In Overwatch 2, loot boxes are no more.
Contained within the salvo of information Blizzard just launched about Overwatch 2, one of the more interesting bits is the fact the game will transition from a retail model to a free-to-play model. Also included in the Overwatch 2 strategy is a concerted effort to deliver content on a regular basis with a new seasonal content structure. That new seasonal structure will include a premium battle pass not unlike the kind prominent in other live-service games, whereby there will be separate, exclusive rewards available for subscribers.
With the arrival of the battle pass also comes an in-game shop making the Overwatch loot boxes a thing of the past.
“Players will have a lot more control about how they interact with the game and how they acquire new content,” said lead hero designer Geoff Goodman during the Overwatch 2 reveal event.
Loot boxes have fallen sharply out of favor as a method for obtaining items as the way they’re designed and deployed can make them vectors for potential abuse. They’re essentially slot machines in which a player pays for the chance to win not cash but a coveted item. In an interview with Kotaku, an Overwatch developer talked about how they built excitement and anticipation into opening a loot box to make it such a rewarding experience that a player will want to do it repeatedly — either by grinding in-game or taking the paid shortcut.
A lot of times, players will simply take the paid shortcut and will do so again and again, especially if the item they want is rare and only available for a limited time (like this Legendary Zenyatta skin.) And that money-for-a-chance randomness has led multiple countries to either classify loot boxes as gambling and subject to regulation or ban games with them outright. The removal of loot boxes seems like a step in the correct direction for Overwatch 2.
In an interview with The Verge, the Overwatch 2 developers declined to go into detail about what exactly the battle pass will feature or how much it will cost. They also didn’t say how the in-game shop will function. Traditionally, an in-game shop is a way for players to straight up pay for what they want. The in-game shop for World of Warcraft works this way. But there’s also the specter of how Blizzard handled the Diablo Immortal cash-shop lurking in the shadows of Overwatch 2’s bright, colorful background.
When Blizzard launched Diablo Immortal earlier in June, it faced a lot of criticism for the way it structured the game’s cash shop. Critics accused the game of being pay-to-win in which, in order to get good at the game, one is required to spend money, often times in exorbitant amounts, and still aren’t guaranteed a desired item will drop. When The Verge asked if Blizzard had any comment on players’ dissatisfaction with Diablo Immortal’s seemingly egregious monetization scheme, it declined.
We don’t yet know details of Overwatch 2’s monetization scheme, but the developers have promised more information in the future. I hope it’s more like World of Warcraft and less like Diablo Immortal.