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Blizzard to fix Overwatch's loot boxes but are they just as much to blame for the problem

Overwatch loot crates.jpg

The gaming (gambling) loot box controversy is turning into 2017's biggest story with the world's largest distribution houses and game developer studios changing policy and some even making a 180 on games post-release. The conversation around loot boxes and microtransactions have attracted so much attention that in some cases it had a direct influence on stock value - Star Wars: Battlefront 2 being point in case.

While EA is currently at the centre of the loot crate and microtransaction controversy, it's not the only company that has been under scrutiny. Overwatch's poor loot crate ratios have been a talking point since May this year.

In May, the Chinese government passed a law that stated all game companies had to reveal the probabilities of loot crate drops. Blizzard was quick to respond and detailed the drop ratios for all regions. In case you forgot those details:

  1. Rare Items: Each loot box contains at least one rare item.
  2. Hero Items: On average, there are 1 Hero items per 5.5 loot boxes.
  3. Legendary items: On average, one legendary item is included per 13.5 loot boxes

Then Overwatch's biggest event kicked off - its first anniversary, and the loot boxes were crappy. Players from around the world flocked to the Overwatch forum and complaints flooded in. Blizzard's response was that they were listening, and one month after the debacle, the first changes were implemented on the PTR.

It's now five months later, and Overwatch players are still not happy about the loot crate ratios - nor should they be. The October Halloween event which features some of Overwatch's best skins was as much a let down for me as any of the previous events. Feedback from players still shows that they were receiving mostly duplicates and emotes and only vary rarely something epic. I participated in the event as much as possible, and once again only ended up with a bunch of duplicates and sprays.

The bottom line is that loot crates mostly include items players don't really want with just enough lure to entice the participant to spend money to purchase that one elusive item. The only game I've played where I collected items by random drops that I felt were fair was in Team Fortress 2. The crafting and trading system also further helped players to feel they're not being milked to spend more money.

Let's not forget that Team Fortress 2 is a free-to-play title to start off with!

Fast forward to November 2017 with its question of loot crates being like gambling under the spotlight, and companies are scrambling to keep players happy. In a recent forum post titled "When are new items coming", Overwatch Game Director, Jeff Kaplan responded with this promise:

"We have a ton of new content coming. Not only are there some really awesome items coming for upcoming events, early next year we'll be adding *a lot* of new items to the base loot box. You don't have long to wait!"

I wonder if it isn't a case of too little too late. Don't get me wrong, I still think Overwatch is one of the best games I have ever played, but when it comes to expecting something epic from loot crates I have moved on.

This rabbit hole of microtransactions and dare I say, 'entrapment' to spend goes deeper than we think. Just in the past week, a Destiny 2 player uncovered hidden XP scaling issues and Bungie was forced to deactivate the system. The player showed that when you used power grinding to level up then the game deliberately scaled down 90% XP gains. The uproar from players forced Bungie to cancel the upcoming Curse of Osiris livestream that was scheduled to run last night.

In closing, I like what Karl Slatoff, president of Take-Two (Rockstar and 2K Games publisher) said earlier this week (via dualshockers). The company's stance on the issue is that loot boxes are not equal to gambling - but - companies have to "overdeliver." Meaning, a happy customer isn't likely to complain.

Gamer's issue with loot crates is that developers are under-delivering for something we already paid a pretty penny for.

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"just enough lure to entice the participant to spend money"

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