Love them or loathe them, lockboxes are a now permanent part of Atreia's landscape. But is that a good or a bad thing? Are lockboxes a fun feature or one step on that slippery slide toward nickel-and-diming players like a number of other F2P offerings? One of the best things Aion has going for it is the unique free-to-play mode that allows folks who choose not to pay to experience the same exact game as those who drop cash in the shop. Can Aion maintain its Truly Free philosophy while pushing lockboxes?
I believe the answer is yes.
Hard as it may seem to believe, there might actually be folks out there who're unfamiliar with lockboxes. If you already know what they are, chances are you already have an opinion on them, and quite possibly a very strong one! If so, skip on to the next paragraph. If not, then here's your key to understanding what all the fuss is about: Lockboxes are random loot chests, usually dropped from mobs while adventuring, that require a special key to unlock. For the most part, these keys are obtained though a game's cash shop; you buy the key for cash and gamble that the item inside will actually be worth it. This is the part that makes some people fume -- that they are denied earned loot unless they use the cash shop.
Luckily for Elyos and Asmodians (not to mention NCsoft's reputation), this isn't the case in Aion. The implementation of lockboxes honors the Truly Free model by departing from that requirement to use the cash shop exclusively and allows for participation through only in-game means. Aion gives you the chance to participate in this feature without forking over your cash by having the keys drop off of mobs just like the lockboxes. The keys can also be traded between players or bought and sold on the broker, allowing Daevas to purchase them with kinah, not cash. Be prepared to shell out over 20 million kinah per key, though!
Of course, the keys are not prolific; they aren't raining down off every other kill. Neither are the lockboxes rampant. So there is a chance you could acquire a key while playing and have it available to open a chest when you find it. That might make you wonder, however, why NCsoft would implement lockboxes if not to make a profit? Oh, it plans to. And trust me, it will.
So how can NCsoft encourage sales of keys in the Black Cloud Marketplace without reneging on the Truly Free model? By capitalizing on our fear of missing out! By making lockboxes themselves last only 24 hours, folks fall prey to the sense of urgency that if you don't act now, you lose out forever. It's the same principle used in limited-time offers and the "only while supplies last!" kind of deals that folks flock to. What if you miss out on something truly awesome -- are you willing to take that risk? What's a little coin compared to soothing that nagging fear of missing out? If you manage to score a lockbox and you haven't yet acquired a key, you will have only one short day to get one before the box disappears forever. (And I can attest to that, as I was two hours too late and watched my box go poof!)
Chances are, many folks will break down and buy the combat lockbox key from the cash shop. Note: If you choose this route, you'll need to have a character level 30 or above to make the purchase. Luckily, the keys have no expiration, so you can save them up until you need them.
What's inside box number two?
Do you or don't you? Once you get a lockbox, the question becomes whether or not you are going to open it. Sometimes, lockboxes elsewhere have been known to have, shall we say, less-than-desirable loot. So are Aion's worth it? What if you spend the cash and are let down by what you end up with?
While I can't make any assurances about your personal level of disappointment, I can outline what types of items can be found inside once you pop the lock. You could get 10 mithril or 20 platinum medals, wings, mounts, enchantment stones, godstones, or supplements. However, you might also just get some running scrolls or revival stones. To better weigh your decision, take a look at the full offerings on the left.
Ask and ye shall receive
To be perfectly honest, I never really gave lockboxes in Aion any thought before. Of course, I haven't given them any thought in any other games either, probably because by and large I don't pay any attention to cash shops. Previously, my only experience with lockboxes was getting one during a livestream of another game and procuring a key via a cash shop just to show folks what it was. Obviously now that they are a part of Aion, they have my attention. And after a bit of contemplation, I really don't mind them in Atreia, especially since I am not forced to use the cash shop. Besides, I sort of asked for it.
Wait -- if I never thought about lockboxes, how did I ask for them? Last fall, I actually put out a call for adding gambling to Aion, and lockboxes are certainly a form of gambling. I would have preferred some kind of mechanics added to the game to facilitate more player-generated content, but I can see how this feature can still provide that gambling rush. Who knows, with one more step taken on the path to gambling, maybe more will still be added, and we will see dark smokey rooms with Daevas poised over craps tables yet!
Soaring through the Aionosphere, MJ Guthrie touches down biweekly to bring you Wings Over Atreia. Featuring tips, guides, and general snippets of life in Aion, the column is better than Tutty-on-a-stick, ackackackackackack! Have a suggestion to share? No need to bribe a Shugo -- just send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.