Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Loot Crate Review: February 2015

I admit that I so strongly dislike the people at Loot Crate that it's hard not to be extra harsh when receiving their box. Of course, that's on them anyway, since if they were capable of hiring people who actually had ethics and didn't talk to customers like they were trash, I wouldn't feel this way. (By the way, Crafty has also canceled her subscription for an unrelated issue with customer service.)

With that said, Loot Crate's February box still kind of sucked. Are there a million people out there who will attack me for saying so? Yup. But as a geek and someone who wants to spend my money intelligently on companies who actually value customers, I'm not happy with anything Loot Crate does and so I'm done. Almost everyone I know who was a subscriber has now canceled for similar reasons, so hey, say what you like, but I know at least some people aren't happy.

Anyway, let's review why I think it's a fail, and I will keep my personal issues with them out of it. (By the way, my box was open when it arrived, although intact. I don't know if that's on Loot Crate or the USPS, but I'll say, boxes come damaged but never open. I just think Loot Crate stuck two really weak seals on the the edge and didn't care if it arrived in one piece. It wouldn't surprise me since quality is clearly not a concern of theirs and I've heard a number of other people had crates open upon arrival.)

This month's theme is Play. So Loot Crate made their box a game board and sent us special Loot Crate dice for rock, paper, scissors. Here's the thing, though, Loot Crate. You advertise your product as a crate full of items for gamers and geeks. But you're just a subscription box company. I don't want Loot Crate items; I want geeky and gamer products and collectibles. Who cares about special Loot Crate dice? Would it be that hard to send us actual dice we could use in non-Loot Crate games? If you believe your audience is gamers and the theme is play, why not 10- or 20-sided dice for use in any tabletop game? I mean, you can usually buy a giant random bag of dice for under $10. You'd still turn a profit and the item would be useful. (Oh, and if you have hands, you probably don't need dice to play rock, paper, scissors.)

There was also a Pac-Man poster, which is cute albeit small, and surprisingly it doesn't say the words Loot Crate anywhere on it.

Also included were some kids' items. There are people excited about these and they're just bonus items so I guess it's to each his own. I get a little tired of companies like Loot Crate capitalizing on geek culture when really they're marketing to families, but again, to each his own. I know now that this is the weakest "geek" subscription out there. (Oh, and Crafty's Hexbug was corroded.)

Oh, look. What a surprise. Loot Crate stamped their name and logo on something. Are they Nike?
My biggest issue with this box is that there were really only two items of value. Now, nearly every other geek subscription box available includes either a shirt or Funko POP in every box. A shirt, even if you hate it, has a value of at least $10. There are some people who don't like shirts in every box, but I feel like even a shirt I hate is something I can wear to workout, clean, or to bed. Not everyone loves Funko POP, either, but those sell for anywhere from $10-$20. By other boxes including one of these (sometimes both), they are basically ensuring the value will be at least half of what you paid.

Loot Crate does not guarantee anything. I will say they do tend to include the items that reach the value of the box, but shirts and Funko POPs also have greater trade value than random $10 items. So this is, to me, a huge problem for the geek subscription box with most buying power. Instead, I feel as if we get from Loot Crate what they could get through corporate deals with sponsors, thus ensuring more money in their pockets, not for sourcing future crates. That's not what I'm paying for. I don't order from these companies to make them rich; I order it for the fun and excitement of blind boxes, as well as for exposure to something new and different.

I'm kind of excited about the Superfight deck, because it's a game I've been considering buying. What I don't like is yet again the Loot Crate stamp on it. I figure they worked out a deal with Skybound, ensuring free marketing for Skybound and thus no or minimal cost for Loot Crate. Look, we all know that subscription boxes do work this way to some degree. We know the reason POPSUGAR Must Have sends us $100+ in items for $40 is because they get deals. However, Loot Crate seems far more obsessed with profit than any other major company in the business. When I open my POPSUGAR box, I don't feel like I'm being marketed to, but with Loot Crate, it's basically a pitch in a box. That's scummy. Part of me wants to just give these cards away and buy a new set myself from the company so they don't feel so dirty.

The last item in the box would have been good - IN 2011 WHEN IT CAME OUT. I am shocked Loot Crate didn't stamp their name on it to convince us it was super amazing and special. I own Ready Player One. Two copies actually - one in hardcover that I bought when it was released and was being promoted EVERYWHERE gamers and geeks go, and another paperback I picked up to share with people. It's a good book. The book isn't the issue. What is the issue is that I don't have a ton of friends around me locally, but I do have tons of gamer and geek friends online. We all have this book already. Why? Because it's old news. The few people who don't have it didn't want it enough to buy it. Are there exceptions? Sure, of course. People lost copies or only have it in ebook or whatever, or they just wanted it but not enough to pay for it. So yes, there are some who will enjoy it. But this is another example of Loot Crate teaming up with a publisher to market a product. It's out. The movie is coming, so I guess the publisher needs to generate new interest, and Loot Crate turns a profit by including books they get for a deal (and it's definitely at a deal BECAUSE IT IS FOUR YEARS OLD. If you don't know much about the publishing industry, I assure you that four years is a lifetime for a book.).

In addition, Naomi Kyle is offering an annotated version of the book next month in her Quarterly box. In her case, it's her first box. In addition, hers is annotated. If Loot Crate had even had a major developer or the author himself or someone in the industry write a special Loot Crate exclusive intro (and really, isn't exclusive the entire thing Loot Crate obsesses over?), maybe it wouldn't be so bad.

Essentially, let's break this down. You pay for gamer and geek gear, and you get a Loot Crate brand cardboard box that turns into a game board TO MAKE YOUR OWN GAME with Loot Crate dice that cannot be used for anything else. You also get two kids' toys that really have no bearing on anything in geek culture. Finally, you get marketing swag, including a promotional deck of cards from a company trying to get you to buy more of their product and a backlist book that most gamers and geeks already own and/or have read (or chose not to, because they've had four years to get it). This is from the INDUSTRY LEADER. THIS is the company that represents geek culture out in the world and reflects what geeks want in subscription boxes.

But the Pac-Man poster was cute.

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