach skin.  That’s cool, yeah, but it’s a memento, not a costume, so it lasts about 30 seconds.  Meh.  I wouldn’t use it, and when he realizes how short the effect is, he is disappointed.  And that was his best pull.

What he does get from 45 crates are tons of low-end Crown store items that are always available, and that neither he nor I use or would normally buy.  It was advertised that if you got items you didn’t want, or got duplicates, that those items could be converted to Crown Gems, which can then be used to buy crate items that you do want.  That’s true, but the exchange rate is crap, and after cashing in all his undesirables, DG had 300-some gems… which is not enough to buy one of the apex storm atronach mounts – they cost 400 gems.

$100+, no high-end mount.  That’s not okay.  As a consumer, if I don’t have the option of choice, then I want to be getting a better deal.  In this case, it’s a much worse deal.  The most expensive mounts to date have been 5000 Crowns – on sale, that’s $23.99.

Yes, I’m aware: RANDOM, I get it.  But video games are run by algorithms, and my contention is that the odds range should not be so low that it is possible to open 45 crates and not get an apex item.  Just no.  4 crates? Sure, I rolled the dice, I didn’t get one, ah well.  45?  That’s bullshit.

The storm mounts are super cool, and it would be neat to have one, yes.  But when I went through the new items to decide if it was worth it to me to buy any, I was more excited about the new costume accessories.  My budget is tight, so I immediately figured the apex and probably legendary tiers were out of my reach unless I got way more lucky than I usually am with RNG.  I set my sights on more modest acquisitions and then tried to figure out the odds of getting one or two smaller items I really like.

The belly dancer veil is beautiful and only costs 40 crown gems.  My initial thought was that I’d buy the 4-crate pack and if I didn’t get a veil, then I’d convert everything, buy the veil, and be happy with just that, even though I wouldn’t necessarily spend 1500 Crowns to buy the veil outright.  Paying 1500 Crowns for a costume item (200-700 would be the usual range for an item like this in the Crown store) is an acceptable “fail” when weighed against the chance to get one of the rare items.  I assumed getting 10 gems per crate after conversion was not a lofty or unreasonable goal.  But after watching Deltia’s Gaming’s vid, I see that it’s very possible for me to open 4 crates worth of crap and have nowhere near enough gems to afford even the 40-gem veil.  To repeat: that’s not okay.

And I’m not impressed with the fact that the crates are stuffed with standard-stock Crown items I could buy every day, and don’t.  Potions, soul gems, riding lessons, bag space… ordinary consumables should not be part of the random item pool of these special-event, seasonal crates.  If you’re going to take away my ability to choose what I’m buying, then I want to know I’m getting at least as good a deal as usual, with a chance of something better.  That’s just not the case here.

So I’m still trying to decide if I’m going to spend my accumulated subscription Crown points to roll the dice on 4 crates, knowing there’s a good chance I might only end up with a handful of Crown Gems that I’ll have to save until the next season’s crates come in and I buy more, and maybe then have enough gems then to buy something from that set of seasonal items.

That’s not exciting.  That’s frustrating.

To end on an up note, I haven’t done much of the New Life Festival, and I’ll review it  next week, but at first glance it appears to be everything I said I wanted when I was bitching about the Witches Festival.  It’s integrated with the world and the cultures, and has story elements woven in.  I can see the inhabitants of Tamriel participating in the holiday with me, and that makes me happy.

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