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How Blizzard’s Aversion to Revealing Drop Rates From Loot Boxes is Affecting the Industry

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Everyone wishes to know the drop rates of those legendary skins in Overwatch, or the drop rates of the legendary cards in Hearthstone. Who doesn’t pray to RNGesus for a legendary drop every other day? But Blizzard is not the company who would allow you to manipulate the “pity timer” to your own advantage.

China had passed a new regulation, making it mandatory for one and all video game publishers to reveal the drop rates of particular items from any loot boxes that may come as microtransactions for the game. There isn’t much of a choice that publishers had regarding the Chinese market regulations. Either it’s withdraw entirely and lose a few million players, or simply abide by the laws. Some publishers, like Hi-Rez Entertainment, have already decided to abide by the laws. However, Blizzard Entertainment remained quiet for the major portion, then worked out a workaround that will mean abiding with Chinese laws and not revealing drop rates from the loot boxes in their games.

Blizzard Entertainment have decided to start selling arcane dust for Hearthstone, and credits for Overwatch, which are in-game currencies available in the two games, used for unlocking new cards or skins.

Blizzard sells the customer credits in Overwatch, and the buyer gets certain amount of loot boxes free as a reward.
Blizzard sells the buyer arcane dust, and buyer gets a thank-you gift – packs.

As a thank-you gift from Blizzard for the purchase, the buyer is gifted packs or loot boxes relative to the amount of dust purchased by the user. Basically, you’re purchasing packs, and getting a free amount of dust or credits with it. Using this dust and credits, you can unlock in-game skins or cards. However, in their paperwork to the Chinese Government , they are showing that they are selling dust or credits and not packs or loot boxes, so the new market regulations don’t apply to them, and they need not reveal their true drop rates.

Initially, the drop rates were partially revealed, but all Blizzard had done was confirm the presence of a “pity timer” in their games, nothing else. The actual algorithms used for generating the drop rates would never be revealed to the public now, and any form of legal action against them would backfire, as they have effectively fooled the law agencies implementing the new market regulations for video games in China. The problem is on a bigger scale though, since the lack of clarity on the business model used in most of the Blizzard games would mean Blizzard can continue to assure players (anyone who have spent time and money in their games) by false facts without any figures to back it up, and all anyone can do is swallow it, because they have no proof to legally contradict Blizzard.

Many big AAA game publishers like Ubisoft and EA are already under flak because of their bad market policies, and Blizzard’s decision not to reveal drop rates does nothing positive in this aspect, either. All you have are statistical data, and the fact that “drops improve” with time. In-game microtransactions is a heavily debated topic, and taking these sort of corporate decisions in order to increase the revenue earned from the sale of packs reflects negatively on the industry.

While skins do not effect gameplay (who am I kidding here?) in Overwatch, a collection without legendary cards would not be enough for a single deck played in the current metagame in Hearthstone, most of which include epics and legendaries, which are expensive, unless one has the patience to farm for them, or the money to buy packs and ensure they come as drops. Blizzard was already under flak for removing adventures, a cost-effective means of getting cards, and replacing them with expansions in Hearthstone (it is much more difficult to get the cards you need from the packs) which was justified as it formed the basis for the increase in the variety of decks in the metagame.

The path before Blizzard is clear, either they embrace the criticism of the players and implement the much necessary changes – which start with revealing the drop rates of in-game microtransactions, or simply transform into another Ubisoft or EA of the day.

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