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Overwatch and loot boxes are almost synonymous. If not the sole reason for playing the game, collecting and opening these RNG chests filled with four cosmetic items is certainly a driving force behind player retention. Level up, get more loot boxes, buy more loot boxes, get the skins you want, or usually don’t, which means you have to buy more loot boxes. As of late, a small, but passionate group of players have became frustrated with Blizzard’s loot box model, whether it be the seemingly low drop-rate of legendary items, the inconsistent method in which you can gain in-game currency, or tripling the currency cost of all special event items.
A ray of hopeful light shone on this crowd last year when China passed a law requiring loot boxes of any kind across all online games to have their drop rates disclosed. Now that light has dimmed, as the way you purchase Overwatch loot boxes in China has been changed with the sole purpose, seemingly, of skirting this law. As translated via Reddit (a translation backed up by Google Translate), the Chinese Overwatch team posted in the forums “Rather than directly buying a loot box, players now purchase in-game currency and will be gifted loot boxes.”
On one hand, purchasing in-game currency is something people have been calling for the most. This would allow players to directly buy the skins they want, rather than being at the mercy of RNG loot boxes with low drop rates of valuable items. That said, when you look at the numbers, it tells a much less hopeful story. Here are the purchasing options in China:
- 5 in-game currency + 2 loot boxes – $1.76 USD
- 15 in-game currency + 5 loot boxes – $4.41 USD
- 30 in-game currency + 11 loot boxes – $8.82 USD
- 60 in-game currency + 24 loot boxes – $17.64 USD
- 120 in-game currency + 50 loot boxes – $34.99 USD
Now, as for loot boxes per dollar, these prices are slightly cheaper than those that are sold in the U.S., but that has nothing to do with this recent change, and is likely just a regional variation. The important takeaway is that it would take several large purchases to be able to guarantee even one skin of any value. For reference, “Epic” level skins in Overwatch cost 250 in-game currency, meaning you would have to buy two of the highest-cost package and two of the lowest-cost package to guarantee to guarantee one “Epic” level skin, for a total cost of around $75.
And, as anyone who plays Overwatch knows, these currency cost triples for event-skins, meaning it’s 750 currency for an event Epic and 3000 in-game currency for an event Legendary. Since the best bang-for-your-buck is the 120 credits (and 50 loot boxes) for $34.99, you can guarantee 3000 credits by purchasing this package 25 times (120*25). That means, if you spend $875 (34.99*25) buying in-game credits and loot boxes (which would be 1,250 loot boxes), you can guarantee one event Legendary skin. Of course, at that point, you should probably have all the skins you need.
So what’s the purpose of all of this? It’s certainly not to give players the ability to purchase items directly. Apparently, “throwing in” the loot boxes on top of credit purchases, as minuscule as they may be, is enough to skirt the requirement of a loot box drop rate disclosure, according to the new Chinese law.
This also means that anyone hoping for any sort of loot box reform, such as anyone who contributed to this 3800-post request to reform loot boxes, will likely have to wait for a long time. Blizzard clearly doesn’t want to disclose the probability of their loot boxes, and they’re only willing to provide a paltry sum of credits in return, so it’s unlikely they will make any sort of drastic reform like allowing people to purchase individual items with real money.