In case you haven’t logged on to Overwatch today, a few changes went live for Blizzard’s colorful team shooter in the name of sportsmanship and cross-brand promotion.
In celebration of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Overwatch has undergone an athletic makeover, offering players Olympic-themed content for your favorite hero – from special skins to icons – from now until August 22.
On top of the exclusive content, a sporty new game mode was also added. Lúcioball pits two teams in a game of fútbol, and it’s centered around the eponymous Brazilian audio-medic character, Lúcio.
Essentially, it’s as if Rocket League and a first-person shooter had a baby.
While the Summer Games update is a festive way to get players coming back to Overwatch, as well as hyped for the upcoming Olympics, it also exacerbates my biggest problem with the game: the nickel-and-dimey Loot Box.
Shoot for Loot
For the uninitiated, Loot Boxes are Blizzard’s way of selling cosmetic items in Overwatch in a randomized crate.
Certain goodies are rarer than others, while duplicates you pull are cashed in for a small amount of credits. You can then spend said credits on things you really want, instead of waiting for Lady Luck to give it to you.
Players can slowly earn Loot Boxes over time by playing the game and leveling up, but Blizzard’s core strategy is to get you to fork over your credit card and buy the Boxes in bulk with real money via Overwatch’s in-game shop.
These microtransactions, while common (and necessary) in free-to-play games like League of Legends or Blizzard’s own digital card game Hearthstone, tend to draw scorn from fans who’ve already invested $60/£45 ($40/£30 for PC) just to play.
I understand, Blizzard. You need revenue to keep Overwatch’s constant stream of balance patches and updates a-flowin’. However, charging players extra so they can gamble on the chance – not the guarantee – of getting that Tracer skin or Zenyatta pose they want, in a game they already gave you money for, is a tad bit dubious.
Enter (for a chance) to win!
Gripes aside, how does this tie into the Summer Games update? While Lúcioball is available for all players, the exclusive skins, themed sprays, emotes, victory poses, highlight intros, and player icons can only be pulled out of Loot Boxes.
This means you will need to drop money if you want that American flag-draped McCree or weightlifting Zarya skin as a souvenir – if you’re lucky enough to pull them on the first try, since the good stuff is rarer than the rest.
Blizzard confirmed that you can’t buy any of the Summer Games cosmetics with in-game credits, and that as soon as August 22 rolls around, any content players haven’t collected by then will evaporate like a fourth-place gymnast’s chances of taking home a medal.
While annoying, I was lenient on the Loot Box system because nothing it contained was going anywhere; with enough time, I would eventually get lucky and unlock the stuff I wanted.
This isn’t the case with the Summer Games update. The content is available for a limited time only, without any way for customers to buy what they actually want, which screams of Overwatch just trying to sell more Loot Boxes, since half of them could be duds.
One way Blizzard could address this, without cutting into their coffers, is offering a bundle of all the Summer Games content for a one-time fee. This would keep players from missing out if they aren’t the gambling type, while still offering the current option for those who’d prefer to take a crack at the Loot Box roulette.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of timely updates, and don’t even mind them being behind a paywall. However, putting them behind a paywall that’s also a slot machine – one that has a time limit – feels like a greedy and underhanded move in an otherwise stellar and positive experience.
Speaking of, the new Lúcioball mode rules.
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