Blizzard to sell Overwatch credits directly in China, but only to avoid revealing loot box drop rates.

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#1 Edited by paulmako (1958 posts) -

You may remember that last year a law was passed in China which required game companies to reveal the drop rates of virtual items and services. This law came into effect on May 1st this year and Blizzard complied by revealing the drop rate in Overwatch loot boxes.

It seems that Blizzard have been thinking about this and have now found a loophole that lets them avoid revealing the drop rate.

Instead of selling loot boxes directly, they will sell credits that will include loot boxes as a 'bonus gift'. Because the loot boxes now only count as a secondary gift, apparently the loophole means the drop rate doesn't need to be published.

If you want to see how cynical this is, take a look at the 'credit' bundles available (via pcgamesn):

  • 5 credits and 2 loot boxes for 12元, roughly £1.37 or $1.76
  • 15 credits and 5 loot boxes for 30元, roughly £3.41 or $4.41
  • 30 credits and 11 loot boxes for 60元, roughly £6.83 or $8.82
  • 60 credits and 24 loot boxes for 120元, roughly £13.65 or $17.64
  • 120 credits and 50 loot boxes for 238元, roughly £27.08 or $34.99

So from a legal perspective, you are simply buying 120 credits for $34.99! Nothing to see here!

This should be a nice reminder to everyone that big companies will make efforts to keep consumers less informed.

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#2 Posted by linkster7 (1371 posts) -

So I assume they are doing this so they can change the drop rates somehow right? Or is it just to obfuscate ?

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#3 Posted by BisonHero (11604 posts) -

Yeah, once the genie is out of the bottle and people already know the drop rates from before, what's the point now?

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#4 Posted by soulcake (2821 posts) -

I heard the Ceo of 2K prefer to there costumers as Wooden Log's you can chop up for more money .... Company's aren't your friends let's keep that in mind.

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#5 Posted by Notkcots (113 posts) -

Hah, this is like the Washington, D.C. companies that will deliver you a premium t-shirt and include ounces of marijuana as a "gift." It's cheeky, but it's not really surprising; revealing the drop rates of Overwatch's rare items could threaten the market across all regions. I think random loot boxes are stupid as hell, so I don't engage with them, but at least Blizzard is decent enough to make all of their items cosmetic.

I still think that Valve has stumbled upon the perfect monetization strategy for F2P games with its Dota compendiums and cosmetics and can't understand why other companies haven't cribbed it yet. With the exception of a handful of one-time-only special sets, you can buy pretty much any item a la carte if you really want it, which leads to customers feeling way more in control and well-disposed towards the overall game economy.

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#6 Posted by odinsmana (982 posts) -

Not knowing drop rates on loot boxes you pay for is incredibly shitty. With normal gambling at least you know your odds.

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#7 Posted by paulmako (1958 posts) -

@bisonhero said:

Yeah, once the genie is out of the bottle and people already know the drop rates from before, what's the point now?

If they do ever decide to change it now they wouldn't need to say.

There was also a conspiracy theory when they first announced the drop rates for China that they made the odds there better than the normal rate for everyone else to make it look more reasonable. The theory goes that they could now they could quietly return the Chinese odds closer to the normal rate.

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#8 Posted by Bollard (8185 posts) -

Yeah, once the genie is out of the bottle and people already know the drop rates from before, what's the point now?

I was thinking the same thing, but looking at the legality of it I assume that A) they would have to release an update any time they wish to change the % drop rate, so doing this means they can change it without telling anyone, and B) doing this would also avoid having to provide "live updates" showing actual hard data of what people have opened (to prove they are offering items at the rate they promised).

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#9 Posted by RonGalaxy (4936 posts) -

Cosmetic loot in a first person game will never not be dumb. It's nice that it gives them insentive to continue support for the game, but it doesn't seem sustainable.

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#10 Posted by ArtisanBreads (9107 posts) -

Such bullshit.

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#11 Posted by Tikicobra (597 posts) -

Are those credits in-game coins? If so, that's crazy; 120 coins is hardly worth anything in this game.

