'Overwatch' Anniversary Loot Boxes Aren't The Problem, Competitive Play Is

8.5
  • Playstation 4
  • Windows
  • Xbox One
  • Shooter
2016-05-24
symmetra oasis overwatch anniversary event skin
Symmetra's "Oasis" skin from the Overwatch anniversary event. (c) Blizzard

There’s been much discussion about the Overwatch Anniversary event and loot boxes this week. Forbes ran this excellent piece that posits it is basically mathematically impossible for players to earn all the legendary skins on offer without having to pay for a loot box. This, of course, set off a cascade of upset fans who feel like they’re being exploited by Blizzard. They argue if it’s not possible to get all the cool stuff for free Blizzard is more or less forcing people to buy loot boxes. And while I think this is an issue worth debating, to me it overlooks the real problem with the Anniversary event and with the direction of the events in general: they ignore Competitive Play.

READ: 'Overwatch' Anniversary Event Skins Ranked From D.Va To Cyborg McDonald's Uniform

As someone who plays mostly on console, Competitive Play represents the single best chance I have to get a cohesive game that follows the mechanics Blizzard intended players to follow. When it all works, it’s magical. A coordinated team of equally-skilled players all communicating throughout a match to have the best possible team comp and push strategy. When it doesn’t, it’s a frustrating morass of tilting and quitters and trash-mouthed trolls screaming at everyone about how we “need” a certain character while steadfastly refusing to change from DPS (when we already have two). Most games are like this, and I spend a lot of time chasing those rare moments where everyone has the great chemistry that got me hooked on Overwatch in the first place.

The Overwatch Anniversary event does little to improve Competitive Play games. It’s a shame all three new maps are for limited arcade modes that, frankly, aren’t as much fun. Trying to grind out a win on 1v1 is awful, and without quitting penalties 3v3 brings out a lot of the behavior I can avoid in competitive. It’s a different scene altogether. And I’m not arguing players shouldn’t get to mess around in a game for the lolz, but forcing Competitive players onto the forums we avoid because it’s the fastest (free) path to loot boxes isn’t cause for celebration either. This event (and most events) doesn’t really add anything to the Competitive Play scene.

Would it really be so hard to tie loot box rewards to things like medals or POTGs? Or win streaks? Or maybe some XP bonuses? It certainly won’t add some exponential amount of loot boxes compared to what can be earned grinding quick 3v3 matches. And it makes the game more fun, win or lose. Isn’t that what a special event should be about?

This is my problem with the Overwatch Anniversary event and, frankly, most of the seasonal events. My hype always deflates quickly after I have bad experience after bad experience playing a different version of a game I love with people who don’t give a shit. And so I end up buying loot boxes. And I guess that’s what Blizzard wants after all.

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