Popular free-to-play mobile game Brawl Stars is doing something a bit different. In an era where it seems every game is trying to nickel and dime you with more and more stuff to buy, instead it’s removing loot boxes and all random rewards entirely from the game. It’s yet another sign that loot boxes are likely to become a relic of the past as lawmakers and players push back on the random rewards. But that doesn’t mean Brawl Stars players are universally happy about their removal.
Released in 2019 for phones and tablets, Brawl Stars mixed cute characters with MOBA-like gameplay and some battle royale elements. The end result was a fun top-down competitive action game that I played for weeks and weeks. But since I stopped playing, millions have continued to enjoy it: Brawl Stars has made over a billion dollars in profit for Supercell and still has an active player base and community. Now, Supercell has removed all loot boxes from the game, and reaction to the change is oddly mixed.
Announced in a Brawl Talk video posted last week, Supercell’s latest update to Brawl Stars has removed all random rewards from the game. These boxes were mainly used to unlock new characters in the game. Since its release three years ago, Brawl Stars has heavily featured loot boxes as part of its rewards. But with yesterday’s update, that’s no longer the case.
“No more probabilities, no more random rewards, and no more playing the guessing game when you unlock Brawlers,” said the game’s lead designer Frank Keienburg in Supercell’s Brawl Talk video.
Yesterday, as part of this update, all unclaimed boxes were automatically opened and all the rewards were given to players accordingly. Moving forward, Keienburg and Supercell say that all rewards—including its battle passes—will be replaced with “different, deterministic rewards, some of which are new to the game.” Now, players have a new battle pass-like feature, The Starr Road, which lets them unlock all characters for free via grinding. Players can now just buy any brawler they want with gems, instead of randomly buying dozens of loot boxes to maybe get a specific hero.
“We’re making this change for a few reasons,” continued Keienburg. “Mainly, moving away from probabilities and chance, which will make things more fair and predictable for you. It also gives you clear and exciting goals every time you play the game.”
Of course, there’s also the possibility that Supercell and other devs are removing loot boxes as various governments around the world begin cracking down on them with proposed new laws and regulations.
While I think removing loot boxes is a good thing and something worth celebrating—especially as mobile games continue to be some of the worst offenders with even good games like Marvel Snap including predatory purchases of over $100 or more—the community reaction is far less positive. While some players seem happy about the removal of random reward crates, others expressed disappointment. The comments on the Brawl Talk video has players rallying against the devs and demanding boxes return to Brawl Stars.
Why? For some it seems that the excitement of a loot box outweighed the frustration that often accompanies them. Others suggested they now have little interest in playing the game since random rewards are being removed. (I think some of these people need to stop and think if they really like Brawl Stars or just like pulling a virtual lever on a slot machine…) We saw something similar to this happen with Overwatch 2’s release, where some players were angry at the removal of loot boxes and demanded they be returned to the game. And while I agree that progression in Overwatch 2 sucks at the moment, I’d rather Blizzard figure out a way to fix that doesn’t involve bringing back loot boxes, even if it did give you a lot of free ones before.
The reality is that as games continue to become more and more popular, more countries will begin investigating the industry and how it makes money. And loot boxes are likely never to return in vogue as long as so many governments are leading crusades to regulate or outlaw them.