The WWE 2K series of wrestling games are inherently in a difficult situation, being yearly tie-in releases for a massive professional wrestling brand. Despite the high expectations, 2K Sports and Visual Concepts are taking the time to add a widely despised feature of modern gaming to WWE 2K22.
WWE 2K22 is the latest in a long line of yearly wrestling game releases published by 2K Sports. It will be something of a major return for the series since last year’s entry was infamously canceled, so expectations for it may be higher than usual.
An early PEGI rating for WWE 2K22 seems to imply that the game will include in-game purchases; unsurprising for the series, but the “includes random items” tag is worrying if it is correct. 2K Sports previously mentioned that players will be able to buy cosmetic items without randomization, for fixed prices; whether the random items descriptor means 2K Sports is going back on its word, separating loot box items and regular purchasable items, or is completely incorrect is unclear. If this is true, it also makes the future of the game’s sales unclear as a UK government committee has been pushing for banning loot boxes for minors, an especially exploitable audience, since 2019.
Lootboxes are a much-maligned aspect of modern gaming, with many players in recent years becoming victims of the exploitative tactic. Scientific studies have linked loot boxes with problematic gambling. Worse, such systems are sometimes added to games after launch or implemented into franchises that they had no presence in before, exploiting or alienating longtime fans who may need to avoid catalysts for gambling addictions.
Loot boxes themselves have been banned in several countries and other countries are reforming game rating systems to add warnings to help prevent players from becoming addicted to the gambling-adjacent features. Even warnings on the box, however, would not fix the problem of companies adding loot boxes in updates or calling them by a different name; EA’s “surprise mechanics” may not have fooled anyone, but it set a precedent for obfuscating the presence of similar gambling in games.
The possibility of WWE 2K22 including loot boxes may be disappointing news to WWE fans, but the news remains as yet unconfirmed by 2K Sports or Visual Concepts. The possibility remains for fan pushback to have an effect on this decision, but unfortunately, 2K’s previous experience with loot boxes makes it unlikely that the company will listen. It is difficult to expect a change of stance after the company asked fans to help have loot boxes unbanned on a government level.