Overwatch is a game that really needs no introduction, as its popularity ensured it became a household name even outside of gaming. Released in 2016, it has enjoyed a long reign as king of the hero shooter genre. It is an esports giant with the Overwatch League handing out hundreds of thousands of dollars to competitors worldwide, but it brings more to the table than an intense competitive scene. Overwatch was long considered a fun, dynamic game suitable for all (if you stay out of voice chat, that is), with generous cosmetics, inspiring and diverse character designs, and a large roster of hero kits to learn.
In 2019, a sequel to Overwatch was announced. Jeff Kaplan, the well-loved and trusted face of the dev team, presented a trailer that succeeded in generating massive hype. Fans were treated to sneak-peeks of Player Versus Environment content. It is important to note that the original did have PvE content in the form of replayable levels available during timed seasonal events. But Overwatch 2 was supposedly going to take it to the next level.
The company promised Story Missions, which would form a ‘highly replayable’ co-op campaign, which wouldn’t just come in the form of short, timed events. It would introduce a new style of play where players fought environmental enemies instead of each other, welcoming in a wave of gamers who weren’t fans of PvP or competitive gameplay. What really excited the community were Hero Missions: the introduction of skill trees, where players could fine-tune and customise new, innovative hero abilities.
After this announcement, Overwatch 1 was hit by a dearth of content. Efforts were focused on the sequel, which meant that the current game was neglected. There was very little in the form of events or updates. A lot of people moved on to other games while they waited. The general consensus was that while the lack of updates was off-putting, it would all be worth it when the sequel dropped.
It became glaringly obvious that monetisation was the biggest motivation behind the release of this sequel
Overwatch 2 was released in late 2022. As promised, we received new heroes at launch: Junker Queen, Sojourn, and Kiriko. We also received a new game mode called Push, as well as a few new maps. Many heroes underwent big changes to their abilities, such as Orisa and Mei, making them feel fairer to play both as and against. Day and night maps were reversed, although that didn’t feel too significant.
Those were the positive and expected changes.
A controversial feature was the transition from 6v6 to 5v5. This encouraged one tank, two DPS, and two supports. There were both advantages and disadvantages to this new experience, but it was generally accepted after players became accustomed to it.
A common criticism was that the game didn’t feel that different compared to the original. There were no groundbreaking alterations or additions, especially seeing as PvE was delayed.
There was one problem with Overwatch 2 that overshadowed any other, though.
The game had become free-to-play, so Blizzard employed a massively overpriced cosmetics shop and a Battle Pass in order to make a quick buck. It became glaringly obvious that monetisation was the biggest motivation behind the release of this sequel.
Many videos emerged criticising the outlandish prices for new skins, and even the low effort ‘legendary’ skins which were so much less creative than the original title. Although loot boxes are controversial and far from ideal, you were able to gain them via levelling up and other challenges in the original title. Now you had to buy the Battle Pass if you wanted any good cosmetics, because the grind for currency would take hundreds of hours.
Everything that players had been waiting for was cancelled
While some gave up on the game, many continued playing. There were fears that PvE content would be paid, or linked to the Battle Pass in some way. But many admitted they’d buy it anyway because they were so eager for the promised co-op campaign and hero customisation. PvP hadn’t changed all that drastically, but the PvE would be worth waiting for. We were sure of it.
That was until May 2023, when Blizzard dropped a huge bombshell regarding the game’s roadmap.
Forty minutes into a ‘dev chat’ stream, executive producer Jared Neuss declared that PvE would not be coming to Overwatch 2 in the way that was promised. There would be no skill tree or customisable abilities, nor would there be a full campaign. Everything that players had been waiting for was cancelled.
Neuss would go on to claim that a form of PvE would still be coming, but only episodically. This will likely be locked behind the Battle Pass or some other paywall, meaning that anyone wanting to play the full campaign will be charged each time new content gets released – another shrewd and greedy play, designed to empty players’ wallets instead of rewarding their loyalty. Despite the company attempting to disguise the enormity of this new development, fans are reaching the same conclusion: there was no justification for Overwatch 2.
It wasn’t the release of new maps and heroes, because Overwatch 1 did that regularly, before the whole dev team was diverted to the sequel. It wasn’t the transition to 5v5, because that is too minor of a change to justify a whole new game. It couldn’t be the balance changes to hero abilities, either, because that is a QoL update the original could have had. And it definitely couldn’t be the surviving PvE aspect, because Overwatch 1 also had timed PvE events.
The effect on the community has been profound. Even die-hard fans are devastated and seriously reconsidering their commitment to the game, realising that Activision-Blizzard used PvE as a Trojan horse to sneak monetisation past their fans. Once we all got used to the idea of paying through the nose for cosmetics and the seasonal battle pass, they would inform us that the sole most anticipated new feature had been scrapped, because it was too much effort compared to lazy cash-grabs.
So how can players make their voices heard?
The simple answer is that money talks. If the player count dips low enough, and people boycott the Overwatch shop and Battle Pass, Blizzard may rethink their plans. This is a slap in the face to the gaming community, and it’s high time this company suffered the consequences of their greed.