Back in February, I wrote about how Overwatch 2’s upcoming release and development were exciting, but having nothing significant added to the first game would harm the community. Fast forward nine months and an ongoing lawsuit later, and it is hard to say the general outlook on Overwatch 2 is even slightly more positive than back then. Now that the game is delayed to at least 2023, I’m stuck with several questions about the game.
Why was Overwatch 2 delayed?
When talking about the delays for Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4, Mike Ybarra, the now sole head of Blizzard, said that these delays were mostly a result of leadership changes on both teams. This is easy to understand and is likely not a reference to Jeff Kaplan leaving earlier this year.
In all actuality, this has more to do with Executive Producer Chacko Sonny leaving in September. Sonny was highly respected at Blizzard and was seen as one of the most integral pieces of the future of Overwatch following Kaplan’s departure. Sonny has not had any allegations lodged against him in the Activision Blizzard scandal but said he was taking some time off after five years of dedicated service, i.e., separating himself from all the bad will levied at the company right now.
Honestly, I believe that the changing leadership had a lot to do with the delay, but there may also be more to it than that. Obviously, Ybarra won’t want to mention the sexual harassment lawsuit as a contributing factor, but that has played a huge role in multiple areas of the company. Even BlizzCon was canceled recently. Both that and the delays all feel like moves made for the company to go as dark as possible for the immediate future. That way, they can come back a year from now and regenerate hype for their upcoming games. That is mere speculative thinking, though.
What does this mean for the first Overwatch?
After my article looking at how Overwatch may become stale because the development team was holding back updates for the sequel to come out, we found out that was essentially happening. Since then, the same events the game gets every year occurred with the same tired content. Otherwise, the only major addition this year has been a couple new Deathmatch maps. In fact, McCree’s much-needed name change to Cole Cassidy is probably the most significant update to Overwatch since Echo was added in April 2020. So what now?
I am disappointed to say I expect absolutely nothing. Let’s say Overwatch 2 was originally scheduled to release in May 2022, like some rumors were saying. All of that delayed work will only prolong the new core maps and heroes that used to breathe life into the original game, and now we have to wait even longer to play them. Content that we have known about for years that is on its way in Overwatch 2, like the hero Sojourn and the Toronto map and Push mode, will only be released alongside that full game release. In the meantime, expect the same slate of stale content for the next year plus.
Of course, I am disappointed by this. Recently I got back into playing Overwatch after about a six-month break. I still love the gameplay and needed the break, but I still stand by everything I said about Blizzard making a mistake turning their back on the first game and holding finished content for the sequel.
What about Overwatch League?
This is the biggest “short term” question for 2022 because it was revealed in September that the league will be playing an early build of Overwatch 2 once the new season begins in April 2022. Reportedly, that is still the plan. The only access to the new Overwatch PvP content will be restricted to the pros for a year. Maybe esport fans will enjoy that, but I think many will be angry at having to wait while the league gets to try out the shiny new toy. The fact that it is right there in front of us in a playable state, but only the best in the world can play it for a year only works to harm the excitement for the public release even more.
Overwatch 2 is still one of my most anticipated video games. I think Blizzard has failed to explain its situation and why people should be excited about it. There are very good criticisms about this not being a full sequel and more of an expansion. Regardless, people like me who used to (and some still do) play the game every day will be sitting here waiting for the drip feed of upcoming content. With changes finally happening at Activision Blizzard, I’m happy that things can take a turn for the better for the workers. I’m just running out of ways to explain why one of my favorite games of all time that markets itself as an ongoing service game when that’s no longer really true. Instead, it relies on being “fun” for players hoping for so much more.