Step up to the slot machine!
Overwatch (check out our review here) is a game that has captured the attention of the gaming world. Its intense, fast-paced shooting, lovable cast of characters, and never-ending discussions over who’s the most OP hero in the game has millions of players entrenched in its myriad of game modes. Blizzard has done an amazing job of getting so many things right in its brand new shooter, so there’s no surprise that it’s receiving the praise of so many fans out there right now.
Not everything about the latest shooter is picture perfect, though. As with many games in the present day, business must rear its head in order to keep things moving, especially for a game that plans on releasing all future content at no extra cost. Blizzard decided on the common use of microtransactions as an alternate way to keep up funding for the game – nothing wrong with that as many major titles use it now as a way to keep the cost of entry for players from going up. It was introduced in Destiny, much to the chagrin of many players, and it’s worked out fine for both the player base and Bungie.
However, Bungie implemented the system quite differently from how Overwatch is doing so at the moment. In Destiny there are both cheaper, random options that can provide any combination of items with certain tiers of rarity guaranteed as well as the option to purchase exactly what you want. Overwatch, at least at the time of writing, only has random boxes you can purchase.
To some, that may not seem like a big deal. The microtransactions are purely optional with Loot Boxes being earnable through regular play. If you want to skip ahead for items, which are purely cosmetic, the option is there for you. The problem with that is there’s no guarantee that you’re skipping ahead of anything. Players are essentially gambling when they step into the in-game store, and that’s not okay.
Here is a game with 21 unique characters, each with several unlockable skins, taunts, paints, and more. Chances are that you’re not going to be a fan and avid player of all 21 heroes (a number that will only grow with time) so you’ll most likely only want unlocks for the characters you play as. Perhaps you have a full-time job and don’t have as much time to unlock cosmetic options naturally so you decide to crack open your wallet to get that amazing Reaper skin you saw. You drop $2 into the game and open your newly purchased box and what do you get? A Hanzo taunt, some paint, and a skin for Reinhardt. It was only $2 though, right? So you spend a little more and receive more useless loot when all you want is that Reaper skin. That’s a process that repeats itself until finally, that hardworking player gets the one thing they were looking for.
Making matters just a little bit worse, there are five different options for these microtransactions, 60% of them far exceeding what should reasonably be consider “micro”:
- 2 Boxes – $1.99
- 5 Boxes – $4.99
- 11 Boxes – $9.99
- 24 Boxes – $19.99
- 50 Boxes – $39.99
That last one is the same price as the full game on PC and it still doesn’t guarantee you all of the unlocks in the game.
While it’s understandable to want to provide a means for Overwatch players to still enjoy all of the content including vanity options, not having a proper store in place so fans don’t feel bled dry during the hunt for one specific thing isn’t. It’s just wrong, and it takes advantage of those who really enjoy the game.
There are ways to do random rewards while still giving players a choice in the matter, lowering the chance of someone feeling cheated. Take a look at Hearthstone for example. Players can buy random packs that are geared towards specific types of play styles. While RNG is still a player in this exchange, that bit of choice in the flavor of the randomness makes parting with your hard earned cash a bit easier. The fact that a completely free game could provide this type of consideration is admirable, and Overwatch could definitely follow suit. Maybe Loot Boxes built around Roles, where you’ll at least get items for a certain Role in the game. Still random, but a bit more refined.
In a way it’s sort of odd. Games like Dead or Alive receive a lot of flack for their overabundance of DLC, usually consisting of different outfits for their myriad rosters. While it can be a little souring to see a game release with so much content not available in the game (which isn’t the case for Overwatch), it’s at least giving clear options to those who do want to take part in spending. So why doesn’t Overwatch use a similar system?
On one hand, I can see how it might have to do with how players who actually play Overwatch unlock gear. As they level up they get one random Loot Box. Having a player circumvent that random nature with the almighty dollar seems a bit wrong in that regard. Yet the loot box can be adjusted to at least grant something for the player you’re using, or those you use more often than others. Games like Overwatch are a collection of stats and other information, stats that are kept track of throughout your time with the game. Blizzard can tell who you prefer, and they even rank your place in the world with each character, so why not use that information to reward you as well? We’re not saying a system that uses this method can be implemented overnight, but it is something that can be considered.
Alternatively, a system akin to that used in Destiny may work. Having special cosmetics that can only be obtained through microtransactions sounds like it can work. Those who want what they see can buy them, those who don’t can pass. Leaving a few random options at a reduced price will allow players who want to dip their toes into the RNG pool a shot at luck. Blizzard could also “spotlight” specific skins and rotate them out so players can buy exactly what they want, as long as they log in and purchase them when available.
Either one of those options can help to relieve the current slot machine that came with the fully priced Overwatch. As it stands right now, you’re throwing your money into something with no guaranteed return. And when it comes to buying games, money should never feel like a waste.