Yes, Overwatch has Microtransactions

Because of the online nature of Overwatch, we’re taking extra time to test Blizzard Entertainment’s new shooter under real-world conditions. In order to give you insight into our review process, we’ll be publishing short articles about all things Overwatch over the course of the week.

Microtransactions are the new taboo in video games. It used to be DLC, and Season Passes still get a lot of hate, but nothing causes as much fury as microtransactions in $60 games. For many gamers, it seems completely illogical to include these forms of payment in a game they already paid $60 for. The content included in these microtransactions is typically on the disc and arguably should be available for players to easily unlock. Sadly, that’s not the way things have been going in the majority of AAA $60 games that include microtransactions. Overwatch is a $60 game, and it does have microtransactions, but it’s actually not that bad.

If you’ve been living under a rock, Blizzard’s brand new shooter, Overwatch, is available now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. It does have microtransactions, but they’re far more benign than in, say, Call of Duty: Black Ops III. The microtransactions come in the form of Loot Boxes, which can be earned in-game through leveling, or purchasing with real world money. There is no level cap, giving players an unlimited source of Loot Boxes for free.

Overwatch Microtransactions
If you would like to pay real-world-money, this is how it’s broken down:

  • 2 Loot Boxes ($1.99)
  • 5 Loot Boxes ($4.99)
  • 11 Loot Boxes ($9.99)
  • 24 Loot Boxes ($19.99)
  • 50 Loot Boxes ($39.99)

This is, surprisingly, a fairly fair payment model. Each loot box drops a total of four different items, all of them cosmetic. There are alternate skins, emotes, and lines of dialogue among other things. There are no characters, weapons, maps, or other valuable content hidden behind a paywall. All of that content comes as part of the $60 package.
Now, let’s see how this payment model stacks up to another Activision Blizzard game; Call of Duty: Black Ops III:

  • 200 CoD Points ($1.99) – 1 Rare Supply Drop
  • 1,100 CoD Points ($9.99) – 5 Rare Supply Drops
  • 2,400 CoD Points ($19.99) – 12 Rare Supply Drops
  • 5,000 CoD Points ($39.99) – 25 Rare Supply Drops
  • 13,000 CoD Points ($99.99) – 65 Rare Supply Drops

We also have to remember that Rare Supply Drops in Call of Duty: Black Ops III can’t be earned by leveling up (you need to play multiple games to earn 30 Cryptokeys), only contain three items, and do lock weapons behind a paywall. As you can see, Overwatch’s microtransactions are relatively harmless compared to other AAA games out there.
This does beg the question, why are there even microtransactions in the first place? That’s a good question with a simple answer; microtransactions are paying for free DLC.

Loot Box Drops
Unlike other games, Overwatch will not feature paid DLC or a Season Pass. All the new heroes, maps and game modes will be patched into the game for free on all platforms. In order to make this possible, Blizzard has to make money a different way. Considering some games charge $4.99 for a single character and $14.99 for a pack of four maps, these microtransactions actually seem like a better trade-off. Also, seeing as Blizzard is well-known for supporting their games for numerous years, there’s a good chance Overwatch is going to be seeing a lot of content updates in the future.