Overwatch 2 might be the first sequel in history that players of the original begged the developers not to make. Through a small handful of gameplay changes and minor visual updates, it just barely manages to justify its own existence. It feels like it’s Blizzard’s attempt to restructure the monetization into a more profitable, industry-standard model, which people have rightly pointed out benefits the publisher, but doesn’t actually provide any value to the players. At first blush, Overwatch 2 comes across like a dark tulpa of the original – a product designed to increase profits and engagement without offering anything that meaningfully increases enjoyment. Within the broader context, Overwatch 2 follows this year’s Diablo: Immortal as just another anti-consumer title from a mega corp that used to actually care about its fans and reputation. There’s never been a particularly good answer to the question “Why does Overwatch 2 exist?”, and I don’t anticipate there ever will be.
And yet, I remain hopeful. I’ve never been accused of being an optimist, but I think Overwatch 2 has a potential that the original was never going to realize. There’s plenty to criticize about Overwatch 2, but there’s also some things we can appreciate. Four or five years down the road, we may just find Overwatch 2 in a better position than Overwatch was ever going to be in. Blizzard has done a horrendous job marketing and championing this game, but allow me to take a stab at it: I think Overwatch 2 is a better game, and the things we hate are going to end up being necessary evils that ensure it stays alive and healthy for many years to come.
If you’re not intimately familiar with Overwatch, it might be hard to tell Overwatch 2 is even a different game. It has a few new characters and some new maps, a new game mode called Push, plus some subtle character redesigns, but it's largely the same game it's always been. But if you’ve been an active Overwatch player, a lot of the subtle changes have actually made a pretty big difference.
The most apparent is the team size reduction. Overwatch 2 features 5v5 battles instead of 6v6, meaning both teams have one less tank in the fight. Opinions will vary, but I think it’s obvious that this is a huge improvement. Half the number of tanks means half the number of shields, which means fights are more active and exciting. Instead of both teams poking at each other from behind cover until everyone fires off their ults, every match is a constant back and forth. Getting picks has a much greater impact, so it’s easier to coordinate pushes with your team, even if you’re only communicating non-verbally. It’s a simpler, easier to follow spectator experience, which will help the Overwatch League reach a wider audience. Resizing the teams has an effect on every aspect of the game, and it’s been overwhelmingly positive.
Losing a tank opened the door for major, much needed reworks to a lot of heroes. Tanks like Reinhardt and Orisa now have more utility and survivability since they have to tank for the entire team, while shield breakers like Bastion get to take a step back and fill a different role. I’m not suggesting that every character is perfectly balanced now, but I see so many improvements already. It’s hard not to be excited about the new Overwatch meta. A shakeup like this was never going to happen without a title change.
What Overwatch really needed was the same thing that every live-service game needs: content. While development of Overwatch 2 caused a lengthy drought in the original, Overwatch wasn’t exactly on par with the rest of the live service game market either. A new hero every few months and a rehashed holiday event just weren’t cutting it. There’s a lot of people moaning about the new seasonal model in Overwatch 2, but if they were being honest, most of them would admit Overwatch wasn’t holding their attention. The luster fell off Overwatch after a couple of years, and the quarterly cadence of a new hero or map was not going to keep Overwatch alive.
I am not thrilled about the new monetization, and I think at the very least there needs to be more ways to earn Overwatch Coins. That being said, we all know how free-to-play games work. If Blizzard makes a bunch of $20 skins, people will buy them. The hope is that Blizzard will reinvest that revenue back into the game so that we don’t have to replay Lucioball or Mei’s Snowball Offensive for the umpteenth time. We’re going to get five or six heroes a year instead of two or three. We’re going to get new maps, new game modes, and a whole new PvE story experience. Overwatch needs to change and grow all the time to keep people playing. The original wasn’t built to be that game, but hopefully Overwatch 2 is.
The grim reality is that the entire reason Overwatch 2 exists is to change the way Blizzard makes money. All of the meta changes, like the battle pass, Coin system, and locking new players out of content until they grind enough, are designed to increase revenue and engagement metrics. I don’t think we should ignore that or give Blizzard a pass, and if that’s enough to get you to give up on Overwatch 2 I don’t blame you. As someone who still loves the game, I’m willing to accept fewer free rewards if it means more frequent updates and better events. It’s simply too soon to write it off for me. I need to see how the devs respond to feedback and how much the game changes over the next year. None of this is ideal, but in the long run, it could end up being exactly what Overwatch needed.
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