Switching to Battle Pass system

Loot boxes are one of the most controversial monetization mechanics in video games. And now, Overwatch, one of the most popular games of the last several years to use loot boxes, will soon phase them out.

According to the game’s August 9 patch notes, Blizzard, Overwatch’s developer, players will no longer be able to purchase loot boxes with real money after August 30. This deadline coincides with the end of the game’s Anniversary Remix Vol. 3 event.

After the event, loot boxes can still be earned through regular gameplay, but even that will sunset soon. The highly-anticipated (and much-maligned) sequel, Overwatch 2, releases on October 4. At that time, all loot boxes still in player accounts will open. From then on, no more loot boxes. Overwatch 2 will instead use a Battle Pass system, allowing players to earn rewards through play only.

There will be a free Battle Pass path and premium Battle Pass path, as is the case in many other games. The premium path will cost in-game virtual currency, which can be bought with real money.

Like a slot machine

Loot boxes serve a couple purposes in games. As mentioned, it is a way to monetize the game beyond the initial purchase price (some games are free to play). They also serve as a reward mechanism, encouraging players to keep playing.

The criticism of loot boxes is that they are akin to gambling. A player buys a loot box, having no idea what in-game items are in it, hoping that they get something that they want. It is very easy to get caught up in the “just one more” cycle, continuing to spend money in the hopes that that legendary item reveals itself. It is essentially a slot machine.

Overwatch, the game which I probably have the most hours on in my lifetime, does loot boxes in one of the least problematic ways, so I will always give Blizzard credit for that (the company’s other problems are a different story). All items in loot boxes are cosmetic or otherwise just for fun. None help a player in the game. And it is very easy to earn them for free, as well – that they have been available for real money is the biggest problem.

Other games are much worse, including items in loot boxes that give players an advantage in the game. It makes it much more tempting, particularly for kids who might not understand how it all works, to whip out the credit card time and time again, lest a player falls behind his competitors.

Loot boxes have been outlawed in some countries.

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