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Overwatch players in China can now purchase in-game currency, but there's a catch

Overwatch players in China, according to this blog post translated by Reddit, are now able to spend real money to purchase in-game currency directly rather than relying on the randomness of loot box drops. But you probably shouldn't get too excited about the possibility of that option coming to our side of the planet anytime soon. The change looks to be less about giving players the option to buy stuff, and more an effort to comply with the letter of Chinese law. 

"Based on the new law, we will change the way how players buy loot boxes," the message says. "Rather than directly buying loot boxes, players now purchase in-game currency and will be gifted loot boxes. In-game currency can be used to unlock sprays, skins, etc." 

Here's the pricing: 

  • 5 in-game currency + 2 loot boxes - 12RMB
  • 15 in-game currency + 5 loot boxes - 30RMB
  • 30 in-game currency + 11 loot boxes - 60RMB
  • 60 in-game currency + 24 loot boxes - 120RMB
  • 120 in-game currency + 50 loot boxes - 238RMB

If you're familiar with the system, or know someone who is, you'll notice that the amount of "in-game credit" on offer is very low. ¥238 is a little over $40, while 120 credits will get you not-quite-halfway to a classic Epic skin, for instance—an awful lot of money for an effectively worthless sum of currency. But that piddly amount also comes with 50 loot boxes, which—surprise!—is the same amount of loot boxes, for roughly the same amount of money, that North American players get. 

The purpose, as several Redditors have pointed out, is to get around China's new law against selling "lottery" type items online for real money. It's functionally similar to the sale of tokens or trinkets in places like arcades, casinos, or beer tents (around here, anyway), which can then be exchanged for things that because of legal restrictions can't be directly purchased with real money. So in this particular case, the credits are a cover: You buy them, and Blizzard throws in a set number of loot boxes (which are what you're really here for) as a nice little bonus. 

A Blizzard rep confirmed in an email that the changes aren't likely to be seen in other regions anytime soon. "These changes are being made in accordance with regulations that recently went into effect in China," the rep said. "These loot box changes apply to China only. We currently don't have any plans to, but we always evaluate our systems based on performance and player feedback."

Andy Chalk
Andy covers the day-to-day happenings in the big, wide world of PC gaming—the stuff we call "news." In his off hours, he wishes he had time to play the 80-hour RPGs and immersive sims he used to love so much.