Overwatch has just launched its long-awaited Anniversary event, and while it's assuredly all popping champagne and falling confetti at the offices of Blizzard, it's much more turbulent and tumultuous in the Overwatch community. Players in game, on Reddit and on the forums have been sharply divided by this event, with a growing group of people more upset than usual following event launches.
To get an idea of how widespread this is, talks of the event being "disappointing," have even overtaken calls to nerf Roadhog, so you know it's serious. While the complaints of the event include the lack of a new hero or a new game mode ala Mei's Snowball Offensive or Capture the Flag, one has overtaken all of the others: loot boxes.
As anyone who plays the game can tell you, all 11 new skins for the Overwatch Anniversary event are "Legendary," which is the highest rarity in a scale that includes "Common," "Rare" and "Epic" level items as well. Because of this, they have a much smaller chance of being included in one of Overwatch's loot boxes. Now, special event skins are always either Legendary or Epic, but there is usually a healthy mix of both.
What this means for players is that they have to buy or earn more loot boxes to better their chances at getting one of these skins, which most people agree are very nice. And, while the forums are often a place where the loudest voices are the only ones that are heard, this particular voice is building up a lot of steam and support from the rest in the community.
One of the highest-rated posts in the forums since the event is one that calls the event an "effortless cashgrab," and "the biggest disappointment since the Sombra ARG," a comparison Overwatch faithfuls do not take lightly.
So, once again, calls to change Overwatch's loot box system are out in full force. As it stands, you can only unlock these skins by buying loot boxes. While you can purchase them individually with in-game currency, the price for event skins is always tripled, meaning you need 3000 credits to buy them instead of the standard 1000, and the only way to get in-game currency is through loot boxes.
There are several ways to mitigate this issue, the most obvious way is to let people purchase, with real money, individual skins. Dota 2 has a similar model that lets you purchase hero sets outright, and it seems like there should be nothing stopping Overwatch from implementing the same type of system. If you want that sweet D.Va skin? Buy it! Maybe they value skins at $3-$5 bucks a pop, and people who don't want to pay can go through the standard loot box system that gives you one after every level.
Of course, anyone with any business sense can identify a possible reason why Blizzard doesn't want to allow individual purchases: it doesn't encourage repeat business. If I really want one skin, I might just purchase that one skin and never make a single purchase again. If they don't allow me to do that, I have to buy loot boxes, and more loot boxes and more loot boxes.
But there are other ways to increase the value of loot boxes. The Overwatch team could let you earn a regular amount of in-game currency after each game. That way, you wouldn't be at the mercy of loot boxes. They could also eliminate the ability to pull the same item in one loot box. One popular suggestion is that of offering a "double XP weekend" during special events, that way people can earn loot boxes without paying more quickly.
As of right now, Blizzard has yet to respond in any official capacity to renewed concerns about loot boxes, and it is common for developers, including even Jeff Kaplan himself, to issue a "blue post" to forum complaints. The real truth is, though, that loot boxes are likely a huge part of what made Overwatch a billion-dollar game before its first birthday. While the loudest voices are the ones who get the most upvotes on Reddit and in the forums, the quietest voices – the ones who continue to purchase loot boxes – are what pay the bills at Blizzard. So, renewed calls or not, I wouldn't hold your breath for loot box reform.