Battle passes now go hand in hand with most multiplayer games. Pay a little money, get a lot of content, everyone wins theoretically. So with the arrival of Overwatch 2, I got stuck in and started earning its goodies. I got sprays, emotes, player icons, sprays again, skins, and voice lines, and yes even more sprays. I’ve finished the battle pass now, and I’ve even earned a couple of those special name tags you can put under your name to show everyone you’ve spent a lot of time in Overwatch 2 this season. So why do I feel nothing for Overwatch 2’s battle pass?
Loot boxes are a terrible way to get people to invest a lot of money and time into games, and experts like the NHS mental health director claim they push children into gambling (opens in new tab). We have covered how bad loot boxes are time (opens in new tab) and time again (opens in new tab). They’ve even been banned in some regions. Recent studies have reported that even with the majority of players spending money in a safe way, 9.4% of the selected group did have indicators of excessive, obsessive, or problematic gambling behaviours paying for loot boxes in FIFA (opens in new tab). And now I’ve professed my support for loot boxes being eliminated from lots of games, I’m going to have to admit I really miss them in Overwatch.
It’s a bit embarrassing, but as awful as they are, the alternative hasn’t been doing it for me. After spending a lot of time in Overwatch 2 and the season one battle pass (prestige levels excluded), I can’t say I feel much pleasure in getting the 80 levels of goodies. I’m not immune to the excitement a battle pass can give me and I’ve been dedicated to chomping through them before, but there are a couple of big reasons why it was more of a slog this time.
The first is that I played a lot of Overwatch 1. I have years worth of incredible skins, emotes, and other stuff sitting in my hero inventories to use, so being offered more, though nice, isn’t that exciting unless they’re top tier goodies. This battle pass just has some boring additions, like Winston’s Tactical army skin and Junker Queen’s Beast Hunter caveman-esque skin. Even Sojourn’s legendary Commando skin does nothing for me. Genji’s Mythic skin at the end of the battle pass is really the only thing that catches the eye because, not only is it pretty badass, it’s the first skin to offer customisation. All the games I played were more to get that one skin because it’s the first of its kind.
This isn’t helped by Blizzard running a seasonal event like the Halloween event alongside the battle pass because you can see how much more exclusive the new paid skins feel compared to the battle pass ones. Some of the skins in the battle pass are great, like Mercy’s Miko skin, Pharah’s Sky Centurion, and Kiriko Hinotori, but with everyone getting them as they play, they feel less special.
There are a few new things that Overwatch players didn’t have before, like the weapon charms, but seeing a little pin stuck into the hand of some players is kind of off putting. Poor Sigma, it’s shoved into the side of his hand. Souvenirs are also new but work a lot like victory poses at the end of a game, so they’re not too exciting either. Character skins are what Overwatch is known for doing exceptionally well and anything other than them can be a little lacklustre in comparison.
The other issue is that the loot box system promoted a diversity of skins, sprays, and emotes. In peak Overwatch days, seeing a player with a new seasonal skin was kind of cool because you’d stand around them while waiting for the game to start, looking at the details, talking to your friends about what you liked/disliked/thought of the skins in general. There wasn’t a set path for grabbing skins—there was an element of randomness. Someone could just get an awesome Nutcracker Zenyatta skin or Dr. Junkenstein Junkrat skin accidentally. Now I see a skin and I know they just paid for the pass. There’s no real fun in that, no chance, no luck, just grind.
Even though my other go-to hero shooter, Valorant, makes you outright pay for skins outside the battle pass, it feels worse here. I think it’s because in Overwatch the things you own aren’t sharable. In Valorant, you can play with other skins you find on the ground in-game or as you wait for a round to start, swapping your gun with someone else’s. You can play with so many different skins just by playing the game. Overwatch is way more static than that. You pay for a skin and then it’s only really yours to enjoy.
I’m not saying that Overwatch 2 should bring loot boxes. But I do miss some of that random joy they provided players, which is sort of the problem isn’t it? These “surprise mechanics” can be a predatory system that players can get hooked on. That it’s appealing doesn’t make it any less predatory. So if not loot boxes, what would be better?
If there was a way to incorporate a more randomised version of gaining great skins in Overwatch 2, I’d support it. Perhaps on the battle pass Blizzard could provide a surprise epic skin, emote, or something to change things up. A token for a skin from the store or from a collection, even from the previous game, would mean that I’d see more skins on different players in-game. Maybe if you had a most-played hero that season you’d be more likely to get given a skin of theirs, or just one from your top 10. Even a hint of randomness would be exciting.
I just can’t really believe I put all that work into getting through a battle pass without feeling elated or joyous at completing the entire thing, as I have with others in the past. The skins are fine, the rewards are ample, the lack of an XP curve also means you regularly get new goodies, there is just some pizazz missing from the experience. I hope in future seasons of the game there is something more rewarding about how we pay for and support Overwatch 2. There has to be more to it than this, Right?