Ubisoft Gives a Laughable Excuse For Microtransactions in Skull and Bones

Ubisoft says that Skull and Bones' loot boxes reflect the real economy of the Indian Ocean.

Paul Tamburroby Paul Tamburro

Microtransactions are an unfortunate blight upon modern day triple-A games. We routinely complain about them, but enough people still buy them to ensure that they continue to rear their ugly head. Over the years we’ve heard a plethora of explanations from game publishers trying to explain away their inclusion, skirting around the fact that they simply want to wring more money out of their releases, but this latest statement from Ubisoft takes the cake.

Ubisoft has revealed that its upcoming swashbuckling adventure Skull and Bones will feature paid loot boxes — sorry, “treasure chests” — that players can use real money to buy. Speaking to Gamespot, creative director Justin Farren then attempted to explain away their implementation and how plugging cash into randomized loot boxes will fit in with the “fantasy of the game,” saying that the game’s economy is intended to emulate “the real economy of the Indian Ocean.”

“Our economy emulates the real economy of the Indian Ocean, so things that are important to the people who are shipping goods, the merchants… the empires, those things are important to you,” Farren said. “What I don’t want to players to feel it is, that it’s some abstraction from the fantasy.

“It should feel like the things that you’re hunting, using your spyglass to see the things that are on board, should directly relate to the things that you need. But you know, there’s nothing more pirate-y than the treasure chest.”

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The loot boxes are intended to be for cosmetic items only, similar to those featured in Overwatch, with Farren stating that they won’t transform the game into a pay-to-win experience. “What we want to do is make sure if players want things, that we provide content for them if they want and that they don’t feel like it’s gated off because they didn’t pay for it,” he continued. “So, we want to have live events, we want to have seasonal events, seasons where you’re able to compete against other players to try to get to the top of the ladder and the top of the food chain. Those things will give you opportunity to get those customization elements, those cosmetics, vanity items that will allow you to personalize your experience.

Skull-and-Bones-Microtransactions-Ubisoft

“If somebody sees your ship, they should know you’re a badass, or that you’re really invested in cosmetics. Or that you’ve got all the figureheads that represent you being in the right place at the right time to take down the right enemy. That’s super important to me. I play racing games, and when I see someone’s car that’s tricked out, I’m like, ‘How’d he get that?’

“That’s what I want. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on Overwatch, and I can’t see it. I’m only doing it so that other people see what I spend or what I buy, and that’s crazy, but it’s, lots of people are like that, and I’m one of them.”

Though Farren noted that it’s too early for Ubisoft to reveal any more information pertaining to Skull and Bones‘ use of microtransactions, that they’ll remain cosmetic additions to the game should at least ensure that those who rightly don’t want to fork out extra cash won’t be left at a disadvantage. However, we’re not entirely sure that suggesting the inclusion of loot boxes is intended to emulate the Indian Ocean’s economy will do Ubisoft any favors, and it certainly doesn’t convince us on randomized loot boxes being stuffed into a paid retail release.