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#12 Posted by BabyChooChoo (7093 posts) -

Blizzard doing something scummy? Fucking gasp. Well at least the hundreds of millions they make off this game will probably lead to another whopping 3 characters and handful of maps over the next year. Their generosity truly knows no bounds.

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#13 Posted by SSully (5636 posts) -

I love Overwatch, but I am at the point where I haven't bought a crate since the winter event because of how scummy their loot crate situation is. The rates seems messed up, but the real fucked up part is how you are able to get non-event items(including duplicates), in event based chests. Compared to something like DOTA, where you guaranteed an item set that belongs in an event chest and once you get that set you will not get a duplicate of it if you open another of those chests.

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#14 Posted by AdequatelyPrepared (2522 posts) -

Honestly I think Overwatch, the base video game, is fantastic, but much of how the events are handled is leaving a real bad taste in my mouth. As far as I'm concerned, event boxes should have 2 guaranteed event items as opposed to the 1 it currently is, dupes for event items should never happen ever, and every legendary that drops (which already have a pretty low drop rate) during an event should be an event legendary. It is annoying as hell to feel like that during an event you are rolling the dice twice to get a cool new skin: once to actually get the legendary, and a second time for it to be actually an event item (make it three or four dice rolls if you consider the possibility of just getting a legendary amount of money or getting a duplicate of a skin you already have).

@soulcake said:

I heard the Ceo of 2K prefer to there costumers as Wooden Log's you can chop up for more money .... Company's aren't your friends let's keep that in mind.

While I can agree with the overall sentiment of these kinds of statements it's always worth remembering that most game development companies do have a core team of very creative and dedicated people that do have a personal interest in creating good products and customer satisfaction that do deserve monetary support. Ultimately it's about the concessions that have to be made in the balancing act between meaningful content delivery and keeping stakeholders and the financials of your management happy, and sometimes it can pull too much in a single direction.

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#15 Posted by FrodoBaggins (2105 posts) -

Why would anybody ever buy a loot box? I have 350 hours on Overwatch and I've not bought a single one.

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#16 Posted by an_ancient (306 posts) -

This gives me the suspicion that there isn't a fixed drop rate per region or even per person. I'm sure they have trained an algorithm that is just good enough at giving you dupes and grays without losing too much engagement. And if you're the type of person that they afterwards saw were buying more lootboxes then they might make the odds even worse, but then at the end or close to the end threw you a bone so you'd get that high and don't feel too upset about it.

While I think the loophole is funny and I understand the increasing cost of video games, I don't think these are the moves of a struggling product, these are the moves of keeping the products tail nice and long and predictable.

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#17 Posted by JJWeatherman (15101 posts) -

Well this seems a little strange, for sure. Though it somehow doesn't bother me as much as I know it should--especially as someone who's bought hundreds of loot boxes over the past year and change. They might not have the ideal loot system in place, but I've always felt pretty good about the drop rates, and the game has just been such a breath of fresh air for first person shooters. Maybe I'm an easy mark.

Businesses are going to be businesses. They can make whatever moves they want, but we're clearly headed in a direction of transparency that they won't be able to dodge forever.

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#18 Posted by Humanity (18958 posts) -

They should have just let you buy what you want with in-game currency from the start, and sold bundles of said currency in some "best value" packages. I feel like working towards a certain goal is better than getting the chance to spin the one armed bandit every once in a while.

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#19 Posted by vizard1301 (233 posts) -

For the new event i opened 20 boxes and only got 2 new skins

But the skins don't impact the game in anyway so who cares,i just wanna look cool personally.

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#20 Posted by Jesus_Phish (3902 posts) -

@humanity: That would probably make them substantially less money though. I agree with the idea, and I'd be much happier to buy Overwatch (I might still while it's on sale) and play it if I could just work towards a specific skin or whatever, but I understand why they don't just let you do that easily.

Think of how much junk is actually in loot boxes. Really. Voice samples, poses, icons, sprays. Most of it is kind of junk crap. People want skins and they maybe want emotes. But mostly skins. All that other stuff wouldn't sell nearly as well, so better to stuff it into a loot box and thus decrease the chance of you getting what you want (a skin) by increasing the pool of items.

