Since its release in 2016, Overwatch has established itself as the king of the team hero shooter genre. Its mechanics and colorful world help make the game stand out and endear its characters and world to its fans. That’s why when Overwatch 2 was announced at BlizzCon 2019, people were excited for what was coming next.
However, since that day, the first game’s updates slowed to a crawl, and new content looks to become even more sparse after this year’s BlizzConline. With no mention of Overwatch or Overwatch 2 in the opening ceremony, Blizzard is signaling to fans that they shouldn’t expect any new content until the sequel releases in 2022. While it is easy to see why Blizzard would take this route, it’s splintering its fan base and risking its dedicated crowd for the short term.
Why would Blizzard abandon the first Overwatch?
Plain and simple, the Overwatch team focusing their time and resources on Overwatch 2 helps that game come out both sooner and presumably with better quality. Holding back content from the first game for the second also helps them sell the new game as a full-blown sequel. The more additions the consumer gets with the new game helps Blizzard justify why they need to purchase it. Even with both games integrating with each other in PvP, if Blizzard holds back content, that makes the launch of the new game feel like a substantial event.
Additionally, releasing new heroes, maps, and content in the first Overwatch does not help sell that game anymore. A sequel generates excitement for an IP again. Even with Overwatch being a live-service game, does updating it with heroes generate excitement for anyone outside of the community that’s already dedicated to it? I argue it does not. I love this game and every single one of its characters, but for Overwatch 2 to capture as big of an audience as possible, dumping as many heroes, maps, and other content at one time is essential,if only to invigorate excitement again.
Is it the right move?
On the one hand, the more excitement for Overwatch 2, the better. On the other, there is a dedicated community in the game now that is being ignored and drained of any excitement. The game’s biggest reason for people to come back is its seasonal events, but those have been the same thing running every year for nearly five years. Returning to a game for a few new cosmetics is, frankly, not worth your time, especially when you can get those same cosmetics at a later time. The introduced game modes in seasonal events have been stale for a while now too. Seeing the same content for five years will simply drain a fan base of any will to continue playing.
To be fair to Blizzard, it does regularly patch in new hero updates to the game, which at least continues to alter the meta in the core Quick Play and Competitive modes. Those are the main reasons to play Overwatch in the first place. That being said, there have been no new game modes added to those main focuses since the game launched. We have been playing the same modes, continually, on the same maps, for almost half a decade. PvP matches can keep a little bit of excitement since you are playing against other humans, but even then, people want to experience something new.
So is draining Overwatch of new content until the sequel comes out the right move? It depends on how you view the game as it is now. If you play only for the competitive experience, you might be content with the game as it is now. If you like a varied experience and want to see new things introduced, it obviously is a bad move. A year or more is a long time to wait for a game to receive significant content. Blizzard is betting on itself that Overwatch 2 will be worth that wait.
How Overwatch survives until the sequel
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you are against Overwatch seeing minimal content until Overwatch 2 releases. It is likely going to happen. The important thing here is how the Overwatch community gets by until that time.
As stated earlier, Quick Play and Competitive are brilliant game modes that are still a great time, especially if you are playing with teammates you are familiar with. The game feels as good as it did back when it was young, and the Arcade and Workshop sections are great ways to attempt to keep gameplay semi-fresh in your own way. I also recommend engaging with or creating for the community. Whether that is streaming your gameplay, making YouTube videos, creating fan art, or starting a discussion with someone new, becoming a part of a community is a great strategy for finding a new way to love Overwatch.
Outside of that, do not feel like you are obligated to play Overwatch. I played the game almost every day for the better part of three years, but I’ve since learned that it’s okay to take a break from it and come back later. Sometimes it’s actually better that you do that. There are so many games you can play in the meantime, and when you decide to come back, you can enjoy it again.
Overwatch is an IP that’s managed by a gigantic gaming company and adored by millions of fans. While its distant future seems bright, the next year-plus will be a rough trek for long-time, dedicated fans. Blizzard seems content with risking the goodwill of the community for big returns upon Overwatch 2’s release.