It is an open secret that Blizzard is actively developing Overwatch 2 as one of their next few games. However, the details about the new game are still murky and the lack of information definitely adds speculation to the potential and nature of the game. Overwatch reached 40 million players in the first half of 2018. However, the numbers since then have not seen a significant increase. In fact, there are rumours of the game player-base declining during this time period. The esports side of Overwatch, however, is rapidly evolving with significant investments and it is the frontline of esports to many non-endemic brands.
Blizzard’s development of Overwatch 2, could have a profound implication on the scene. There are different reasons why Overwatch 2 might be under development. The game engine limits the development of new characters and the addition of new features in the game.
The Possibility of New Characters, New Skills
Overwatch heroes feature a diverse nature of skills and talents and design. Almost every hero has a different skill-set and the combination of these skills ensures a competitive environment for the players. Overwatch is a game that requires a lot of coordination between the players and the team needs to be on the same page. They can put forth some strong performances with great synergy, even if they are at a disadvantage. The high level of coordination between the players requires practice, timing and communication.
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It is evident that the variety of skills within the game is reaching a saturation point. Adding new skills and gameplay mechanics is limited by the Game engine. With Blizzard maintaining a hero release rate of nearly 2-3 heroes per year, they need to come up with different ideas. However, the release of a new hero often breaks the game in more ways than one. The addition of Brigitte to the game was a turning point in the game, one which changed the game forever.
The development of Overwatch 2 could lead to the introduction of new heroes and possibly new gameplay mechanics within the game. It would allow the developers more freedom to make a different type of heroes. It would provide increased balance in the game. Right now Overwatch has just 30 heroes in the game. With each hero featuring strong ultimates, there are a few ultimates which can look extremely overpowered. With the release of new heroes, there will be multiple ways of countering a particular hero. It could be one hero that counters a particular skill or a combination of multiple heroes working together to counter the opponent.
Will Overwatch League Move to the New Game?
Blizzard has been known to enforce a top-down approach to its esports title. Overwatch League is a prime example of Blizzard enforcing a top-down view to the game’s esports scene. According to various sources, the league is pretty successful with big numbers to show. The number of brand investments and association with the League is only increasing with each year.
The bigger question is whether Blizzard would want to move the Overwatch League to the new game. This statement assumes that Overwatch 2 will be a standalone game, different from Overwatch (1). According to some sources, Overwatch 2 might also be a standalone game. There could also be a situation where Blizzard has two Overwatch games existing side by side. However, in such a scenario we do not see two games competing for the same gameplay type. If Blizzard does release a new Overwatch Game, it could mean slowly porting existing Overwatch players to the new game. It could lead to significant problems in the porting a large number of players to the new game. Since smurfing is a rampant problem in Overwatch, it would also mean a significant reduction in the player base for the game.
Blizzard constantly releases new game updates in Overwatch. These updates feature new heroes from time to time. In addition to new heroes, Blizzard also releases seasonal events in the game periodically. These new events are usually multiplayer events with players playing against other players. However, there are also various PvE elements to the events. With the new game, Blizzard can get a new start to their game.
Not very long ago, popular Twitch streamer and professional Overwatch player Seagull released a video titled ‘The State of Overwatch’. He mentions how the game has become over-reliant on ultimates. Ultimates are special abilities in the game. Each character features a different kind of ultimates.
The gameplay is focussed on the usage of ultimates. A single ultimate can often eliminate multiple opponents in the game. The only way to charge up the ultimate faster is to deal damage to the opponents. As a result, the team which deals maximum damage often gets a huge advantage in the game.
Gameplay Focussed on Who Gets Ultimates First
A normal game of Overwatch is often decided by who gets their ultimates faster. Proper management of ultimates is very important for a team’s chances of success. At the same time, the typical game of Overwatch has become more of a Rock-Paper-Scissor experience. There are multiple hard counters in the game right now. A tracer is essentially useless when the opponent has a Brigitte. The problem in Overwatch is that the development of new heroes has provided them with very strong, overpowered abilities. Since Overwatch prides itself on having diversity in the game with different abilities, the ultimates become extremely unique.
A team can sparingly use their ultimates to repel multiple attack rounds. A nanoblade becomes the single reason for an opponent team wipe. The next team fight could see a nice set up with a Reinhardt ultimate and a D’va bomb. The usage of Ultimates is all about management and perfect timing.
For a game like Overwatch which has a heavy focus on team synergy and coordination, managing the ultimate economy in a solo queue economy becomes impossible. The game comes down to which team has the more ‘Qs’ and that can be the deciding factor in the game.
Lack of Counter-Play
There is a vivid lack of counter-play in the game right now. Overwatch features various abilities, but there is a significant lack of diversity when it comes to MOBAs. The lack of items in the game essentially means that a hero can be hard countered by an opponent hero pick. In a game like Dota 2 or League of Legends, a hero on one team can counter another hero by buying a certain item. Further, the opponent can then counter this item with his own item choices. It is a back and forth game, but what is important is that neither player feels helpless in the game.
For Overwatch, a hero like Ana can do nothing against a Doomfist ultimate. Tracer is totally ineffective against Brigitte and the hero is basically useless. The game feels very one-sided when someone can counter you with a hero pick. The lack of Counter-Play and skill-based gameplay in Overwatch right is a huge detrimental factor to the progress of the game. There are more than 40 million accounts in the game, however, there are multiple accounts which are just smurfs and do not include active players.
Focus on Overwatch 2 and Diablo at Blizzcon
Blizzard apparently cancelled a Starcraft-based first-person shooter game called Ares[*]. The game used the same game engine as Overwatch, however, Blizzard cancelled the project. The developers were moved to Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2, two projects currently under development.
On Overwatch 2 – I don’t know if that’ll be the final name, but that’s what everyone at Blizzard calls it. I do know that it’s mostly (maybe all?) about PVE – easy to imagine it combining with OW1’s PVP in some way
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) June 6, 2019
The report by LeMonde.fr mentions that neither of these two games will be released before 2020. Employees at Versailles have no idea if they will still be around when they eventually release. Employees at Activision Blizzard have been facing layoffs in the past few months and there is a general consensus of uncertainty amongst them. Activision Blizzard will be making less of a profit, but this will still amount to a lot of profit, says a veteran employee. This is a rough translation of the article and it mentions Overwatch 2 as not being released before 2020[*]
There are many problems in Overwatch as a game and its development direction. We can only hope that the developers focus on improving the core gameplay and mechanics in Overwatch with the new game. We should hope to see more details about Overwatch 2 coming out at Blizzcon 2019.