Random boxes of cards worked for them in Heartstone so why change the formula. The formula is working so well that now they've gone and redone how you get stuff for Heroes of the Storm - a game that used to let you just buy gems for items in "best value" bundles or just flat out buy the items you wanted for cash.

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#21 Posted by StarvingGamer (11518 posts) -

Are those credits in-game coins? If so, that's crazy; 120 coins is hardly worth anything in this game.

That's kinda the point since what they're actually charging for are the loot boxes right?

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#22 Posted by sammo21 (5975 posts) -

The biggest issue I have with all of the loot boxes is that the amount of gold you get for duplicates is insanely low, in my opinion. I also think it is dumb that you can't buy holiday items with gold once the event is done. There are a ton of other games that give loot boxes and allow you to buy them with real money. Almost all of those games have Double XP weekends several times a year...Overwatch doesn't. I love Overwatch...I really like Blizzard...but the way they handle the microtransaction in Overwatch annoys me. The worst? Nah, but still bad considering who they are.

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#23 Posted by Crommi (404 posts) -

@an_ancient: I find it highly unlike that Blizzard would track individual player behavior, that's kind of micro-management is unnecessary at this scale and probably even illegal in many countries. Not to mention, just the possibility of altering drop rates on per-account basis would get exploited immediately. However, I expect there to be slight differences between different regions depending on buying-power and gaming pattern.

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#24 Posted by alwaysbebombing (2714 posts) -

Pretty clever!

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#25 Edited by Tikicobra (597 posts) -

@starvinggamer: Right. I'm just surprised at how blatant it is. Giving that few coins is like a giant middle finger to the players.

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#26 Posted by iAmJohn (6293 posts) -

Well that's slimy as fuck.

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#27 Posted by StarvingGamer (11518 posts) -

@tikicobra: Howso? It's a better value than US loot boxes. Spend less money for the same number of loot boxes, plus get a little bit of in-game currency on top of it.

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#28 Edited by FBomb4 (2 posts) -

This will probably be the last Overwatch event I actively take part in. The last few I played a ton just to get the couple skins I liked and still didn't get them all.

So far in this event, I've got the new skin for Tracer (who I never play) 3 times and a legendary non-event Torbjorn skin. Totally underwhelming and not worth the time to grind.

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#29 Edited by an_ancient (306 posts) -

@crommi are there laws for such a thing? I mean it's not changing gambling odds as you play. I think it's very feasible tbh. Think about it like you look for some gadget and then google serves you offers for that product everywhere you look for a while. That kind of data gathering is cheap as dirt. Per account might be too much I agree, but the aggregate is probably used to set the bar as low as possible and that is every changing, which is my feeling as to why they can't come out to say directly what it is.

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#30 Edited by Tikicobra (597 posts) -

@starvinggamer: Because they clearly don't want to have to reveal the drop rates, and considering they're already out there this move makes me wonder if they're planning on making drop rates worse. The addition of a minuscule amount of credits to the loot box purchases is obviously a workaround, so they seem to be giving the minimum amount of credits they reasonably can for purchases. It reminds me of when people used to sell Runescape accounts on eBay by selling a pencil or something "with a free Runescape account included."

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#31 Posted by YummyTreeSap (1220 posts) -

how much money do you think they spent to have lawyers read through Chinese gambling law just so they could fuck people over better

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#32 Posted by Crommi (404 posts) -

@an_ancient: Google ads and such work little bit differently. They mainly use tracking cookies that are saved locally on your browser cache and serve ads based on that. There is also more permanent tracking data that they save to cloud, but it's anonymized by assigning user accounts to demographic groups rather than treating them as individuals. They cannot sell personal info on per user basis because at least in most of the EU, that is against the privacy laws and there are regulations on what kind of personal info you're allowed to store and collect.

