What could be the early patch? – Overwatch 2 is a state of mind – Shipping Overwatch 2 with theseus logistics – Asking for cake, being satisfied with crumbs
On the surface, we Overwatch fans are a weird bunch. Like truffle hogs for hope, we will go after every whiff of promise, wallowing in it until a stronger scent floats by to get attracted to all over again. On the other hand, if someone were to credibly and outright tell us that Overwatch 2 is coming out this year, our tormented soul would not dare to dream but would use the same beaten paths of creative misinterpretation stamped into our prefrontal cortex to protect our mind palace. Given years of unkept promises and lacking communication, Overwatch fans either left or adapted to the landscape.
So when Joe Marsh, CEO of T1, and Adam Adamou, head of esports for OverActive Media (the parent org of Toronto Defiant), both told us last week that we’d be able to play Overwatch 2 in 2022, it somehow didn’t cause a ripple in the news cycle to the degree that one would expect it to have.
During the earnings call in November of last year, Blizzard Entertainment had revealed an indefinite delay to both Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4. Reporter Jason Schreier of Bloomberg, in gaming circles known as one of the foremost investigative reporters released in the industry, even tweeted that he was sure that both of those titles wouldn’t in 2022.
Perhaps as an indirect response to those expectations echoing through the community, Blizzard Entertainment’s AndyB stated on the forums that a release in 2023 had not been set in stone, writing on the official Blizzard forums:
“I’m seeing a lot of folks assuming a launch date in 2023 is written. Without being pedantic, I want to point out that there was no release date or beta date communicated in yesterday’s earnings call. While I’m not prepared to discuss dates with you here today, I want to quash the rumor of a 2023 release date as being somehow “official.”
What’s an Overwatch fan ought to do with these conflicting sets of information?
What’s Overwatch 2 anyway?
From the very start, Overwatch 2 was going to be an unorthodox type of sequel. In 2019 and still under the leadership of Jeff Kaplan, the game was introduced as an opportunity for an overhaul of its PvP content, giving it an engine update and a therein implied the ability to turn around solutions for PvP issues more quickly than had been possible on the game that had been running on the carcass Titan, an MMO Blizzard had been intending to make but salvaged into becoming Overwatch. This update to the PvP portion would be free for those in possession of Overwatch 1 While the product you’d be paying for would be a large-scale introduction of PvE content, expanding it way past the scope of previous seasonal events.
In a sense, it felt like Overwatch 1 was going to live on within Overwatch 2 and the scope of a sequel allowed the developers to go back to the fundamentals of gameplay, resulting in solutions like the switch to 5v5 which no doubt would turn out to be a Herculean effort in comparison to significant, yet manageable changes like no-hero- limit and role-lock they had been able to employ on the fly.
Moreover, PvE would be able to serve a demand of players who were enchanted with the universe that Overwatch had created but perhaps weren’t the most competitive bunch and would look for a different more laid-back experience.
Thinking through those changes, PvE and PvP couldn’t function fully independently. If say a hero was to be introduced, it would likely require its entire PvE tree to be figured out while staying close to its design for its PvP version. Not quite married but at least engaged, PvP and PvE would exist alongside each other and at least by its initial presentation would become what we’d reconsider to be Overwatch 2.
The first mild departure of this united future coincidentally came with the announcement of Overwatch 2‘s delay. In the aforementioned quarterly report, Activision Blizzard shared that the Overwatch League would “run on an early build of Overwatch 2‘s new 5v5 competitive multiplayer mode”.
Already during the Overwatch League playoffs, we were given some footage to gnaw on. The scope of the changes could roughly be summarised as to contain the facelifted engine, 5v5, some hero reworks, and the new game mode Push, and we were told that this had been reasonably close to the current status of development the dev team had been able to get to. Distinctly lacking were new heroes and the new unannounced game mode, with balance still expected feeling out of whack. Perhaps for the obvious reason that we were playing at an esports event, no PvE was shown.
It stands for reason that the patch the Overwatch League players are about to receive and appear to have signed an NDA for is likely to be close to that version of the game. One important detail not to be missed is that game director Aaron Keller hinted at “a few more heroes” being part of this version during the OWL Grand Finals, also promising reworks for all 32 heroes to adapt to the 5v5 environment.
Since then, a lot has happened. Activision Blizzard is about to be acquired by Microsoft, key parts of the Overwatch The development team have left the company, and the dev team has been rather quiet about their progress over the last couple of months. So…are we getting new heroes in this build beyond Sojourn? What if we don’t? And perhaps most importantly, at what point will we feel like we are playing Overwatch 2?
What’s Overwatch 2 for YOU?
The grand vision sold during Blizzcon 2019 set an expectation and provided a definition of what Overwatch 2 is expected to be. While changes through the efforts of game development is a natural process that should be expected, one has to wonder if the feeling of playing a new game will settle in if we won’t be receiving the features that some of us may have identified as the big difference maker and essence of what Overwatch 2 was promised to be.
For some it might be PvE, for others a row of new heroes, for those of little expectations it might just be 5v5 and Push. Just maybe we are starved enough for all of us to just get something new but would that warrant the label of a new game?
It appears fair to expect there to be ample incentive for a premature label of Overwatch 2 to be applied to the game. From the marketing effect to fulfilling potential contractual obligations to incentivizing a reframing of a game experience that has been arguably unduly dragged despite continuous improvements at least to its game balance, there is a lot to gain. However, a potentially trickled injection of new content could miss the sweet spot of grabbing the audience’s attention while leaving enough in the tank for well-paced updates down the line.
In a world in which we aren’t getting everything promised at once, the player will have to ask themselves: Are you playing Overwatch 2 without having access to its PvE? Are you playing Overwatch 2 if there are fewer new heroes than you expected? What if there is just one or no new ones? Or does that all not matter and the reworks and 5v5 could be enough depending on the type of gameplay we will have access to?
Given the long content drought, it seems we are both expecting a lot to make up for it while also being happy to see just about any substantial change. We want a lot of new content to play but also don’t want to be in the same situation in two years’ time. Can they make a cake and let us eat it too?