Dangers of Overwatch’s Loot Box System

Never tell us the odds. Overwatch took the gaming world by storm last year, with Blizzard reporting in its first week that 7 million people were playing. A month...
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Never tell us the odds.

Overwatch took the gaming world by storm last year, with Blizzard reporting in its first week that 7 million people were playing. A month later it was 10 million. Now? Blizzard recently reported that Overwatch has 30 million players. Whilst I am a fan of the game, there is a certain aspect of it that has always bugged me – the loot box system.

Overwatch Gambling

Yes, I know that you can earn loot boxes without paying a single penny simply by leveling up or playing Arcade Mode and winning the weekly reward of 3 loot boxes. This was the only way I obtained loot boxes for a while but then I discovered a seemingly innocent way of easily obtaining loot boxes. Turns out Overwatch had microtransactions. In Overwatch’s defense, it doesn’t shove these microtransactions down your throat like a lot of games (mostly free-to-play) do. I’m fine with microtransactions as a practice, that’s if they’re done well. Overwatch does not handle microtransactions well and I’m going to tell you why it’s a gateway into gambling.

Now, some of you may think I’m taking it a bit far but seriously think about it. Say you want a particular skin for a character you love. You’ve been working hard leveling up and you’ve gained all the loot boxes from this week’s Arcade but didn’t get that one item you really want. Then, you finally give in and buy 2 loot boxes. Sadly, those loot boxes also contained nothing you wanted and you don’t even get any rare or legendary items. So you wanna try again but this time boost your chances by purchasing more because you’ve worked it out and it’s cheaper to by 11 than to keep buying 2. If you still don’t get the skin you wanted you have two choices: either carry on buying loot boxes or give up. This is exactly like gambling but instead of winning money, you win the skin or item that you wanted which can give you the same satisfaction of winning money and make you believe that all the money you spent was worth it. This is even worse when you factor in event-only skins, so you only get a set amount of time to get that skin and after that, it’s gone until the event starts again. So you’re going to be purchasing more loot boxes in a state of panic and urgency because that skin isn’t going to be there forever.

Photo Credit: http://gameranx.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/OverwatchLootBoxesHeader-1024×502.png

So what do gamers get if they open a loot box that has an item they already own? They get credits to use on other items! Sounds like a good deal, right? Well it would be if Blizzard wasn’t giving Gamestop level trade-in deals. Legendary skins cost 1000 credits to purchase. If you open a loot box and get a duplicate of a legendary skin that you already have, you get rewarded with 200 credits which seems pretty cheap considering that skin is worth 1000. Some gamers have argued that Blizzard should remove the option to receive duplicates and some have argued that if duplicates are to remain, then we should get more than what they’re currently giving us.

Over here in the UK, Overwatch has a PEGI age rating of 12. Which basically means anyone can buy it, even if you’re under 12 as long as you’re with a parent, you can get it. Older gamers are more likely to understand gambling and its dangers a lot more than a younger audience. All kids see is a colorful game and a cast full of fun-looking characters. If the kid gets sucked up into purchasing loot boxes, there’s more of a chance that the kid will get desensitized to gambling. Obviously if they had good parents that told them the dangers of gambling, then all will be well. All I’m saying is that there’s a chance.

YouTube Doesn’t Help

Right now on YouTube you’ll be able to find a bunch of videos where people open an absurd amount of loot boxes.

Whilst I can understand the enjoyment of wanting to see what people get but other than that, it’s gonna cause people to buy loot boxes with the mentality of, “if they can get it, I’m sure I can”. Anybody remember the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive scandal between TmarTn and Syndicate? It’s a similar problem.

Obviously nowhere near as shady or morally corrupt as what they did but they made videos opening cases on a website and won a bunch of rare items. It turns out everything was staged, they actually owned the website and it was all a scam to get gamers to use their site. But loot box openings could still cause a similar problem. Everything is based on luck, so maybe a gamer gets really lucky with what they get in their loot boxes. Then this might encourage other gamers to buy loot boxes and hope to get as lucky.

Final Thoughts

I’m not trying to preach about this as I know that a lot of what I’m saying is, “what if?”. I’m not a fan of Overwatch’s loot box system, it’s too much of a gamble. You’ll never know what you’re gonna get when you open one. For all you know, you may open a box full of duplicates. Which just encourages you to purchase them if you’re tired of putting the work in to level up and not receive anything. Sadly, it’s not going to change as Blizzard and the fans seem to be fine with it. Just be careful not to get too sucked up in it.

Matt has a foundation degree in Video Game Art & Design but realised writing about games makes him a lot happier than making games. He will argue with anyone who says Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was a good sequel. If you wanna see more of him you can check his YouTube channel, Matt on Media.
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