I really need to give credit to Blizzard for not sitting back and reveling in all of the success their new IP Overwatch has seen since it released a couple months ago. Already the developer has provided substantial updates and content on a monthly basis such as the addition of the first season for competitive mode in June followed very recently by Ana Amari, the first post-launch character that has been added to the roster.
Earlier this week, Blizzard launched new seasonal content called Summer Games 2016, which added an Olympic flair to the world like the brand new Lucioball brawl which pits 6 Lucios in a soccer mode that clearly takes inspiration from Rocket League and maybe to a lesser extent, Grifball which the past few Halo games have made popular.
The other aspect to Summer Games is the addition of a ton of new content through newly redesigned loot boxes. The Olympic themed content covers everything from sprays, voice lines, player icons, victory poses, highlight intros, and new skins. The skins look pretty cool, playing off of the countries where each character is from, so McCree has a red, white and blue color scheme and an American flag draped over himself like a shawl. Tracer is wearing a track inspired outfit, with Great Britain number card and flag doubling as a sort of cape.
It’s all really fun stuff on the surface but there’s a potential issue bubbling under the surface. My buddy Chuck from CounterAttack Games mentioned over Twitter that with this update, Blizzard is basically utilizing a Free to Play transaction business element to a game that isn’t actually F2P.
At first, I didn’t think much of it, but the more I think about it, the more I tend to agree. Overwatch requires that people first purchase the game and depending on the platform, that price varies. On top of that, additional (standard) loot boxes can be purchased unlocking new cosmetic items, or players can simply level up to receive one. Over time, they’ll inevitably get duplicate items, which is automatically converted into in-game currency that the player can spend on items they want.
That last fact isn’t true with the Summer Games content as players either need to level up, or spend real money to nab one. That’s it. The more I think about this, the more strange I find it that Blizzard isn’t allowing players to use that in-game money to purchase this timed gear.
Sure, dedicated players probably have a ton of credit saved up, which would result in the company missing out on some cash, but is this decision a sign of greed or something else entirely?
Thankfully, game director Jeff Kaplan didn’t wait long to try and clear up the confusion/outcry/and anything else this update has caused. Essentially, Blizzard wanted these items to be rare and special, so they purposely put those restrictions on knowing full well that most won’t unlock everything. Here’s the full quote:
“We want these items to feel extra special and very rare,” Kaplan said. “So we don’t want everyone running around all the time in every single Summer Games item. And we actually don’t expect that all players will get all Summer Games items.
We want this to be a thing where, six months from now when the Summer Games are long past, you look back on somebody using that cool Summer Games Zarya skin and go, ‘Oh, man, I can’t wait until next year when Summer Games happens. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to get that skin.”‘
Blizzard is a company that has a well established track record for listening for player feedback. Hell, you could argue that Diablo III experienced a rebirth thanks to fan outcry, eventually shaping that game into what it is today. Like most things they do, this is a big experiment. The easy solution here would be to increase the prices for this premium content, ensuring that no one can purchase everything, thereby making people continue to level up or spend a little bit of cash.
In my opinion, this is definitely a situation where everyone could win. I’m curious though, do you think this is kind of a shady move on Blizzards part? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.