A response to Game Informer’s “The Design Failure of the Loot Box”
I’ve recently read “The Design Failure of The Loot Box” by Matt Miller in the November issue of Game Informer. The opinion piece, as the title suggests, is about how the Loot Box in Overwatch, and micro-transactions in general, “weakens the entire experience” of otherwise great games.
While I respect Mr. Miller’s opinion and agree when considering DLC on a more generalized level, I greatly disagree with his sentiment on Blizzard’s Overwatch. Many who know me know that I absolutely hate paying for DLC, especially when it feels like I’ve purchased an incomplete game and now have to pay extra money for more content. If it’s a multiplayer game, purchasing extra content like maps or side quests is prohibitive to team play unless my friends pay for that extra content too.
My issue is simple. When I pay for a game, I want the complete game up front when I buy it. This is still the case in Overwatch. Micro-transactions are utilized in this game in the form of Loot Boxes.This is an example of DLC that doesn’t change the game in any way. You can still play with friends that don’t have the same skins you do, that don’t have the same voice lines, etc., and so forth. In essence, these small transactions in Overwatch don’t change the nature of the game in at all and don’t create disadvantages to other players who don’t have them.
Loot Boxes aren’t even a mandatory micro-transaction in that you don’t actually NEED to buy them. Players can still obtain the contents of these boxes by simply playing the game and unlocking them. In the article, Miller compares the Loot Box experience to a movie being paused to show an ad-like notification that asks the audience to pay to have the main character [Luke Skywalker] in his coolest skin. I don’t follow his thinking, as never once in Overwatch am I taken out of the game to buy anything.
Most video games offer rich, detailed worlds and immersive gameplay. Miller talks about how micro-transactions “break that immersion” to open his wallet. I’m not sure what game he’s talking about, but again, this isn’t in Overwatch. This is something of a regular occurrence in a mobile game or in mobile-esque games but never once has Overwatch asked me to pay for anything. I’m given a choice to pay real cash, use in-game currency, or wait until I get the item that I want from leveling up and getting bonus Loot Boxes for my efforts.
Miller also talks about rather having a “regular chance of a new skin for your current hero, rather than a blind box drop.” Don’t you have a chance of getting that skin you want from that blind box drop? Isn’t there a little more excitement to this? Like a kid on Christmas opening up a gift? While I agree, some of the boxes are disappointing because you don’t always get what you want, but doesn’t that get the player to keep playing to get those loot boxes and then starting the “kid on Christmas” cycle over again?
At the end of the day though, Blizzard needs to continue making money in order to host the servers and to continually add updates, characters, maps, etc. which, may I remind you, are free. We, the players, don’t pay for any updates, maps, characters, etc. in Overwatch that other games consider DLC and charge you for.
Because we don’t pay for these things, Blizzard still needs to make money somehow right? Paid Loot Boxes are the answer to this. Let the players who want to spend real money on them actually spend it. Since Blizzard is giving us new and exciting DLC for free, how do they continue to pay developers, programmers, server farm hosts, etc. to develop and host our content?
The bottom line is, the Loot Box is the best micro-transaction system out there. It doesn’t take away from the game, isn’t forced on the player, and still allows Blizzard to make money to continue paving the way for the game. They’re optional to buy, and you can always continue to try your luck at opening the blind boxes when you receive them.
Read Matt Miller’s article in the November 2017 issue of Game Informer. A variation of the article can also be found here.