Blizzard Says Their 'Cool Meter' Was Off On Mei's Holiday Overwatch Skin

Illustration for article titled Blizzard Says Their 'Cool Meter' Was Off On Mei's Holiday Overwatch Skin

Overwatch skins might appear to be simple cosmetic alterations, but for some, they’re a matter of life and death. Or at least life and death by embarrassment. Fashion faux pas simply will not stand in this endless war of waifus and husbandos.


Overwatch’s Winter Wonderland event and brawl center around Mei, who received a new skin as part of the deal. Some players, however, think Mei got the short end of the stick compared to other heroes, with a skin that’s essentially a re-color of a preexisting skin plus a Christmas hat. Despite its relative simplicity, the skin is “legendary,” meaning it’s pretty darn expensive compared to everything else in the game.

Ever since Winter Wonderland kicked off a couple days ago, people have been grumbling. Recently, Blizzard decided to speak up about it on Overwatch’s forums. Game director Jeff Kaplan wrote:

“Sorry you are disappointed with Mei’s winter skin. We don’t have a specific rule for what makes something Legendary or Epic. We just sort of make a gut call based off of what we think is cool. Coolness is very subjective, and based off of the community reaction it seems like our gauge was off on this one. Our reasoning for it being Legendary was that we completely redid the visual effects for Cryo-Freeze (we turned the ice block into a snowman). We thought that was pretty special and we had done it specifically based on community suggestions from months ago when people were speculating that we might have a winter event. Apparently, lots of people don’t agree with us and that’s ok. It’s all good feedback and we’re learning something for future events.”

He added that he’s sorry Blizzard’s “cool meter” was off and said we should expect another legendary Mei skin early next year.

So basically, Blizzard thought it was cool enough that the holiday skin added a neat effect to one of Mei’s most important abilities, and to be honest, I’m inclined to agree with them. It seems like some people judged the skin on a surface level without considering what it did, and then knee-jerked themselves into a frothy rage. Now Blizzard has two possible takeaways: 1) pair cool effects with overtly new and different looks, or 2) focus on overtly new and different looks, because people don’t really care about effects. I hope they go with the former!

But hey, at least we got some interesting insight into Blizzard’s process for creating skins. As they said, they stumbled into a place where their definition of “cool enough” and fans’ definition of “cool enough” didn’t align. Now Blizzard can update theirs and move forward. It’s kinda funny, considering that some Overwatch fans have a tendency to see maniacal plotting (or at least calculated corner-cutting) in all of Blizzard’s decisions. Meanwhile, Blizzard actually makes a not-insignificant number of choices based around gut feelings and intangible ideas like “cool enough.” Big-budget game development is a science optimized to get us hooked and take our money, except when it’s super not.

Kotaku senior reporter. Beats: Twitch, streaming, PC gaming. Writing a book about streamers tentatively titled "STREAMERS" to be published by Atria/Simon & Schuster in the future.


Well, seeing as I had no clue the skin had an alternate effect on her abilities, maybe they should advertise that more?