We have Valve to thank for the introduction of paid loot boxes in PC gaming, but the loot box trend didn’t really kick off until Overwatch made box-opening fun, cool, and sometimes free in 2016. Six years later, Overwatch is one of the only popular games left pushing loot boxes, but not for much longer. To prepare for the day that Overwatch 2 ditches loot boxes forever, Blizzard will cease selling them in Overwatch 1 later this month.
Blizzard is sunsetting loot boxes (opens in new tab) during the third chapter of its Anniversary Remix event that kicks off today. The three-week promotion features a handful of legendary skin recolors based on old favorites. Some can be earned through play, while others have to be bought with in-game coins or earned through loot boxes. Players can still purchase loot boxes directly to increase their chances, but Blizzard will close the doors on loot box sales on August 30.
Throughout September players will still be able to earn loot boxes by normal means (leveling up, playing Arcade, etc.). Then when Overwatch 2 releases on October 4, all stashed loot boxes will automatically open as Blizzard officially removes random chance loot from the game. Overwatch 2 will instead have seasonal battle passes.
I reckon for most, the loot box era has been over for ages, but as an Overwatch player it does feel like a particular chapter of gaming is finally closing. For a few years there, every big-budget game under the sun figured it was a good idea to lock digital goodies behind little in-game casinos and it was really weird. While many loot box integrations were hated so hard that publishers were pressured to patch them out of their games, Overwatch was considered by many an example of how to “do loot boxes right.”
But times have changed, and players have decided they’re more comfortable being monetized with battle passes—trading pure random chance for a gamble of your own time. Will you play enough Warzone this month to get the only skin you really care about on the battle pass? Maybe not, but play a lot or a little, the publisher gets its money.
Then again, the door is never truly closed when there’s a buck to make. Juggernauts like CS:GO and Dota 2 continue to sell premium keyed boxes like they always have and the embrace of gacha games in the West welcomes more nefarious casino-games than ever. Maybe we’re due for another loot box backlash in a few years.