I used to love Blizzard‘s MOBA game Heroes of the Storm. Then I didn’t. Now I do again. Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in. With cosmetic loot.

Heroes of the storm kerrigan cheerleader

I’ve always loved Blizzard, but I also love my free time. Back in the day, I would gladly spend hours playing Starcraft, Diablo II, or Warcraft III, simply because they were great games and I got to enjoy them with friends. Nowadays, I work full time and have a social life, so my free time is more precious (particularly since I’m restarting Nerd Speaker). So in general, I tend to choose to devote my time to only one online competitive game at a time.

Back then, I would play online games purely for fun. While that’s still true, now they’re sucking me in with loot. Since the launch of both Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch, Blizzard is particularly good at manufacturing the need to login and play their games on a semi-regular basis to earn rewards in the form of hero unlocks and cosmetic loot. Heroes of the Storm is a freemium game, and when it first came out, the loot was restricted to mostly hero mounts and a couple of skins, nothing exciting. I was really into the game for a while, leveling up heroes and performing daily quests to earn gold to unlock more heroes without having to spend real money, but the game became tedious to me, and I never felt compelled to spend money on it.

Once Overwatch launched, I was hooked – the game is simply more fun, and frankly, I’m better at it. Also, by playing you would earn loot boxes – little gifts with random cosmetic rewards that are addictive to receive. So I uninstalled Heroes of the Storm and didn’t miss it at all. Until the recent launch of the diabolical Heroes of the Storm Nexus 2.0 event.

Blizzard is smart. They know that cosmetic rewards, as shallow as they may be, have an appeal to players who spend hours of their time hoping to receive something ‘tangible’ to justify their hours of playtime. So when they created an event that made it so by playing games in Heroes of the Storm you would unlock new skins in Overwatch, I was immediately interested. “I’ll just reinstall the game and do the minimum requirements to earn the cool Genji and D.Va skins in Overwatch,” I thought to myself. How wrong I was.

What I hadn’t realized was that Blizzard had recently introduced the concept of loot boxes to Heroes of the Storm, and when I first logged in, I had a huge pile of loot boxes retroactively given to me based on my previous playtime to open. Skins, mounts, voice lines and sprays. These sorts of rewards are crack to anybody who has a collector mentality. Of course, you’re not going to get exactly what you want, and sometimes you never will, but receiving duplicate items offer you resources to then purchase the exact items you want, making you feel as if this whole system is fair and will ultimately reward you.

Yes, cosmetic loot is shallow, but playing the games with skins and other items for your favorite characters feels like a badge of honor. “I earned this,” you think, and “this item makes me a part of the game elite.” You just look so cool and feel a sense of pride in showing off. So I played my minimum games in Heroes of the Storm to earn the skins in Overwatch. Then I played a bit more. Then some more. Now I haven’t turned on Overwatch to play in over two weeks. I want to level up my heroes in Heroes of the Storm to earn more loot, and since I’m still at a relatively low level, it doesn’t take much effort to earn those loot boxes.

Of course, I actually enjoy the game, I simply forgot I had. With this event, Blizzard will successfully pull back old fans like myself, and their end goal is to get players playing both Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm simultaneously (and of course, to drop money on earning loot). I have spent money on loot boxes during special limited time events in Overwatch (often being disappointed in the process as the loot boxes I purchased were still randomized), and it may come to the point where I spend money on Heroes of the Storm. Or I might just get bored of it again, who knows. One thing is for sure though, I still plan to only devote my free time to one out of the two games at any given time.

When Blizzard eventually makes an event that requires you to play more than one of their games during a limited period to earn rewards, I’ll either throw up my hands and walk away… or get sucked in to the abyss and say goodbye to my free time.