Blizzard launched a big update for Overwatch this week, a key component of which is a huge wave of cosmetic items that are only available for a limited time. Unlike existing items, these can't be purchased with credits -- they can only be unlocked by opening special loot boxes that will be around for three weeks. That makes it unlikely that most people will obtain them all, and that's by design.
"This is the first event that we're trying, and if it's really cool and successful and you guys like it, we'll probably have this event run again next summer as well," director Jeff Kaplan said in a new developer update discussing the Summer Games update. "Maybe it'll have some new content in it as well. This is the type of thing we want to do where sometimes we explore very hard-core, competitive parts of the game, like you saw us do that in the June update when we added Competitive Play."
He described Summer Games as "targeted towards more the light side of Overwatch," hence the focus on cosmetic items and the Rocket League-esque Lucioball mode. But despite those intentions, some players are upset with the way Summer Games items are unlocked. Opening a Summer Games loot box guarantees you at least one of the new items, but that's your only option for securing them. That means you could have to open more than 100 boxes in all, which would require a lot of playtime or a lot of money--at their cheapest, loot boxes cost $40 for a pack of 50 (80 cents each).
According to Blizzard, this design is less about forcing people to spend money and more about the items themselves.
"We want these items to feel extra special and very rare," Kaplan said. "So we don't want everyone running around all the time in every single Summer Games item. And we actually don't expect that all players will get all Summer Games items. We want this to be a thing where, six months from now when the Summer Games are long past, you look back on somebody using that cool Summer Games Zarya skin and go, 'Oh, man, I can't wait until next year when Summer Games happens. Maybe I'll be lucky enough to get that skin."'
This is in contrast to the standard loot box items, all of which you can get your hands on eventually.
"We wanted the seasonal loot boxes to feel more rare and special and the items within them to feel more rare and special," he continued. "So for that reason, they'll only be available for those few weeks and you won't be able to buy those items with credits, either. Hopefully that will make them feel extra cool when you have one, and hopefully you won't feel too bad about it if you don't get one because you know the event might happen again next year and then you'll have another chance."
Kaplan later noted that Blizzard is receptive to feedback, describing all of this as a "big experiment." The studio wants to know if people like the ideas, if it ran for the proper amount of time (this one goes for three weeks, ending on August 22), and so on.