Blizzard Entertainment was planning to limit access to new Overwatch 2 heroes, such as the just-revealed support ninja Kiriko behind the games' battle pass system, according to Overwatch fans. This seems to be in violation of the original games design, since players could change up a team's lineup and counter-pick heroes on the fly.
However, Blizzard believes that the addition of new heroes to Overwatch 2 does not entail a complete stalemate. The game will remain competitive and fair, in Blizzards opinion, if some players acquire access to new heroes later, and the studio believes that there are important differences between the original, 6-year-old Overwatch and its upcoming free-to-play sequel.
Overwatch game director Aaron Keller stated that the game is still highly competitive. We know that players are concerned about the fact that their teams will be able to access heroes when they go live with this.
Keller noted that Overwatch 2, the five-hero team composition, and new passive abilities for some roles, will have a significant impact on how players pick characters and switch them out midmatch.
Keller said that one of the biggest differences with 5v5 combat is that weve tuned a lot of the heroes in the game and made changes to reduce the amount of hard counters that Overwatch has. We want the game to be more organic. We want people to have more impact, but we also want them to have more freedom in what hero they choose for any particular situation.
Keller said that in some of the older matches, a Tracer player might be able to take on a different role. And if the Cassidy player was capable of answering your back lines, the Tracer player would simply switch to another hero. That's what we've done so far, is increasing the player choice.
Keller said that some of the rules that governed Overwatch's original formula, which was launched with 21 heroes, are no longer valid after six years of changes, roster changes, and balance adjustments.
Keller said when we first developed Overwatch, we considered making it a free-to-play game with a limited hero roster and limited hero pools available to players. In that world, players would have had a very small choice of heroes to play at any time, unless they put money into the game.
Were we in a completely different situation right now? When [Overwatch 2] launches, there will be 35 heroes available to choose from. If you are a new player to the game, and season 1, without putting any money into the system, you will have 34 of those heroes available for you to pick from. Over the course of season 1, you can unlock that 35th hero.
According to Keller, Blizzard has player data that supports its decision data. Many players only play and switch between a subset of the larger roster.
The majority of our players play a relatively small number of heroes, according to his statement. We believe that when they switch heroes, they do so because they are playing a hero that they are familiar with, a hero that they are proficient with, and a hero that they are having fun with. And we think that the more skill level a player is, the more time they will be putting into the game.
Overwatch's commercial director and vice president Jon Spector said the company has invested a lot of time and energy into figuring out how to make this system more suitable for players and how to ensure that the game's competitive integrity is preserved.
When we first began working on this, Aaron made a pretty eye-opening discovery. On the other hand, a majority of Overwatch players spend most of their time playing two or fewer heroes. And you can see that in the majority of our players with 12 or fewer heroes. They have a cast of 30, and sometimes they'll swap and they'll add a couple more heroes.
When we consider the data, do we believe that it will impact the play experience?
Keller stated that as Blizzard has crafted and rebalanced Overwatch 2's 5v5 team composition, the company has strived to make the game more organic and fluid, and to reduce the reliance on hard counters.
Keller noted that there will still be some of these in the game, and there will certainly be instances in the future when we develop a hero that may have a new mechanic. It may take us a while to master the art of handling a hero, but generally [...] we still believe that team compositions, hero picking, and counter-picking are important elements of the game; we just dont want it to be the only correct answer.
Even with this new feature of putting heroes in the battle pass, we believe that with all of the other systems that we have in place, and with the additional ways of unlocking heroes, and with the additional ways that Overwatch has changed over time and the way that Overwatch 2 changed, we will still have a highly competitive game, even though some of the systems and decisions that weve made to get there are different from what we had planned.
Overwatch 2 is free to play, and Blizzard must make some revenue somewhere. Why not concentrate on the content that players are interested in the most, since it is by far the most expensive and labor-intensive to produce?
One of the great goals we had when we started working on becoming a free-to-play platform was to be able to provide [original] Overwatch players with what they desired, which was simply continual content delivery, according to Walter Kong, Overwatch's general manager. We know [that] because players have been stating that thats what keeps them engaged long-term.
The core development team at Overwatch has roughly tripled in size, and we have many more people working on the game on partner teams, and we want to be able to continue to invest in the live-game service, according to Kong. We spent a long time thinking about how to keep the game fair and enjoyable for all players, whether they choose to pay or to play for free. And our goal in terms of players who pay is to provide tremendous value.
Kong, Why did we include heroes in the battle pass? The heroes are the single most engaging content that we have in the game. And as we designed this model, it seemed to be a very strong fit, to include those heroes into our new engagement systems. There is this desire to be able to continue to deliver excellent content and experiences for years and years to come.
Overwatch 2, which includes its first season, will be available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X on October 4. A second season is expected to begin in December.