- Related Games:
Blizzard fans may find themselves distracted at this year’s BlizzCon, but the company promises to have some major announcements at its annual fan convention. It pretty much has to after last year’s reveal of Diablo: Immortal left the faithful wanting. One of the more persistent rumors involves a sequel to Overwatch, which is an interesting prospect all on its own. With games like Fortnite and Apex Legends reinventing themselves in rapid fashion, can Blizzard sell fans on a sequel only a few years after the first game? Many other studios regularly do just that, but Blizzard is not a normal studio. The Overwatch 2 rumors put a lot of questions out there, even those surrounding whether it should exist at this point or not.
Overwatch 2 | Storming the Fortress
While Overwatch is worthy of a follow-up, this is worth asking for many reasons. One of the most pressing is the continued existence of the game that Blizzard most borrowed from when salvaging Overwatch from the canceled MMO, Titan: Valve’s Team Fortress 2. It still chugs along with new updates 12 years after its release inside The Orange Box. Sure, the updates aren’t as numerous as they once were, but it is still in active development. Blizzard’s relatively young FPS far eclipses Valve’s in popularity. In addition, it’s arguable that it just recently struck a perfect balance with its Role Queue update. Why throw that all away now for something new and different?
Well, there are probably a few reasons. For one, Overwatch has what is becoming a forgotten relic of the gaming industry. Loot boxes, cosmetic as they are, have quickly become poison in the AAA industry. Countries ban them (or have tried to), gamers hate them, and most developers are moving away from that model. Blizzard may want to excise this particular aspect of Overwatch in a new title, replacing it with the more popular battle pass option or some other monetization scheme. However, that alone seems like an ill-conceived reason to start over again and leave existing players wondering if they should double-dip, especially players who worked so hard to collect all the skins and emotes in the first game. After all, failing to carry over cosmetics to the recent Switch version was one of its worst aspects.
Perhaps a more pressing issue for Blizzard involves how much Overwatch lost its luster over time. Upon release, Overwatch was top of the mountain, but that’s not the case anymore. Plenty of other games took inspiration, including colorful worlds and distinct “hero” characters in the intervening years. The things that made Overwatch special back in 2016 only serve to make it generic nowadays as more and more games latch onto that style. It’s something that’s hard to fix without a complete overhaul, which might just be what we’ll see at this year’s BlizzCon. There have been rumors that there will not be a new hero so Overwatch might just keep gradually sinking in popularity unless Blizzard has something grander planned for that three-and-a-half-year-old title.
Overwatch 2 | Reading the tea leaves
So, looking at the prominent rumors surrounding what Overwatch 2 is, what could we be seeing at BlizzCon in just a few days? Leaks coming out of the project state that Blizzard’s focus is on PvE combat, similar to several in-game events run over the game’s lifespan. There will be more of a focus on story, with existing heroes emerging with slightly new looks. This gives an excuse for Blizzard to rework cosmetics, which is good considering that there seems to be no transfer of unlocks between the original game and its follow-up. Heroes will retain their abilities and gain upgrades to help them slay omnics that much quicker.
While the focus seems to be moving away from full-on competitive multiplayer, some rumors say that Overwatch 2 will feature new additions there. A “Push” game mode comes up in several places, designed around the needs of competitive play. It’s currently unclear if this will be a mode accessible in Overwatch 2, Overwatch content locked behind a new purchase, or a free update coming alongside the new game. There are even scenarios where Overwatch 2 completely overtakes the original game, which would track considering that they’re calling it Overwatch 2 and not Overwatch: Revelations or some other name.
Overwatch 2 | Can the world use more heroes?
A straight upgrade of the payload multiplayer that’s already in place doesn’t sound like it will work out so well. You can already add new modes, characters, and maps to the existing Overwatch. What would a new version bring to the table to justify a new purchase? Why would players move on from an already functional and infinitely replayable sequel? Will a new game retain everything from the original, or will certain heroes find themselves banished out of existence in the name of balance? If a complete rework is truly where Blizzard is going with Overwatch 2, it will be interesting to see what the studio brings to the table and how it tries to pull this upgrade off. Blizzard is talented but there are a lot of variables at play that are a bit worrying.
Given the proximity to the first game and rumored PvE nature of Overwatch 2, it would almost have to be a completely separate experience with just cooperative multiplayer. While splitting the game up like this is odd, creating two experiences vying for similar goals would create a confusing overlap that no one wants. It almost can’t have competitive multiplayer. If Overwatch 2 has to exist this “soon” (which is still soon for Blizzard) after the first game, then it has to be the PvE experience that the first game never was and never will be outside of simple seasonal events. If it doesn’t and tries to dip its toe in competitive multiplayer, then the game will likely have more issues for all involved.
The rumors also come at a curious time, since we’re only about a year away from new console hardware. Is Overwatch 2 actually going to be a next-gen launch title perhaps or an upgrade for the new hardware that retains what came before while removing or reworking loot? That might work, but announcing a sequel a year (or more) out from release could serve to kill all the momentum the original game currently has left. The genius of games like Fortnite is that they feel like one continuous game even as they throw out old maps and pave over previous gameplay experiences. Who would want to play old Overwatch with a new game on the horizon?
BlizzCon 2019 will be a notable event for many, many reasons. While all eyes will be on the fan interactions between a volatile player base and a developer in crisis, many will still be here curious to see how Blizzard spins its latest developments. As of now, it doesn’t quite feel like Overwatch needs a premium upgrade. The original is a game that still regularly feels fresh and new today, and Blizzard has barely changed it when compared to other games of its ilk. There’s still a whole lot of potential in Blizzard’s FPS, but it all hinges on what Jeff Kaplan has to say on stage in just a few short days.