Overwatch 2 Is Putting New Heroes Behind the Battle Pass and Players are Pissed

Overwatch 2 releases in early October, and its community of players are in uproar over its battle pass.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/jgpdp4/overwatch-2-is-putting-new-heroes-behind-the-battle-pass-and-players-are-pissed

It’s a day ending in “day” and so yet again Blizzard has made a horrendous decision that fundamentally destroys the fun and open philosophy of the 2016 launch game.

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Speaking only for myself, at the original’s release the biggest selling point to me was that I wouldn’t have to unlock any maps, characters, weapons or abilities. That felt refreshing after more than a decade of XP tracks becoming ever more prevalent in the big budget space. Just pop in, pick whatever character you feel like and have fun. No matter how much you’ve already played.

I’ve fallen off the game for a number of reasons since (most notably that Blizzard never made any attempt to fix its toxic player base, it soured so many sessions for me by the end) but this change feels sad to me on a fundamental level.

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I suppose the only silver lining is that original Overwatch owners will get immediate access to the new heroes, although eventually even that cohort will have to engage with the battlepass for unlocks. I’m happy to jump on enjoy the first month or so of Overwatch 2, but I’m very pessimistic about the game long term.

The most baffling thing about all this is that OW 1 was extremely successful by basically every measure. It managed the rare feat of being a multiplayer only shooter with broad public appeal. They even had lootboxes and no one complained too much because the skins were good. They didn’t need to change anything.

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I get why they are moving away from loot boxes as the winds are blowing against them as a form of gambling. Personally I enjoyed how they were implemented in the first game, but then I never spent money on them. I guess they are seeing Apex Legends being praised for doing it “right” and going in that direction. But yeah, it’s not a great change IMO.

I’m a bit more cynical than that: companies wouldn’t move en masse towards battle passes if they believed it would make them less money than loot boxes (though they face the risk of stricter regulations these have so far been pretty mild). Dan Olson outlined a few psychological aspects of the battle pass + in-game store combination in his mostly good video on Fortnite.


Edit: This quote that Gita picks from the PC Gamer interview (it’s a good read!) is great but so sad:

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.

Goodbye team compositions, from now on everyone is their own island. And, of course there’s this:

Well, heroes are the single most engaging content that we have in the game. And as we designed this model, it seemed to be a very strong fit to put those heroes into our new engagement systems.

Optimizing for engagement over quality. At least these days producers realize that they can say it out loud instead of lying about it as they did five years ago.

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It’s interesting as the play-to-earn hero model is commonly used in Valorant and LoL, but applying it to a more mainstream western audience seemed to annoy a lot of people. To be clear, I’m not defending it- my friends and I always return to Overwatch as a comfort game and will probably do the same for OW2. It will be interesting to see when I’ve played less than my friends and haven’t unlocked all of these heroes or whatever, but we’ll see.

One thing we can be sure of is Blizzard will do what they usually do and completely ignore everything and just keep doing what they’re doing (like with Diablo Immortal)…

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Earning heroes is pretty normal in a lot of different games, but I think the key difference here is that OW didn’t used to have that and now it does. I think it’s hard to overstate the effect of that.

People, especially gamers, especially competitive gamers, hate when things change and have a hard time rationally evaluating the thing that has changed on its own merits. I have no doubt that OW1 would have been just as successful as a free-to-play game with hero unlocks. Buy-once was a big part of the marketing pitch, but the thing that sold people on the game ultimately was that it was a Blizzard-made hero shooter in the era when Blizzard could do no wrong.

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I read the article. I thought for a bit. And all I can say is that I can’t believe the company behind Diablo Immortal would do something like this.

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It’s much easier to add than it is to take away and the perception that there exist “have-nots” who will have to pay money for heroes that were traditionally perceived as “free” is going to be a cough strongly negative one.

I’m extremely tired of games that ask this stuff of me. (I own Overwatch but it’s unclear to me whether I’ll get the new heroes or just the first one because of that.) I am eternally bitter that paying and grinding for access to player characters is by and large the norm for multiplayer games. I have never liked it, not even in Smash, and by and large, the result of this model is that I simply stop playing the game. League of Legends, Apex, even Valorant, whose version is the least intrusive, gives me angst. I’ve had people try to explain to me why they think the model isn’t that bad, but I just can’t stand it. It’s extremely hard for me to imagine that hero purchases are any significant revenue stream for these companies, either. It’s awful for balance, for one, and it forces players to either be dedicated to the game or cough up cash if they want to try a character out. But I’m also one of those rare players who constantly ping-pongs between different heroes. Most games are not designed for me, and I have to accept that, but I’m still sick of it. What Blizzard is doing here is the worst of both worlds: you need to buy a Battle Pass, and then grind to unlock a hero? Miss me.

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A game like Overwatch in particular really suffers on the consumer end from locking gameplay-relevant content behind a paywall. What if the new paid character is hilariously unbalanced? A game like Destiny kinda gets away with it because 1. there’s a lot to do and 2. most of the people in that game are the hyper-enfranchised types who are going to have all that stuff anyway.

I think League of Legends back when I played it (2010-2014) they did make a significant amount off of heroes. It took months of grinding to get a character because you also were spending the free currency on other gameplay affecting things like runes.

At least with LoL, they cycled the available pool every week if i remember correctly. So even if you didn’t play all that often or couldn’t afford the in game currency, you could still play every character eventually.

I haven’t played Valorant, but Apex definitely does not function that way. And despite putting 20 or so hours into Apex, I never got to a point where I had anything other than the default characters.

The thing that frustrates me the most about locking characters like this is it makes it that much harder to understand who a character is and how they play. If you have access to the characters, you could at least kind of test them out and learn to understand their moveset, but if you don’t have those characters, you either just play and get beat because you don’t know what you’re dealing with or you have to rely on online guides/videos that explain what characters movesets are.

I get that a lot of that is tied up in just learning the game itself as well, but in Overwatch 1, I could load into the training arena and test a character out so I have some semblance of their powers, even if I don’t have a good grasp of what the meta is or game mechanics. If they start locking characters behind a paywall, well good luck.

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The rune stuff was axed a while back, afaik.

Valorant does something I think should be standard: you can play any hero in the training room. While it’s not the same I think being able to try out the hero freely is a huge help and should be in every single one of these games at the very least.

But yeah, Apex, a game I really want to enjoy, is one of the worst I’ve seen in this. I’ve played for well over a dozen hours and can only unlock one hero. There’s no rotation, either, which means you just see most players playing the exact same heroes. It’s dreadful, I don’t know how this is acceptable and I hope they at least add a rotation in soon.

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Multiversus of all games lets you play everybody in training and has a rotation

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Multiversus unlocks everyone right away for local play, also. Probably because they realise how annoying it is in Smash to have to unlock everyone to make your console viable to bring to tournaments.

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I agree that changing it so only some people have access to all heroes will make the game worse.

But, I expect I’ll still end up playing Overwatch 2 a fair amount because I’ve been unable to find anyone doing what early Overwatch 1 did well.

I’ll keep trying new things in hopes of catching that “no loadouts, no unlocks, no pickups” magic again somewhere else and play a lot of Mystery Heroes for as long as they keep that as a mode where everyone has an equal chance to use every hero.

My time and money are on the table for any company that cares to make a team versus game with long time-to-kill and unique felling fixed kits always open all players.

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