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#33 Edited by Cameron (1055 posts) -

It's terrible that Blizzard tries to obfuscate drop rates. It's literally worse than a casino. If revealing the drop rates makes people buy fewer boxes, then maybe the drop rates are too low.

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#34 Posted by an_ancient (306 posts) -

@crommi: The google ad example was more to illustrate how cheap it is once you have enough adta. You are right about EU data privacy laws. What I'm speculating is that opening a loot box when you open it, what you equip and what not is all data the game can collect and anonymize and send back. With that data I could for example test out if getting straight junk and once last gold made someone buy more loot boxes. If getting two golds in a row makes people buy boxes. Are you more likely to buy after a win or after a loss etc.

Sure this kind poking at a model isn't perfect.

No Caption Provided

But I can see it assisting in setting optimal drop rates. It's also a decision that is too valuable to not make without backing data.

Still you are correct that the per user example is extreme, but is game data something that falls under that protection? As part of your loot box transactions (and that might be after the purchase itself, where the item you get is rolled), you could just as simply and anonymized send your track record, how many hours you pay for a hero. How much time you've lingered on a specific store item. I can see the RNG being biased to not give you items for your most played character, but spread out enough that it doesn't bother you.

Yes I am putting on a tinfoil hat saying this and I am only an outside observer and don't want to try and prove that Blizzard is screwing over their customers.

However the specific quirk of this particular system is that the items are finite. I think it'd be reckless to really leave it up to chance as they run the risk of losing the player who get bad streaks, but Blizzard supposes that giving you everything you want or letting your purchase what you want does the same.

I am biased against it, I've not bought this awesome playing game mainly because I think it's rude to have random unlocks for something you've paid for already. I do not want to encourage this business model personally, but I do like to think about it. And I think data driven dynamic drop rates is a perfect use case for this.

Please don't hate me for that alliteration.

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#35 Posted by dudeglove (13781 posts) -

Lol wow, thats how much 120 credits are worth? Christ.

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#36 Posted by css_switchfoot (243 posts) -

Games have always been about milking money from the player-base: arcade games, exorbitant amounts of money for cartridges, 40-dollar expansions, DLC, and now loot crates.

None of this is new shit, its just re-branded. All different ways for companies to make more money. But that's why businesses exist - to make money. Sure some businesses put a pretty face on it: charity, bullshit mission statements, political correctness, green initiatives - but its all makeup to cover up the ugliness underneath. This shit has been happening forever, its just that we now live in a time where a lot of people have extra income to spend on useless things. I personally think its all pretty dumb, but then again currency itself is a man-made illusion used to measure a person's worth and success (read: bullshit). So in the end you're just trading bullshit for more bullshit.

The real crime here isn't that Blizzard found a loophole in China's legal system. It's that the masses of people allow large corporations and dumb phone games to target a base reaction in their minds, and then charge money to keep the positive feeling going. Creating an addiction and then extorting money with that addiction should not be legal - in gambling, drugs, or games.

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#37 Posted by Random45 (1807 posts) -

Blizzard doing something scummy? Fucking gasp. Well at least the hundreds of millions they make off this game will probably lead to another whopping 3 characters and handful of maps over the next year. Their generosity truly knows no bounds.

You forgot to mention the multiple timed events with exclusive skins and emotes that you can't get outside of the events, each with hundreds of worthless voice lines and sprays to make it more difficult to get the actual stuff you want.

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#38 Edited by Lanechanger (1691 posts) -

Why would anybody ever buy a loot box? I have 350 hours on Overwatch and I've not bought a single one.

lol I'm with you man.

The game is fun, don't forget it people! Don't let the materialism of having shiny looking skins spoil the fun.

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#39 Posted by Superkenon (1704 posts) -

It's definitely a little annoying, but it's hard for me to be outraged since the loot just doesn't matter. Overwatch isn't a play-to-win situation, and they're very generous with the free loot boxes. I don't get why anyone would want to drop money on them in the first place -- always just seemed to me like a menu option specifically to get money outta whales. Still scummy, but considerably less so than any other game trying to get you to buy in-game stuff with real money -- where the purchasable items are more essential and harder to get through regular play.