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Overwatch players divided over Summer Games loot boxes

"We actually don't expect all players will get all Summer Games items."

There's an interesting debate rumbling within the Overwatch community right now, and it has to do with the new Summer Games loot boxes.

Yesterday, Blizzard launched the Summer Games 2016 seasonal event for the popular online team shooter.

The Olympics-themed event, set to run for three weeks only, replaces the existing loot boxes with new seasonal loot boxes that guarantee the inclusion of at least one of the new Summer Games in-game items.

These in-game items include new skins for the characters, new animations and new sprays, among other things.

Some of the new skins in particular are pretty cool and already highly coveted by Overwatch players. Take the Summer Games skin for Zarya, for example. Not bad!

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As expected, Overwatch players mindful of the event's three-week time limit flooded into the game in a bid to obtain as many of the new Summer Games items as possible. While Overwatch dishes out free loot boxes - now Summer Games loot boxes - as normal via progression, players who wanted to buy them found they could only do so with real-world money - not in-game credits, as before.

Players also discovered that unlike other in-game items, Summer Games items can't be bought individually with in-game credits, either.

Blizzard's philosophy for the Summer Games items is that they should be rare and should stay that way, so they're limited to Summer Games loot boxes. In a new video update, below, Overwatch development chief Jeff Kaplan explained the thinking behind the decision:

Here's a transcript of the pertinent portion of the video:

  • This is something new we're trying. We think it's cool. We want these items to feel extra special and very rare. We don't want everybody running around all the time in every single Summer Games item.
  • We actually don't expect that all players will get all summer games items. We want this to be a thing where six months from now, when the Summer Games has long past, that you look back on somebody who's in that cool Summer Games Zarya skin and go, oh man, I can't wait until next year when the Summer Games happens, maybe I'll be lucky enough to get that skin.
  • Our normal loot box items, eventually you can get all of them, either through playing, buying loot boxes in the store, unlocking them through credits. Whereas, we wanted the seasonal loot boxes to feel more rare and special and the items within them to feel more rare and special.
  • So for that reason they'll only be available for those few weeks, and you won't be able to buy those items for credits, either.
  • Hopefully that will make them feel extra cool when you have one. And hopefully you won't feel too bad about it if you don't get one because you know that the event might happen again next year and then you'll have another chance.

So, Blizzard wants the Summer Games stuff to feel rare and as a result, special. But the explanation hasn't convinced all players it's the right approach.

I've seen loads of posts on the Overwatch subReddit in which Blizzard is accused of money-grabbing by restricting the Summer Games items to these seasonal loot boxes, which, if you want to buy, you have to use real-world money, as opposed to in-game credits, which you can obtain through normal play.

Here are the UK prices of the seasonal loot boxes:

  • 2 - £1.59
  • 5 - £3.99
  • 11 - £7.99
  • 24 - £15.99
  • 50 - £31.99

There's also a feeling that Blizzard should have considered making the seasonal loot boxes contain only Summer Games items for the duration of the event.

As Kaplan explains, each seasonal loot box is guaranteed to contain at least one item from the Summer Games collection, but that doesn't prevent frustrating duplicates. Players have already expressed annoyance at getting the same Olympic-themed voice line twice in a row.

Here's a Reddit post from one player, called "iiiiiiiiiiip", who sums up the sentiment:

"Being able to buy as many crates as you want for real money doesn't make them awesome/rare, it makes them a cash shop item.

"It's a bad precedent to make currency worthless too. The in-game currency we earn through playing should not be useless with each following update so they can milk even more money out of cash shop crates. A lot of people saved currency waiting for the new content to come out only be completely disappointed that they can't do anything with it.

"Casual players who don't have much currency are the biggest buyers of crates anyway and it'd probably encourage more people to buy crates (especially at events) if they knew that even if they don't get the skin they want they can at least buy them from the currency they'll get from the boxes/duplicates."

The whole debate raises the thorny issue of microtransactions for "blind boxes", the accepted term for video game packs of random items. With these seasonal loot boxes you are buying, in effect, a chance at getting Summer Games items. Is it gambling? Some think so.

Blizzard will point to the fact Overwatch is pretty generous when it comes to dishing out free loot boxes. And, let's remember, all these items are aesthetic only. You can't get more powerful weapons, for example.

And as Kaplan indicates, it looks like the Summer Games event will return next year, when players will be able to continue their quest for that Zarya skin everyone's banging on about.

And yet the debate rages on, fuelled by a desire from many players to obtain as many of these cool limited edition in-game items as possible. And no doubt plenty will open their wallets as they try.

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