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Don’t buy Overwatch loot boxes to get the new batch of skins

Save your money for an event, trust us


Blizzard dropped a bunch of new skins and other cosmetics into loot boxes in its Jan. 23 patch for Overwatch. A lot of the new stuff is really cool, but you shouldn’t spend money on Overwatch loot boxes right now.

Here’s why.

What’s new, and how do you get it?

In addition to the new Blizzard World map, the patch adds a dozen legendary skins. Half a dozen of these tie into the Blizzard World theme by dressing Overwatch characters as characters from other Blizzard games:

  • Blackhand Doomfist and Magni Torbjorn from Warcraft
  • Nova Widowmaker and Immortal Orisa from StarCraft
  • Barbarian Zarya and Butcher Roadhog from Diablo

Meanwhile, Mei and Reinhardt get their outfits from their animated short videos, Hanzo gets a Kabuki-themed skin, Lucio gets a capoeira skin, Pharah gets Egyptian-themed armor and D.Va gets to be a goth lolita with cat ears for some reason.

We’re also getting new epic-tier skins for characters that didn’t get legendaries in this batch, and they include more significant model and texture changes than we have previously seen on most skins in that tier. There are also some new emotes, highlight intros, sprays and icons.

All this stuff is going into the regular Overwatch loot table. It’s pretty rare that Blizzard adds new cosmetics to the base loot table; the studio has only done it to add skins for new champs, or to make Heroes of the Storm promo skins available to all Overwatch players. When Blizzard has released batches of cosmetics, those items have usually been associated with an event, like Halloween, Christmas or the game’s first anniversary. Event skins are only available during their event, which typically runs for three weeks. These new skins, however, will be available from regular boxes, all the time. There’s no rush to acquire them.

Unfortunately, unlike event skins — which are pulled from smaller event loot tables — this batch is going straight into the enormous general loot table, which includes at least four skins for each of the game’s 26 heroes. So if you’re a new player or you haven’t opened many boxes, the odds that the next legendary skin you get will be one of these slick new ones is only about one in 11. And according to Blizzard’s Chinese regulatory disclosures, you’ll only see a legendary skin once in every 13 boxes.

Since July 2017, you no longer get duplicate items in Overwatch boxes if there are items you don’t own of the same type and rarity. That means that the skins you’ve already got are removed from the loot table that your future boxes draw from. If you’re only missing 50 skins, then about one in six legendary skins you get going forward will be one from this batch. If you’ve spent or played enough to get all the previously available skins, then all the legendaries you’ll get will be these, until you’ve collected them all. At that point you’ll start seeing duplicates.

However, most players are missing a lot of skins from the base loot table, and that means that most players are a lot more likely to get the old wackness than the new hotness. If you’re missing most of the existing skins, you could easily spend $80 to buy 100 boxes and only get one or two of the new legendaries. And zero is a real possibility.

The good news is that, while Blizzard charges the exorbitant price of 3,000 crafting credits for event skins, these new skins are priced the same as other skins on the base loot table: a more reasonable 1,000 credits. So if one of your main heroes got a new skin or if you just love some of these, crafting several skins is a much more viable option for these than it is for event skins.

Event boxes are better than regular boxes

Overwatch’s loot boxes are controversial, and a lot of players feel they’re exploitative. I’m not saying you should buy loot boxes, but if you do, you should get as much loot as you can for your money.

If you’re going to spend money to get loot boxes, or if you’re going to set aside time to grind with the objective of getting loot, there is significant evidence that you’ll get more legendary skins for the same amount of cash or time during Overwatch’s events.

While the exact mechanisms that determine loot in Overwatch are opaque, I’ve opened a few hundred loot boxes myself and watched thousands of box openings on YouTube. Based on what I’ve seen, normal loot boxes yield about the number of skins you’d expect based on the Chinese disclosures, while event boxes yield significantly more.

In response to a player complaint about getting legendary cosmetics from the general loot pool in event boxes, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan explained that the general items and the event items pull from separate loot tables, and that the normal items in the box do not replace any event items.

Most players who track loot box stats believe that Overwatch boxes have a base chance for each item to be legendary, probably a 1 percent chance, and then there is a “pity timer” — a factor that progressively increases your chance of getting a legendary for each box you open without getting one, until you get a legendary, at which point it resets.

Statistical analysis of thousands of packs has proven that a pity timer governs legendary card distribution in Hearthstone. While the Overwatch community has not conducted a comprehensive analysis of loot boxes that proves the existence of a pity timer, there is good reason to believe that a similar mechanism exists.

I could not find a video of anyone opening 50 loot boxes and getting zero legendaries. I could not find a thread on Reddit or on Blizzard forums complaining that this happened. If loot boxes simply had a one in 13 chance of containing a legendary, then a set of 50 boxes would contain zero legendaries about 2.6 percent of the time, which would be pretty common. Since this never seems to happen, some mechanism must be preventing it from happening. That’s probably the pity timer.

Kaplan says that legendary drops from the general loot pool don’t affect the event drops, which probably means that there are separate pity timers for event legendaries and regular legendaries when you are opening event loot boxes. That would make sense, since it’s common to see people opening 50 regular boxes get three to five total legendary drops, while people opening 50 event boxes often get three to five regular legendaries and three to five event legendaries.

Event boxes seem to have more legendary skins in them. Possibly twice as many. Statements from Overwatch’s developers pretty much confirm that this is the case. So if you’re itching to buy some boxes, wait for an event. The items, in this case, will still be waiting for you.

In its first year, Blizzard ran a Summer Games event in August, a Halloween event in October, a Christmas event in December, a Lunar New Year event in February, a lore-themed event called Uprising in April and an event celebrating the game’s anniversary in May. So far, in its second year, Blizzard has kept the same schedule. An Overwatch event is never more than a few weeks away, so don’t buy boxes when events aren’t running.

Craft the skins if you want them, otherwise wait for an event

Buying loot boxes is not an effective way to get these new skins. Unless you have already collected most of the existing legendary skins, you’re much more likely to get the old ones than the new ones. And since there is no event currently running, you won’t get very many legendaries.

If you want some of these skins right away, crafting is your best bet, since they cost a relatively affordable 1,000 credits.

If you want to buy loot boxes, you should wait for an event. Event boxes still give you normal legendaries, but also give you limited-time event legendaries, and event boxes seem to yield more total legendaries than regular boxes.

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