Given all the kerfuffle over the Overwatch [official site] Summer Games skins I logged back in to check out the focus of the ire - the loot boxes. There's some cool stuff in there and people are annoyed because there's no sure-fire way to get what you want even if you have the time or inclination to earn loot boxes by leveling up or try to throw money at the problem.
I've made a gallery of all the skins that are part of this event so you can get an idea of what players are going after - you can scroll through the pictures by clicking the arrows on the side of the images or by hitting the left and right arrow keys on your keyboard. BUT! read on for the explanation of said kerfuffle:
See, it's a time-limited event so the Summer Games loot will go away after 22 August. There's also no way to guarantee that you'll get the item drop you want by throwing money at the problem and buying a warehouse-worth of loot boxes because, although each of the seasonal loot boxes will contain at least one of the Summer Games-themed items, you might just end up with a bunch of duplicate bits and bobs. Oh, and there's the additional irritant that the special loot boxes are only available for cash and not earned in-game credit so if you want to up your chances of getting a Stars and Stripes poncho/scarf for McCree without pouring extra hours into the game it'll cost you.
Jeff Kaplan's response on the official forums to all of this is here but the gist of what he says is that Blizzard see this as a nice, free time-limited event with a fun game mode and stuff you can get free as drops which is intended to make the event feel special. He also adds:
"We wanted to try something new with this event. As we mentioned in the Developer Update, we're learning and experimenting with this event. And if the event is received well (my impression so far is that it is being received well once you remove the debate over the items not being available for credits), we will run it again next year. Our Summer Games are on a yearly schedule -- not a 4 year schedule. Our plan would be to have the items available again when the event recurs. Perhaps we add new content to it as well? We're not sure yet... we're seeing what works and what doesn't."
I think one interesting summary of the situation comes from a forum user called Kat who posted this:
"I don't buy loot boxes. I won't ever buy them since it's all fluff you can earn free. But events like these aren't meant to hand out all the skins to anyone with cash. It's likely meant as a grind to keep people engaged with the game. Realistically, if anyone's first thought was to throw money at new skins rather than try to earn them through playing, that's kind of an issue unto itself. Not one to discuss here though.
"They provided new content for people to earn. If whale's want to throw money at it for a greater chance at the -random- items, they have that right. Otherwise, no. It shouldn't be a cash grab where people who can spend $10/50/100 get whatever they want, and those who can't have to work for their loot boxes. What people want to gamble on is their choice though, and it's a genuinely fair way for Blizzard to continue making a profit, and with that, make more content for players to earn/use/etc."
I don't agree entirely because I do think that there are elements in the implementation that push people towards making purchases - skins are definitely a desirable in-game thing and the fact you can only get them for a limited time means there is an incentive to look for ways to boost your odds of getting them, particularly if your gaming time is also limited. Cash is the only way of doing so and the duplicates possibility means there's theoretically no ceiling on what you might be tempted to spend.
Obviously this isn't to deny the need for people to be able to manage their own finances and take responsibility for those decisions, but there is desirable content here and I do think there's some onus on developers to make sure that isn't being exploited, even if it's unintentional.
On the other side, I think there's also a particular attitude being exemplified across these Summer Games discussions which also comes up in discussion of the Hitman 'elusive targets'. That somehow time-limited events where not everyone can get the reward are screwing over the player by default. I don't think the implementation of either has been perfect, but I do also think there's a place in games for cool stuff that not everyone can have for one reason or another.
As a final point, I do like what Valve do with Dota 2's loot boxes nowadays and that might be a good example for Blizzard to take inspiration from*. They have a system where you are guaranteed to get a different item each time you open them from the list of standard rarity things the treasure chest might contain. After you've got all of those it'll just drop you random duplicates. The chests also have the chance to contain rarer items - there's a far lower chance of you getting those and they're exempt from being a guaranteed eventual drop so if you did want them you'd either have to get lucky, wait and buy them on the marketplace, get a lucky friend to gift them to you, or throw money at chest after chest hoping for a result**. It feels like it has a decent mixture of guaranteed results and those rarer trophy pieces.
To see all the skins (don't make me go through all the sprays and other bits and pieces!) just hit the right arrow key on your keyboard and take a look. I think I'll definitely put in some effort over the weekend and see if I can get the Zarya skins or maybe the Symmetra ribbon emote, but if not I'll probably shun the loot box approach. I'm definitely over my main "excited about digital wizard hats" phase.
*INSERT JOKE ABOUT DOTA 2 AND BLIZZARD INSPIRATION HERE
**Get your mind out of the gutter!