Loot Crate comes to convention season ready to loot…its customers
Since launching in 2012, Loot Crate has become the largest and most pervasive subscription box company on the planet. It now has a customer base of well over 200,000, each paying an average monthly fee between $12-15 for a basic plan. If they choose, subscribers can go big with one of Loot Crate’s DX plans–costing a steep $50 a month. If you are a nerd and enjoy collecting (and who among us doesn’t), you either have a Loot Crate account or have considered signing up at one time or another. I know I have. It’s simply part of our culture. We love the figures, the t-shirts, the books, and the art that celebrates our stories, our films, our heroes. Loot Crate has successfully capitalized on that obsessive collector in us all, and they should be congratulated for creating a fun new way to indulge in nerd fandom.
However, there is another, uglier side to the mystery box format we sometimes overlook. It is a mystery, yes, but it is also (more accurately) a gamble. Like any drop you get in the gaming world, subscription boxes hold the excitement of possibilities. Will it be the epic armor piece to complete the set you’ve been looking for, for months? Or, will it be a batch of crispy spider legs and a broken rake–and why does a demon lord have a broken rake in his pocket, anyway? It’s the thing that keeps us coming back for more, the reason we spend countless hours preparing for raids and alienating our real life friends. It’s all about the drops…and opening that crate. Loot Crate is the drop that arrives on your doorstep via the UPS guy. What’s not to love about that?
In truth, most of us understand what we’re getting ourselves into. For $15, we gamble away our lunch money hoping for the purple weapon, but instead, we get the twill pants. But, let’s be honest, it is a risk. And, like any casino table you sit at long enough, the house always wins. Loot Crate always wins, and sometimes, their advertised payoff, their so-called mystery, is downright deceptive.
Pitching the Convention Box
With WonderCon behind us, E3 next week, and SDCC 2016 a mere two months away, we are officially deep into convention season, and the vendors are out in force. We’ve all fallen for it, right? It’s everywhere: The convention “exclusive.” It’s what we live for. Items that (supposedly) only appear at the event, in limited number, in special packaging, yada, yada, yada. It’s why we get in line for hours, trample small children, and build entire wings in our homes to store the paraphernalia. So, when we purchase those over-priced exclusives, we really have only one rule: that it be EXCLUSIVE. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t even have to be necessarily rare. It just has to be as advertised: prepared uniquely for the convention audience. After all, we paid the money, made the trip, and donned the stormtrooper cosplay to be here–on the floor and neck deep in sweaty nerds. You’d think a company as large as Loot Crate could get that part right. You’d think, but you’d be wrong.
Trust me. I’m not the first (and I won’t be the last) to overpay for some crappy piece of plastic in the seedy back aisles of the Los Angeles Convention Center. I just didn’t expect Loot Crate to rip me off so publicly. Enter exhibit A: LOOT CON 2016: SPECIALLY SELECTED. As I opened my wallet, I was confident in the “specially selected” claim printed on the label because this was no cheap $12 box. It was a $44 dollar convention exclusive! I couldn’t swipe my card fast enough. Only forty-four dollars for a “hand selected” collection of “convention exclusive” items just for me, the convention goer, the true fan! As it turns out, I would have overpaid if it had been only $12.
Have ever wondered where all those odd products (the ones you know no one would ever buy), end up? I can tell you now, with confidence, that they end up at Loot Crate, and as it turns out, in my LOOT CON 2016 BOX. Let me tell you what my forty-four dollars bought me: a lanyard, a baggage tag (I’m serious), a poorly made batman plushy, the ever popular “Dale” action figure, and one out-of-date Captain America shirt (a shirt that Goodwill would have trouble getting rid of). It didn’t take me long to realize I’d just dropped forty-four bucks to help clear some asshole’s warehouse of last year’s failed products. Now, I’m wondering. When Loot Crate “specially selected” the items in my CON 2016 BOX, did they notice most of it wasn’t from 2016, and none of it was convention exclusive?
Loot Crate’s mystery box format really isn’t a mystery at all. It is how they get you to overpay for overstocked items left in the backrooms of comic book stores and on Walmart shelves…with the promise, “This may be the big one, the winning box!” And, we keep coming back because we like the gamble. The problem with the Loot Con 2016 Box is not its mystery. It’s the lie printed on the label and hocked be the people manning their booths. The items inside could never be valued at $100 as claimed. The items were not exclusive in any sense, convention or otherwise, as claimed. And, the items were not “specially selected,” except maybe to empty the pockets of the unwary, like myself.
Nerd shoppers beware. Con season is nigh.