The inability to convert loot boxes to real money also separates them from gambling as per Mike Morhaime.
Loot boxes have been a major talking point this year with games like Star Wars Battlefront 2, Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, Need for Speed Payback, Destiny 2 and what have you. Many of these skirt the edge of pay to win and have been discussed ad nauseam by concerned fans.
In the midst of all, one of the key players to popularizing loot boxes, namely Blizzard, feels that its hero shooter Overwatch doesn’t belong in the controversy. Co-founder and CEO Mike Morhaime discussed this with Game Informer at BlizzCon 2017 and said he finds nothing wrong with crates that provide random items.
“I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with crates that give you randomised items. I think that whatever the controversy is, I don’t think Overwatch belongs in that controversy.”
Of course, the difference is that Overwatch’s items are purely cosmetic and offer no feasible advantage to players. When discussing whether the actual loot boxes in Overwatch were a form of gambling, Morhaime said that not being able to convert them to real money was a “critical element” and something that actual gambling makes possible.
“If you’re going to talk about those things, then you have to look at as, ‘Well, are people trying to make money doing this?’”
Of course, Blizzard has its own way of incentivizing loot box purchases. Though the studio has addressed the issue of constant duplicates, limited time events with expensive skins and a lack of non-event cosmetics for the game have caused issues in the past.
Blizzard has attempted to rectify this by cutting down on events and introducing some new Blizzard-themed skins in 2018 for regular loot boxes. Regardless, the controversy won’t be going anywhere and Overwatch will probably still be a talking point in it.