Why Opening Loot Boxes Feels Like Christmas, According To Game Devs

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Opening Overwatch loot boxes or Halo 5 REQ packs adds a special drama to a gaming session. The crate shakes. A jingle chimes. Lights peek out from the cracks. It swells with potential. Game developers make subtle design decisions that stoke the hope that keeps players opening mystery boxes, crates and packs. And not just on the stats side of things—just as important are the cosmetics of the experience.

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A combination of visual and aural factors can make it feel like Christmas, and that’s intentional according to people we recently spoke to who explained the designs of three totally different mystery mechanics.

Here’s the thinking behind each:

Overwatch Loot Boxes

During Overwatch’s Lunar New Year event, I tore through loot boxes with a single-minded goal: Roadhog’s “Bajie” skin. It drove me crazy. I’d watch the special edition box’s gears churn and shake until it exploded in fireworks. When the items hit the ground, gold nuggets rained from the sky. The whole experience is kinetic, a song and dance of lights and movement. It dulled the pain of never getting that skin.

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