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Blizzard avoids China's loot laws by selling Overwatch in-game currency

In-game currency will now be sold for real money, with loot boxes thrown in for free

Blizzard will start selling Overwatch's in-game currency to its Chinese players, in an apparent response to new laws around the transparency of microtransactions.

According to a post on Blizzard's Chinese forums, the option to purchase Overwatch credits for hard currency will be introduced in version 1.12. There are five payment options, ranging from 5 credits for ¥12 ($1.77) up to 120 credits for ¥238 ($35), all of which come with free loot boxes - 2 in the case of the ¥12 tier, and 50 for the ¥238 tier.

The addition of free loot boxes is the key point here, as loot boxes are the principal microtransaction in Overwatch for other territories around the world. In China, though, a recent change in the law means that games need to include percentage rates for items distributed through randomised systems like loot boxes.

The law, which came into effect on May 1, requires online publishers to "promptly publicly, announce information about the name, property, content, quantity, and draw/forge probability of all virtual items and services" of this kind, on either the game's official website or a website dedicated to that purpose. Another clause stated that a public record of the "random draw results by customers" should be made publicly available for 90 days. Blizzard complied with these new measures, as Polygon reported in May.

Blizzard's new approach, which is specifically for China, gets around the issue by ostensibly giving away the loot boxes for free, while selling amounts of an in-game currency normally acquired through those same loot boxes and by swapping duplicate items.

Overwatch is published by NetEase in China, where it retained its buy-to-play model despite free-to-play having dominated the country's gaming culture for many years. In calendar 2016, Overwatch sold 5 million units in the region, setting a new record for "buy-to-play PC client games" in mainland China.

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Matthew Handrahan


Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.