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Why the community's angry about the Anniversary loot boxes - Overwatch

What's gone wrong, and how Blizzard can fix it.

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About Ed Thorn

Ed joined Metabomb in May 2017 and puts together guides and news across the site.

We’re only a few days into Overwatch’s Anniversary celebration and it’s an event that’s already come in for some major flak over on the official forums and the Overwatch sub-Reddit. The sheer number of Legendary skins available this time around, coupled with the short amount of time to collect them all, has caused the community’s increasing background frustration with the current loot box system to boil over.

We can understand that anger.

It’s a system that now feels somewhat broken at this stage of the game’s life, one that showers us in duplicates and old items that we’re beginning to lose interest in. That said it’s hard not to empathise with Blizzard position here. Ultimately this system is Blizzard’s way of funding future free content for everyone to enjoy - not just cosmetic collectors. Consider the awesome Uprising or Junkenstein’s Renege - both unanimously praised by the community - as solid examples.

It’s worth mentioning of course that this backlash by no means includes the entire Overwatch community either. Many players have come forward in defense of the loot box system as things stand, or even offered their own ideas on how Blizzard could potentially rectify the underlying issues, and find a new way forwards that works for everyone.

It’s a tricky situation, and we’ve broken down the community reaction for you in an easy to digest format, offering a few of our own thoughts on the current system too.

The community’s anger

Here’s quick breakdown of what’s caused this issue to blow up:

  • There are only three weeks to obtain eleven Legendary skins and many believe this to be too little time to even have a chance of picking up a few through normal play.
  • Only one loot box was handed out for free at the start of the event. Many argue that this is not enough, especially for an event celebrating such an important milestone for committed players.
  • Even where you to purchase 100 boxes - at a cost of around £70 - the odds suggest you might not even get half of the Legendary skins that are available.
  • Loot boxes need to drop more event items. Guaranteeing one new item amongst all of the long-established items is simply too thin a dilution.
  • You don’t earn enough from duplicates, and it takes forever to save enough currency to buy valuable items like skins. Especially when those event skins can cost three times as much as regular equivalent items.

The community’s solutions

Those are the problems as the community sees it then, but what solutions have been put forward?

  • Blizzard should hold special double xp events to increase the rate at which you earn loot boxes.
  • Alternatively - and to prevent levelling inflation - they could award two loot boxes every time you level up, as opposed to one - at least for the duration of the event.
  • Learn from the reroll system in Heroes of the Storm, which allows players to open the same loot box again - perhaps for a Credit cost - if it drops duplicates or items they don’t want.
  • You simply gain more Credits for duplicates items, and maybe even more for event specific items.
  • Increase the number of items overall in the game’s loot boxes.

Our thoughts on all this

  • Awarding more coins for duplicates is an easy fix that should reduce that feeling of frustration at a wasted loot box you worked hard to earn.
  • Blizzard should reduce the drop rate of vanilla items, or even remove them entirely from the event specific loot boxes.

Of course, we’re no experts on game design and revenue management, and so it’s exceptionally difficult for us (or indeed anyone other than Blizzard) to come up with solutions that would fundamentally fix the loot box system in a way that keeps all parties happy. If anything, Blizzard is either going to give it the loot system a complete overhaul, add a new system alongside the regular one for special events, or simply keep it the same as it always has been. The latter option has risks, however, as the game’s audience becomes increasingly frustrated with Blizzard’s position.

If Blizzard did change it somehow though, a simple drop rate fix would be the most likely thing to happen.

Unfortunately, our frustration lies in the fact that many of our loot boxes - and no doubt many of yours - spew out tons of duplicates, so this would appease us for only a short amount of time before we’d need some other change to satisfy us. Cracking open loot box after loot box soon becomes a boring, forgettable experience too, and the latest furore may well be symptomatic of a deeper desire for more meaningful character progression.

As frustrating as the loot box system may be right now, we can all agree that Overwatch is an incredible game filled with free content that Blizzard could easily have charged more for.

Ultimately, the loot boxes are a way of facilitating this approach, and although it’s tempting to suggest we should feel less frustrated as a result, it may not just be the community who are growing tired of the reward system. Referring specifically to Golden Guns, game director Jeff Kaplan recently stated his regret at introducing cosmetic items to Competitive Play, believing players should be there for the love of the competition. Who knows? Meaningful changes for the reward system may well be in progress at Blizzard’s end.

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