Less than a month before its October 4 launch, Blizzard is revealing even more details about the game, clarifying some of the rumors and showing off its newest hero, Kiriko.
Since it was teased on Blizzcon in 2018, Overwatch 2 has been this great monolith of a game, a target that Blizzard and its fans are slowly traveling towards. In recent months, and as part of Blizzard’s commitment to better communicate its progress on Overwatch 2, we learned quite a bit about the game. We’ve seen new heroes, new maps, a new progression system and a fundamental shift in the way the game will be played. But there are other equally fundamental parts of Overwatch 2 which have only come to light through leaks and substantiated with some vague tweets.
Last week, due to a snafu with the description of the Overwatch 2 Watchpoint Pack, fans accidentally learned that heroes in Overwatch 2 behind the progress of the battle pass would be shut down. Later, overwatch commercial lead Jon Spector, confirmed that yes, heroes will no longer be automatically assigned to players as they were in overwatch prime, but would be reachable through both the premium and free versions of the Battle Pass. Spector gave no further explanation of the flurry of questions that followed, but in an interview with… The edgethose questions and more were answered.
The main question on the mind of many players was why? Why change how heroes are reached? The answer is pretty simple: this shit isn’t free.
“When we looked at making this transition to free play, one of the great goals we had was to be able to give [original] overwatch players what they wanted, and that was just continuous content delivery,” said overwatch general manager Walter Kong. “Our core development team has approximately tripled in size since launch overwatch and we have many more people working on the game in partner teams, and we want to be able to continuously invest in this live game service. So from a business perspective, this is not free.”
Of Overwatch 2 going free-to-play, the initial investment overwatch prime fans put in the game no longer exists for the sequel. But making games costs money, and making a good game that is better than its predecessor requires significant commitment. A commitment that Overwatch 2 developers decided the best way to monetize was through a battle pass model.
“The heroes are the most engaging content we have in the game,” Kong continued. “And when we designed this model, it seemed like a very good fit to put those heroes in our new engagement systems.”
It seems to be a trade. Blizzard tells its players that they no longer have to pay for this game, but to make up for that, it needs to implement a way to keep people playing. Locking heroes to keep the battle pass progress keeps players occupied in the hopes of throwing a few bucks here and there every now and then to make that grind easier or to buy another new premium shiny. That’s the price of doing business and it feels like a fair trade. So what does that mean for the way the game is played?
“The heroes are the most engaging content we have in the game”,
Right now, a game on the competitive ladder relies heavily on team composition, what the pros call “the meta.” Whatever hero is in the current meta is the one being played and more often than not, the meta hero is the newest. Have a look at random overwatch League match in the last three weeks and you will see Junker Queen front and center. Locking the newest heroes behind a progression gate could hinder the people who want to be on the brink of whatever metas come Overwatch 2. The developers know this is a huge stumbling block for players, but they’re fairly confident that the new hero system won’t affect the competitive ladder as players now fear.
“If you look at the data on how often people switch heroes and how many heroes they typically play at the same time, the majority of our players play a relatively small number of heroes,” said game director Aaron Keller. “And when they switch to heroes, we think it’s because they switch to a hero they’re familiar with, a hero they’re effective with, or a hero they’re having fun with.” It seems that the complaint that players could lose their competitive edge because they don’t have the latest hero isn’t indicative of how players actually play.
In our interview, the developers also talked about how new heroes won’t be immediately available on the competitive ladder for several weeks as they customize and fine-tune them so they don’t get overpowered. They hope the delay from arrival to availability will give players time to earn the hero. They also change how they design heroes so that matches don’t rely so much on the hero who is the most powerful.
“One of the big differences with 5v5 battles is that we tuned many of the heroes in the game and made changes to reduce the number of hard counters overwatch has,” Keller said. “We want the game to be a little more organic, we want people to have more impact, but we also want them to have more freedom in which hero they choose for a given situation.”
overwatch at this point is extremely dependent on the composition of the hero. If a Tracer is harassing your team, someone will switch to Brigitte and lock her up. That kind of pick-and-counter pick style has been at the heart of the game for the past six years. But that won’t be the way of the world anymore.
“In the future, we’ve been trying to take some of those really hard rock-paper-scissors interactions out of the game and replace them with more player choice,” Keller said.
Player choice is always great. It will hopefully lead to a greater diversity of heroes across the board. There are certain heroes (an attack Torbjorn for example) who never see serious playtime due to their perceived non-viability. There is hope that the changes the team has made will mean the highest levels of competition overwatch its not just mirror match after mirror match. At the same time, overwatchThe heroes and the way their different skills interact make the game unique. In the quest to make Overwatch 2 attractive to the maximum number of players, the developers may inadvertently lose the spirit of what created overwatch so different from his contemporaries.
“We’re trying to take some of those really hard paper scissors interactions out of the game and replace them with more player choice.”
The developers acknowledged that Overwatch 2 introduces so many changes that can be alienating to old players. But so did it overwatch scoop. (Day one Mercy main courseslet me hear you make some noise!) These changes weren’t made randomly, but because, the developers said, they were just giving the players what they wanted.
“This whole change from last year with the release of overwatch The way we do that is responding to our players’ desire to bring more content into the game,” said Keller. “I hope players can recognize that what they’ve asked for more than anything else is the thing we’ve focused on as a team more than anything else.”
Content is king and the battle pass system seems to fix the biggest complaint about it overwatch scoop. And while the developers have finally allayed some of the concerns players had, the real test will come on October 4, when we can finally play Overwatch 2.