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The Financial Motive Behind Overwatch 2

by Lidia Lucovic

The highly anticipated Overwatch 2 initially held great promise, offering a complete makeover that could breathe new life into Blizzard’s team-based first-person shooter. However, it has become increasingly evident that the game’s focus has shifted towards financial gains rather than fulfilling its potential. Despite receiving regular updates since its launch in October 2022, Overwatch 2 has failed to live up to the lofty expectations set for it. While the active player base continues to find enjoyment in the game, both long-time fans of the original title and newcomers have valid reasons to be disappointed with its current state.

First announced at Blizzcon in 2019, Overwatch 2 was initially presented as a sequel that would share multiplayer services with its predecessor. The game’s new features aimed to provide players with thrilling player versus environment (PvE) content, pitting them against AI enemies, while also delving deeper into the captivating world and narrative that serve as a backdrop for the standard multiplayer experience. However, as time passed, it became evident that the game’s launch plans were shifting away from the initial vision. Overwatch 2’s player versus player (PvP) component was launched ahead of the planned PvE content, effectively serving as a full replacement for the original game.

A recent Twitch stream featuring members of the Overwatch 2 development team, streamed on the official PlayOverwatch account, revealed a major overhaul of plans for the game’s Player versus Environment (PvE) mode. This announcement effectively marks the end of the original game vision. The cancellation of the PvE Hero mode was justified by the challenges encountered during development and the decision to prioritize the live game, which will receive the majority of future development resources. While new story missions will be introduced in the future of Overwatch 2, providing some solace to fans eagerly anticipating the PvE Hero mode, the extensive experience initially promised with the game’s announcement will no longer come to fruition.

One of the features axed from the Hero mode was the inclusion of Talents, unique abilities for each character that would enhance their existing skill set. These Talents were intended to be distributed among three trees, allowing players to unlock different abilities as they progressed. However, Blizzard has confirmed that Talents will no longer be present in any PvE content in Overwatch 2, which has left fans disappointed, as they were anticipating acquiring new skills for their beloved heroes. Although the forthcoming missions are expected to offer some narrative elements, the integration of a sophisticated progression system alongside the narrative seems unlikely.

The recent cancellation of Overwatch 2’s Player versus Environment (PvE) mode has shed light on the major divergence between Overwatch 2 and its predecessor, particularly in terms of the game’s approach to monetization. While the current iteration of the game is free-to-play, eliminating the initial purchase requirement of the original Overwatch, obtaining comparable access to heroes and cosmetics in Overwatch 2 demands a significantly higher financial commitment. The first game relied on loot boxes as its primary monetization strategy, offering skins, emotes, currency, and other items. This system, which distributed loot boxes as both free rewards and purchasable items, faced criticism. However, Overwatch 2’s alternative to loot boxes is even less favorable.

The majority of cosmetics in Overwatch 2 are predominantly inaccessible to players who are unwilling to purchase a battle pass or spend money in the shop. Engaging in either of these options can quickly accumulate a much larger investment than simply purchasing the first game. The most unfavorable change arises from the new approach to unlocking heroes. Free access to heroes can only be obtained by completing various challenges and, in the case of new additions, extensively grinding through the free battle pass. In a game centered around hero swapping and countering the opposing team’s picks, this places players who are unwilling to invest time or money in expanding their roster at a disadvantage.

If players still had the original Overwatch to enjoy, those who were anticipating the PvE Hero mode might not be as severely disappointed by the shift in plans. Developers cannot always realize every idea proposed, and the PvE mode likely required a larger scope than initially anticipated. However, as Overwatch 2 replaced the first game entirely, the absence of its main attraction shifts the focus to aspects that players may find less enjoyable compared to the original.

Apart from monetization, another significant change introduced in Overwatch 2 is the transition from 6v6 matchups to 5v5. For many players, this represents an improvement, intensifying gameplay and addressing certain frustrating elements from the first game, such as shooting through multiple enemy shields. However, players who prefer a more methodical playstyle or tanks who appreciated the synergy between heroes like Reinhardt and Zarya are left disappointed. The re-balancing of heroes for 5v5 also led to some characters taking on new roles, and while certain hero reworks in Overwatch 2 are well-received, fans who long for the old approach no longer have a means to experience it.

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