Overwatch 2 releases in early October, and its community of players are in uproar over its battle pass.
When Overwatch first released, it occupied a unique space in the shooter genre. You didn’t necessarily have to have the best aim and reflexes like a pro Counter-Strike player because each character also had special powers, and class roles. As a support player, you could focus on healing, and as a tank, protecting your team from oncoming fire was just was important as shooting. Over the years the game has changed greatly, but the upcoming changes in Overwatch 2 has made players nervous, especially the game’s new monetization scheme.
The original Overwatch was a game you paid for, and that received free updates over time, including new heroes with new and exciting powers. Overwatch 2 will be free to play with a seasonal battle pass, bringing the game in line with popular shooters like Destiny 2, Apex Legends, or Fortnite. This means that heroes aren’t exactly free anymore. The first new hero for Overwatch 2, Kiriko, can be unlocked on the battle pass at level 55 out of 80 if you’re on the free version of the battle pass. You can also unlock her immediately if you pay for the premium battle pass, which will be $10. If you play Overwatch now and log into Overwatch 2 during the first or second season you’ll get Kiriko for free, but Blizzard has made it clear in a blog post that in the future, all new heroes will be on the battle pass.
Unlike other shooters like Apex or Destiny, in Overwatch, you’re not able to choose your own weapon loadout. Along with their abilities, each hero comes with their own specific kit. Think of each character as essentially being their own gun. What this new monetization scheme feels like as a player is that I’ll either have to grind to unlock a new gun, a core component of gameplay, or pay for it.
To say that players are frustrated by this move would be a severe understatement.
“The blog post trying to explain why this isn’t fucked over seven paragraphs and failing miserably tells me they know it’s janky,” on player wrote in a comment on the Overwatch subreddit that has been upvoted over 400 times. A terrible decision that goes against their original values—the skins etc. are sick, why not let your artists continue to carry your game.”
Not helping matters, Overwatch 2 game director Aaron Keller told journalists at a press event that the reasons why players are mad aren’t actually a big deal.
"Going forward, what we've done is we're trying to take some of those really hard rock-paper-scissors interactions out of the game, and replacing them with more player choice," Keller told PC Gamer.
He also said that players are unlikely to switch out heroes because of the time it takes to practice and be good at any particular character.
“As the players get to be a higher and higher skill level, that band of heroes they play, it actually narrows because it takes a really long time to get good at a hero to play at that level," he said.
But players insist that this isn’t how they play the game, and that being able to swap heroes to counter the other team is an essential part of gameplay. They feel that these changes are against the spirit of Overwatch, and make it more like every other shooter out there as opposed to its own unique experience. On the official Overwatch forums, players have dug up a quote from Keller in 2016 saying that heroes would never be locked behind anything as an example of how unexpected and unwanted this change is.
“It was actually a game design decision, a balance thing. Sometimes you need a different hero on your team. Like if you really need a Widowmaker right now, you don’t want everybody saying ‘I don’t have Widowmaker!” Keller told Ars Technica at the time.
Overwatch has changed a lot since 2016, and Overwatch 2 will bring even more changes. What remains to be seen is how many players will be able to roll with these punches.