A lot of gaming trends rose to prominence in 2016, but here at GamesBeat, we’ve focused on the one trend we saw again and again as we look back on the year.

Lootboxes were the biggest gaming trend of 2016. These are the boxes that players open up to get special goodies in games like Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Overwatch, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and more. Sometimes lootboxes look like digital boxes and sometimes they come in the form of card packs. They occasionally feature hats and costumes for your characters or they include upgrades, creatures, and weapons crucial to gameplay, but — no matter what — players can purchase them with real money.

During our GamesBeat Decides podcast, which you can listen to below, we noticed that shooters were a major, returning trend over the last 12 months, but we gave the edge to lootboxes for a couple of reasons. They are everywhere, consumers have learned to like them, and they are the essence of a new business model that is enabling publishers to generate additional revenue.

Listen to the GamesBeat Decides podcast choose the biggest trends of the year and more:

Gamemakers haven’t raised the price of a new blockbuster release in a decade. Around 2005, alongside the release of the Xbox 360, the industry collectively decided to start selling new games for $60 instead of $50. In 2016, $60 is still the accepted price, and it seems like publishers want to raise the price again but are afraid of a consumer backlash.

Enter the lootbox.

Giving players the option to pay for more content is not new. Downloadable map packs and expansions have existed in gaming for a long time, but only a fraction of a game’s audience would pay for that content. Lootboxes are an evolution of that idea, but instead of giving players new content at a fixed price, these newer microtransactions enable the small percentage of players who do put their money into extra items and cosmetics for one game to spend an almost unlimited amount.

Put simply, lootboxes are a price increase. But instead of spreading a $10 increase across every consumers, developers are figuring out how to get hundreds or thousands of dollars from a player here and a player there. And with Overwatch, Titanfall 2, and more $60 games embracing this alongside free-to-play mobile and PC games, this business model has found acceptance among the public. So, it’s not going anywhere even if it’s the biggest gaming trend of 2016.

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