Loot boxes have become a staple of modern games. Games like Heroes of the Storm, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, and many others use them to distribute random in-game items. Now GOG is flipping this concept on its head by offering random games during the 2017 Piñata Madness event. All you have to do is buy a "piñata" from the service, bust it open, and see if you were lucky enough to get a title you want.
GOG said in an FAQ about the 2017 Piñata Madness event that each piñata costs $3 and contains a game worth anywhere between $6-$45. You're guaranteed to get a game—expansions, soundtracks, and other items have been omitted from the prize pool—and GOG said you're all but guaranteed to receive a title you don't already own. The only exception, it said, is if you already own every game in the pool. If you do, you'll receive a copy to give away to someone else. We don't know how many games are in the pool, but most people probably don't own all of them.
The list of games confirmed to be in the pool includes popular titles like Heroes of Might and Magic V, Pillars of Eternity, and Shadow Warrior 2. GOG said in the FAQ that new games "may appear" in the pool as the event goes on. But the service isn't providing a full list of games or saying when when new titles will be added because "the When and the What are just part of the mystery!" The contents of each piñata are generated when they're purchased, however, so there's no point in buying a bunch of them now and waiting to open them until the event comes to a close.
This event feels like a natural extension of the loot box craze. Why settle for offering random in-game items when you can offer random games? It also seems like GOG was careful to stack the odds in piñata openers' favor; a minimum $6 prize is a good return on a $3 gamble. (It's certainly better than buying a bunch of loot boxes with the hope of getting a specific cosmetic item and receiving a bunch of worthless junk instead.) The chance to win a $45 game could also help you channel your inner child by cracking open as many piñatas as you possibly can.
Despite all this, however, expanding loot boxes to game purchases could prove worrisome. Increasingly, it seems like gaming companies are hoping to make a profit from gambling—which is exactly what spending money just to get the chance to win something you want is—instead of from game sales. It's a proven model: Smartphone games have long relied on in-app purchases for random rewards, and titles like Overwatch have become billion-dollar businesses off the back of their in-game economies. No wonder loot boxes have expanded to single-player games.
At least the model's expansion to buying games themselves is limited in scope. The 2017 Piñata Madness event runs from now until August 21, and you'll have until August 28 to open any piñatas you purchase. (Don't worry, they won't disappear after that date, they'll just be automatically opened.) You can buy and open piñatas in the Piñata hub on GOG's website. If you decide to buy some, well...may the odds be ever in your favor.