The lock-down from Covid provided for a lot of businesses to fail, and others to rocket into the stratosphere with success.
Loot Crate was one of those I assumed would have actually found a way to become even more relevant in a world where people were yearning to fill their day with any little bit of variety. Instead it’s just dragging its corpse along the road until NECA decides to kill it off.
I looked up when I first joined, and it was 9 years ago, this month. Funny, how Google Plus still existed back then, eh?
They began just a bit earlier in 2012, from the makers of Gamer Grub, snacks for gamers. I think a lot of people forget that. But the premise of Loot Crate was sound. Twenty bucks a month for a surprise box of fun stuff each month? That’s awesome. Even if you didn’t know, the surprise made it even better.
But what happened? Why did we not give a crap about them anymore? Why did we move on? There were a lot of reasons and I just wanted to get them all down. They basically found every way possible to mess up the company.
If you look around today for any info on Loot Crate, it’s bleak. Mostly Google search results asking if it’s a scam. The only place of discussion left is the subreddit, /r/LootCrateSpoilers. But you have to remember, that only existed because it was spun off of the officially moderated /r/LootCrate who deleted any complaints about shipment issues, payments, etc. So LCS became the defacto spot after the original subreddit was abandoned. Not exactly the best way to handle things. But I’ll get into the actual complaints later.
Spread Too Thin
Funny, it took over a decade, but Loot Crate finally consolidated their lines. Early on they realized people don’t always want random stuff, so steering their boxes towards a few specific genres helped. They had horror, anime, gaming, WWE, Fallout, Hello Kitty and so SO many more. Remember Deadpool? From what I gathered, every time they got a bit of revenue from a new subscription line they created, they used that to rapidly produce ANOTHER new line. They kept their hands full, too full. I personally enjoyed Loot Crate DX, which was twice the price, but the goods were higher quality. But that’s a gamble, too. Because that means you have a bigger investment. So if you don’t like something included, it stings twice as much.
I think at some point in 2015 or so, everyone remembers a party SOMEWHERE where people were giving away the Funko pops from their Loot Crate, be it the rainbow Batman, or the Joker, or whatever. The contents of the crates were pretty predictable. Usually it included 1 pin, 1 shirt, 1 Funko pop and the remaining space was filled with actually interesting exclusive items. At some point, though, Funko realized they were the main driver of Loot Crate. So they spun off their own subscription service. Competition wasn’t bad, but it meant that Loot Crate couldn’t include those any longer, so they had to source other companies to create figures. Honestly, I hate the design of Funko pops with their stocky bodies and beady eyes.
The timing of that shift sucked, though, because right when that happened, Loot Crate made a pledge that every single crate going forward would always include a T-shirt. While that made a lot of people happy, it did force their budget going forward. That meant it was harder to include other clothing, like over mitts, scarves, socks, etc. because it would be competing with the shirt.
Ultimately, Loot Crate arrived at a time when custom geeky goods were hard to find. GameStop had pretty much neutered ThinkGeek to hell and back. And I think the target market were all similar to me, happy to fill their home with new goods, like a set of salt and pepper shakers, or keychains, or whatnot that we hadn’t replaced since high school. But that only works for so long. Since they pledged everything was always exclusive, that meant 12 crates a year full of one-time exclusive goods sent out to a million subscribers. Not an easy task. But it also meant we’d fill up eventually. How many keychains does one person feasibly use? Flashlights? Outside of collectibles and figures, any housing good is hard to use multiple of, and you can’t really repeat it too often. Spreading too thin with limited options leads to the crap selection.
Another thing I’ve noticed is the lack of advertising. Maybe it’s because I block it in some place, but Loot Crate used to regularly appear on Groupon/LivingSocial or other discount sites. Heck, everyone knew you had to sign up with some kind of discount code. That was just part of it. But now? When was the last time you saw anything about Loot Crate? Even just a banner ad? Or someone wearing one of the shirts from the last FIVE YEARS? Do they even make new ones? Look on the site. All the items they tease are from crates from 2018 and earlier.
One of the other issues from spreading too thin and the rapid production pace was dealing with their vendors. It left a very small window of error. The Star Trek Mirror, Mirror shirt is famously printed crooked. Loot Crate tried to get a refund but I believe were rebuffed and just sent out the shirt. Go dig that out of your closet and notice how it’s crooked. It’s not deliberate, but it at least as some justification for the episode they picked to be like that.
But that meant they couldn’t deal with that vendor again. They also lost Star Wars/Disney at some point due to some other fight. And Funko is obviously still out. So they’re really losing options of what brands and manufacturers they could deal with.
For a company that was actually the world’s biggest distributor of comic books, it’s weird they didn’t just lean into sending out more comic books. They’re small and light and people love them. But I digress.
The reason I began this article was because The Nick Box has officially ended their run. I signed up with them because while it was more expensive, it was quarterly, instead of monthly, giving breathing room, and the items were of fantastic quality, more focused, and a fresh change from the Loot Crate offerings. But even they struggled towards the end. I skipped out on the last year entirely, and while I regret it a little, it feels like I made the right decision. Virtually all the other competitors are gone, too. Nerd Block, Comic Bento, etc. All the “Subscription” blogs that review them don’t have anything from them. It’s all pretty much just makeup junk now. A lot of these competitors didn’t even have a big pull. They couldn’t touch the exclusivity power of Loot Crate, but often times they didn’t need to. As long as you didn’t get EVERY Loot Crate, odds are you missed out on plenty.
This section isn’t even really a negative or problem. It’s me being nostalgic for surprise goods at a reliable price. With The Nick Box gone, there’s no real source of fun nerdy goods anymore. Everything has to be hyper-focused to find a market. Fallout, Spongebob, Harry Potter, Batman, etc. You can’t do a wide berth of IP boxes. It’s hard to advertise. At least Nick has a ton of IPs they used, like TMNT, Spongebob, Rugrats, Fairly Oddparents and whatnot.
Like, basically, I’m just angry that Loot Crate is somehow still existing, even though they’re clearly on their last legs. They send out random over-stock unsold shirts each month. Even the LCS subreddit is dwindling down in terms of engagement because everyone wised up to how they are not trustworthy. Not only are they delivering half-empty boxes months late, but often times they’ll silently update pages to make it seem like the crates were meant to a year after they were supposed to. Really sneaky crap. I feel bad for anyone thinking the site is reliable now.
Do you see anyone posting pictures on Twitter (HAH) or Instagram anymore? Remember when they had the digital goods to go with the physical goods? Or the magazine that was included? Loot Crate at its peak was amazing. I would go to theme parks or events and see tons of people all wearing the same new shirt. It was a fun way to build a wardrobe of clothes that fit. People at work would often give away the stuff they didn’t want. Made for good birthday gift filler. I still wear my Fallout Vault 111 hoodie and take precious care of it. I bumped into the owner one day at Disneyland and he thanked me for buying it. It felt nice.
I’m not sure what the future holds, but it’s amazing that the entire “nerd box” industry ended up poisoning the well before Covid hit. Now you just go into Target or GameStop and see a box of goods for like $40 and it always includes a scarf, color-changing mug and postcards or some crap. It’s not the same when you have to grab it yourself off the shelf and know what’s inside, and it’s always the same items.
I hope at some point, we can find a better way to do this, maybe in a more sustainable fashion where unwanted goods are shipped back for free, so the risk on the customer is reduced. I dunno.
But man, I just miss surprise boxes of toys in the mail. Who doesn’t?