Overwatch is one of Blizzard's most popular games, and they are finally getting rid of one of their most controversial elements.
Overwatch’s Loot boxes weren’t the first ones to be introduced in games, but they’re on their way to becoming the first ones to be removed from a major release since Blizzard just announced their removal. Additionally, the company also announced that the upcoming Overwatch 2 wouldn’t feature Loot boxes but a different type of live service that Blizzard is currently working on.
According to Kotaku, Blizzard’s announcement was quietly mentioned in the company’s blog post about the Overwatch Anniversary Remix Volume 3 event, stating that Loot boxes won’t be available for sale starting August 30. However, the post notes do specify that the gamers could still earn standard Loot boxes through gameplay following the Remix event — similar to what WB Games did with Shadow of War. As things currently are, gamers can still purchase Anniversary Loot Boxes that contain items and skins from past Anniversary and seasonal events, which will be removed at the event’s conclusion.
The world of gaming wholeheartedly supports Blizzard’s decision; Overwatch’s Loot Boxes were the game’s most controversial, if not reviled, element. They appeared one month after Overwatch had officially launched, and while they weren’t exactly a novelty in the world of gaming, they helped pave the way for even worse monetization tactics that game publishers employ in their goal to part gamers with their (or their parent’s) hard-earned money.
Such monetization tactics were mostly employed by iOS and Android game developers for mobile devices since mobile gaming isn’t as strictly regulated as the mainstream gaming industry, and such devices are more accessible to youngsters — which make “accidental” purchases all the time. Given how popular Loot Boxes have become on the smartphone platforms, it was only a matter of time before they found their way into console and PC gaming and games such as Overwatch, along with other monetization methods, such as a paywall.
For example, gaming publishers don’t shy away from implementing paywalls into their free-to-play games nowadays. For those that aren’t familiar with the concept, the game is entirely free to play, but the progression to end-game and top-tier progression is usually very slow. So, instead of allowing you to buy the progression item for money (which admittedly many games do), publishers have implemented Loot Boxes — purchasable containers which promise to grant items of higher quality.
The issue here is that the items in Overwatch Loot Boxes and their quality are randomly generated, and while the quality of gear and items is generally higher, no one can anticipate whether or not the gamers actually receive items needed for their respective progressions. If this sounds like gambling to the reader, you’re not alone. Besides being unpopular with the gaming community, these profit drivers are also very unpopular with governments and regulatory bodies who identify them as gambling and accuse game publishers of encouraging children to gamble.
It’s important to note that there isn’t an enforceable legal act that can prevent game publishers from implementing loot boxes — at least not yet — which begs the following question: why did Blizzard decide to remove them from the game? One of the answers is that the company is trying to clean its act after the last year’s scandals which nearly destroyed the company. The other is that they’re “cleaning house” in light of their acquisition by Microsoft. And third and the most likely reason is a publicity stunt — with Overwatch being the proverbial scapegoat.
Overwatch’s sun is setting in October this year when the game’s sequel is expected to launch. It’s quite the coincidence that Blizzard is shutting down Loot Boxes and doing “the right thing” just months before they shut down the game entirely. Of course, this is merely speculation, and why exactly the company decided to renounce an effective monetization method is still unclear. With that said, goodbye Loot Boxes and good riddance.