Apex Legends developer apologizes for controversial loot boxes

Apex Legends, a rival of video game Fortnite, may be free to play, but the game angered fans this week over its new pricing for limited edition virtual items.

The game’s developer, Respawn, owned by Electronic Arts, apologized Friday for the new in-game “loot boxes,” or a random selection of virtual rewards available to players for purchase.

“At launch we made a promise to players that we intend to do monetization in a way that felt fair,” said Drew McCoy, producer at Respawn. “We missed the mark when we broke our promise.”

This week, Apex Legends added a new Iron Crown event, where players had to spend about $170 to obtain all of the limited edition in-game cosmetics, like a new costume for a character and a new look for a virtual gun. The game is a first-person shooter battle royale, where players fight to be the last one standing.

Each loot box cost $7 and to obtain every look, a player would need to buy 24 boxes, plus an additional $35 if they wanted a special cosmetic for an axe.

Loot boxes have come under scrutiny by US and foreign lawmakers. Critics have compared loot boxes to gambling and say they may encourage addiction in kids who play these games.

Loot boxes are a common way to monetize in dozens of games, including Fortnite, League of Legends and EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II.

While Apex already offered loot boxes for cosmetics before, players took issue that the game didn’t offer any other way to obtain most of these Iron Crown cosmetics, such as spending time completing missions. In some games that offer micro-transactions, there’s a way to obtain items through investing time, rather than money.

“I could buy a skin or two, but not a box with a ‘surprise’ for $7. I wonder why are you insulting your players?” Twitter user Marcin Kijak wrote on August 14 in response to Apex’s tweet about the new event.

EA posted earnings on July 30, noting a strong quarter with $1.2 billion in revenue.

Respawn’s McCoy explained that the company had heard fan feedback and would change the Apex store’s offerings. “Our goal has not been to squeeze every last dime out of our players,” he wrote.

Starting on August 20, players will be able to buy legendary cosmetics directly a la carte.

That will still cost real money though, and if someone wants to obtain all 12 legendary cosmetics, it will cost them about $216. In theory, this solution could help those who only wanted one specific look.

McCoy also said that future game events would not be the same. “We’re learning more each day on what works, what doesn’t, and how to provide the best possible experiences and content to all of you.”

Respawn CEO Vince Zampella told CNN Business in June that Apex is a free to play game, “but we have to obviously make money on it, right?”

“We do loot boxes for cosmetics, so for us it’s about fair value. We put a lot of time and effort into making sure that what we do is fair and there’s nothing you can get that changes the balance [of the game].”