The co-founder and president of Blizzard Entertainment, Mike Morhaime has weighed in on the growing controversy surrounding loot boxes in major game titles.
In an interview with Game Informer, Morhaime said, he does not think that Overwatch is part of the loot box conversation.
"I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with crates that give you randomized items," he said.
"I think that whatever the controversy is, I don’t think Overwatch belongs in that controversy."
He continued: “Well, [‘pay-for-power’] is definitely something we’ve avoided,” said Morhaime. “I think another element, in terms of the gambling question, the question in terms of that is whether or not you’re actually… There’s an element of converting back into real-world value. I think that’s a critical element, and that element does not exist in Overwatch loot crates.”
The controversy is based in the idea, for one, that randomised item boxes purchasable with real-life currency skew games towards a ‘pay-to-win’ or ‘pay-for-power’ model, which can spoil the competitiveness of multiplayer; and secondly, that they represent a form of gambling, and all of the inherent problems therein.
It could also be argued that loot boxes take advantage of young people or people with mental health problems, as some of these people may not be able to consider the wider financial implications of the transactions.
The loot boxes available in the aforementioned Overwatch range in price from £1.99 for 2 boxes all the way to £34.99 for 50 boxes. This would be in addition to the £29.99 initial price to purchase the game on PC, or £49.99 for the Game of the Year edition. However, the items available in Overwatch’s loot boxes can also be obtained with in-game experience and they are only cosmetic. This is not the case in certain other games, for example Middle-earth: Shadow of War includes loot boxes that contain items that affect the game and are not available in open play. Star Wars Battlefront 2 is another example of recent and upcoming triple-A games to include loot boxes, though the firm has said it is revisiting how it's approaching this in the game.