Alarra’s Opinion: Crown Crates

Elder Scrolls Online launched their extremely controversial Crown Crates this week. After having followed this on the PTS and deciding to give it a shot with some of the Crowns I still had sitting around, I thought I’d share what I think about it and my experiences with it.  I seem to have been particularly lucky, but the system definitely could use some major changes….
Did they really have to use Pacrooti?

My opinion on Crown Crates in general: I haven’t really played a lot of MMOs, so I can’t really comment on how it might affect a game; I’m just basing it on ESO itself.  But, anyway, I highly dislike the concept. I’m a supporter of the idea that things should have the option to be purchased directly so that we know exactly what we’re getting: if we’re willing to gamble we could try the crates and potentially get something for cheaper, but we’re not put into a situation where if we really want something the only way to get it is to gamble and possibly not even get it.  That’s more or less how it was originally described in an interview with it would basically be like buying consumables in the store, but as a bonus you’d have a chance at getting a discontinued Crown Store item.  In reality, about 60%, if I’m remembering correctly, of the items in the crate are Crate-exclusive, and ZOS has confirmed on the forums that this will continue and that such items (even those not relevant to the theme) will not offered in the store. There’s also the concern that, considering the amount of polish that has gone into this – not only the more complex mount models, but the whole “minigame” screen and so forth – they’re putting a disproportionate amount of resources into it instead of other aspects of the game, and there’s also concerns about the game’s financial state in general.    There is a lot more that can be said on this and arguments that could be made, but I’m not really feeling like it at the moment and there’s plenty of it on the official ESO forum discussion threads if you’re inclined to read more.

My Experience with them:  I decided once they went live that I’d give them a try: I had a bunch of Crowns sitting around from ESO Plus and so forth, I wanted to be able to speak of them from experience and not just what we saw on the PTS…… and I really wanted that Red Pit Wolf mount.  I started with a 15-pack.  I actually was incredibly lucky: I wound up with a Storm Atronach Senche and the Pit Wolf I wanted, duplicates of both which gave me quite a few gems, and some other things I wanted.  “Hey, this is actually pretty decent,” I thought. “I’ll try another batch; that should get me those last couple things I want.”  But, as I probably should have anticipated, the second batch of 15 was a waste (and I was still probably luckier than most).  I did get another storm atronach mount, though not the one I was hoping for, but the rest were mostly common consumables.  I wondered if I had enough gems for the two things I still wanted, but I didn’t, and realized that most of my gems had come from the aforementioned duplicate storm senche and wolf: they give you a pittance for anything less than Apex and Legendary duplicates.
If you’re even considering trying them:  My number one tip is know the drop rates so that you know what you’re risking.  Enodoc has put together an excellent Google Docs spreadsheet where players who have bought crates list their drops.  Out of the roughly 700 recorded crates thus far, the “apex”-tier storm atronach mounts have only a 1% drop rate,  and “Legendary”-tier rewards like the Pit Wolf are only about 3%.  (Also, one thing I noticed, in all but one case, I only got a mount when I got an extra 5th card: one did appear in a normal four-card crate, but in every other case the mount was the bonus 5th card. I’ve seen other players comment on the same thing happening to them.)  Consumables – both the Common-level ones like potions and Fine-level ones like riding lessons – have a roughly 69% drop rate.  I’ve probably had the luckiest draw out of anyone I’ve heard of, but I still wasn’t fully satisfied with my draws, and in most cases, people are going to get rewards more like my second batch, which was mostly consumables.  Also, know that you’re probably not buying anything with gems, because the exchange rate is garbage.  Common and Fine consumables, which is what you’ll be getting most, give you 1 per card – so 25 poisons or 5 potions, or a riding lesson, will only net you 1 gem each if you choose to convert them. You might be dropping 400 Crowns on a crate just to get 4 gems.   The Superior, Epic, Legendary, and Apex-tier rewards cost 16, 40, 100, and a whopping 400 gems, respectively. 
The verdict: Even if you have unusually good luck with them, they’re not worth the Crowns/money spent on them, which should come as no surprise. The low drop rates make it difficult to get anything decent, and the exchange rate is pathetic.  You’re probably not going to get the item you really want, and you’re not going to get enough gems to purchase it.
Ideas for things they can do to improve the crates:   There’s probably better ideas out there, but these were what came immediately to mind:

The obvious: increase drop rates somewhat, increase the exchange rate or lower the gem-cost, or allow you to convert unwanted collectibles (costumes/mounts/pets) in addition to consumables.  The drop rates and the gems you earn are too low, while the gem cost is too high.
Instead of saying “you earned this specific item”, they could do “you earned this tier reward”.  So if you earn an apex-level mount, you can choose which one you want. (Really, they wouldn’t even need to change the drop rates with that implemented.) I seem to remember Guild Wars 2 doing something similar where you could choose whichever weapon you wanted out of a given set to be your reward.  Honestly I can’t see ZOS doing this, but if they did I’d be pretty happy.
Guarantee an item of a certain tier after a certain amount of gems spent (whether it’s “you’ve spent x on crates in this Crate season, we’ll throw in a x-tier item next time”, or whether it’s like the Legends card packs where “each pack is guaranteed an item of x rarity or better”).   Being able to spend over a hundred dollars and not getting a top-level reward, nor enough gems to trade for one, is kind of ridiculous. 
Although it looks like they have no intentions of doing this, it’d be great if all the items (though not necessarily the themed ones) were made available in the Crown Store at some point or another, whether before or after; that would make a lot of people happy, and as I mentioned, still leave space for those who are willing to gamble and try to get an item cheaper than the actual cost. 
Semi-related, give people (perhaps just subscribers even) one free crate per month; it would make them happy to get even a couple free things and tempt them into purchasing them. It would also take some heat off the players who are using the items they got from it; I’ve seen people in-game and online getting harrassed by other players for using the mounts and pets from the crates.  People should be better than that (you don’t know if they’re shelling out ridiculous amounts of money to get it all or just burning off unused Crowns from ESO Plus – and even if they did spend money with the specific intent to buy them, that’s their prerogative), but unfortunately people are jerks and they’re making the game experience worse for those who got the crates, so if they did that, it would give players a cover story because in that situation, anyone could have just been lucky and gotten it free.
Remove race-specific items (i.e. I don’t have an Argonian; I don’t need 3 Argonian hairstyles/customizations.)  They actually have said that they’re probably going to be doing that in the future.

So, yeah.
Final thoughts: These things do have some potential, but not in the way they’re currently implemented.  There’s so many ways that they could be improved so that players can be satisfied with the results and be willing to actually buy them.  I admire the folks who are standing firm and refusing to get any, even with Crowns they already have: that’s the best way to make a statement about the whole thing.  At this point in time I don’t intend to get any more unless they make it actually worth it for players to try it.  This was not a good move on ZOS’s part as far as their relationship with their playerbase goes, especially after seemingly ignoring the overwhelmingly negative reponse on their forum when it was added to the test server.  The housing is at least a step in the right direction – players have been asking for that since before the game was launched – but there are still places where they could do better, and the crates is one with a lot of room for improvement.

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