Even though I'm hard at work gathering metrics on how I play EVE Online, I still found a little time to download and start playing Neverwinter. While I'm still only level 11, I've managed to pick up two Nightmare Lockboxes. These boxes contain 10 Tarmalune Trade Bars (whatever those are) plus a random item. A random item? I went to the Zen Market, the Neverwinter cash shop, and sure enough keys are available for purchase with real money.
Paying real life money for random items? What kind of madness is that? Apparently one that is going around as I first encountered the trick when playing Guild Wars 2 and the keys for the Black Lion chests. Sure, the keys do appear in game, but not nearly as often as the chests. I watch GuildCast on Gamebreaker TV and was amused at some of the stories of people buying lots of keys trying to get a particular drop.
Surfing the net landed me at the Ancient Gaming Noob and even more games that have gone the lockbox route. Everquest 2 and Star Trek Online both hopped on the lockbox train. EQ2? That's the game where I first gambled, paying the Gigglegibber goblin on the docks silver for tickets while waiting for ships to dock to carry me to distant lands. Now the trend appears to have players spending real life money trying to win internet pixel prizes.
Perhaps I'm biased but I prefer the EVE Online model where the players, not the game developer, acts as the house. Amidst all of the intrigue and player theft that EVE is known for has developed a healthy (or unhealthy depending on your moral views) gambling culture. For those interested in lotteries SOMERblink is perhaps the most well-known having given out over 750 trillion ISK in cash and prizes throughout the years. Those interested in using their in-game currency to play poker can head over to EVE Online Hold'em where players have wagered over 175 trillion ISK since the fall of 2007. Players don't have to go to the big sites to play as EVE Radio DJs frequently run lotteries or other contests for cash and prizes.
Gambling in CCP's New Eden universe also extends to eSports. Sure, EVE is not a player in the professional eSports scene, but that doesn't stop players from betting on PvP competitions such as the CCP-run Alliance Tournament or the monthly tournaments run by the Syndicate Competitive League. I don't have links to those running betting pools on the tournaments but I did see mention of it while watching the latest SCL tournament over the weekend. One of the more amusing things is that SOMERblink has sponsored both the SCL tournaments but also the last CCP-run tournament, The New Eden Open. Think of the meta for that for a moment. A player-run gambling house sponsoring events that players will gamble on. What a concept!
The amazing thing in light of all of the lockbox shenanigans going on in other games is that CCP isn't really involved with the whole gambling scene. I won't try to tell anyone that CCP doesn't make some money off gambling as players can purchase PLEX and convert them into gambling stakes. But for the most part CCP's main involvement is ensuring that any gambling organization is not a front for RMT sites looking to launder money and goods. Well, and hosting or helping to host tournaments. But all things considered I'd rather see the type of environment that CCP has created than the lockbox mentality that has captured the imagination of so many other game companies.