Is Overwatch Going Free-To-Play? Blizzard might be faced with some hard-hitting news: They may be forced to make Overwatch free-to-play. How could this be? Well, we already know that China has some pretty strict laws and regulations about the ability to purchase loot boxes. Since gambling is absolutely illegal in the nation, the Chinese officials have had to find a workaround with Blizzard so that Chinese citizens can still buy loot boxes. When you purchase a loot box in China, you are given more descriptive information about what’s inside of it, as well as the statistics of receiving a certain item, so that you are not forced to gamble. Even in virtual reality, gambling is illegal, it seems.
Could those same types of laws and regulations be coming to the United States? Well, they very well could, if the voice of the State of Hawaii’s Representative, Chris Lee, is heard loud enough. Representative Chris Lee is proposing two loot box bills to the U.S. House and Senate. In these bills, he proposes an end to the ability to legally purchase a game featuring loot boxes. Lee believes that this is an exploitative measure that costs gamers too heavily and takes away enjoyment of the game. Lee is quoted to have said, “I grew up playing video games my whole life. I’ve watched in firsthand the evolution of the gaming industry from one that creates new things to one that’s started to exploit [people], especially children, to maximize their own profits”.
If the bill were to pass, that would mean that any purchasable game involving loot boxes – such as Overwatch, Call of Duty WW2, and Star Wars: Battlefront 2 would be forced to go free-to-play, or else they’d have to get rid of their loot box system entirely. This is an unprecedented measure in the gaming industry. It’s always a scary (and highly fascinating) moment when the video game industry gets in conflict with a national government. And now, it’s the United States’ turn to face the fire.
This could be a potential blow to Blizzard’s profits, and it can even cause the popularity of Overwatch to dwindle as a whole. If one or both of the proposed bills were to pass, what could this mean for Blizzard? Is Blizzard prepared to make some major changes to Overwatch and the loot box system? What other creative ways can they offer loot box prizes to dedicated players without having to make the entire game free-to-play? This week will certainly be an interesting test of Overwatch’s popularity. During the Lunar New Year event, there will be a small free-to-play event in which players can experience all aspects of the game – even the special game modes during the event – without having to pay. Perhaps this is a way to subtly test what the environment would be like if Overwatch were a free-to-play game. What do you think?