Gamers all over the world recognize statements such as this, spoken in sulfurous tones laden with the doom and gloom common to over-dramatic forum trolls and fair-weather gamers alike. “Star Wars: The Old Republic will kill WoW!” they cried, and then “WildStar will kill SWTOR!” More recently, it seems every game under the sun is going to kill Overwatch. PUBG. Fortnite. Modern Warfare. Anthem. Apex Legends. If one were to listen to the outcry of the easily-bored public, Overwatch would have met its demise ten times over by now. And it will die, of course, but its killer won’t be an outside franchise looking to grind its heel all over Blizzard’s esports flagship.
Overwatch 2 will kill Overwatch. Or rather, Overwatch will evolve into Overwatch 2—transforming from a one-dimensional competitive shooter with relatively little lore and no PvE options into a full-fledged immersive experience, jam-packed with stories for fans to play through. This evolution should be celebrated, encouraged, and welcomed with open arms by all who love the game, for in truth, it’s the best possible thing that could happen to the franchise as a whole.
Before delving into why Overwatch 2 is the best thing for the franchise in an overarching sense, it must be stated that this is the opinion of a person who truly loves the game, and all it encompasses. Someone who proudly rocks an Overwatch-themed Razer Deathadder gaming mouse, and whose text message notification sound is a resounding “Ryū ga waga teki wo kurau!” While the game’s community is known for its divisive opinions and strong loyalty to specific heroes, metas, and playstyles, there is one thing all its members share: passion. We all love Overwatch, even when we hate it. Even when we’re frustrated with balance, the current state of tanks, or our team’s Genji spamming “I need healing” as he dashes across the map into the enemy spawn.
With this love and passion in mind, here are the reasons why I believe Overwatch 2 is the best thing that could possibly happen to the Overwatch franchise.
Overwatch 2 Will Expand the Player Community:
The aforementioned passionate community will be bolstered by new players thanks to Overwatch 2. In its present state, the game appeals purely to those who enjoy player versus player (PvP) competition, and even still, there exists a small fraction of the player base who enjoy the lackluster vs AI mode currently available. The Workshop allows fans to tinker with maps and create their own game modes, but there’s no true substitution for official content, in particular for those who want an immersive experience.
Overwatch has long featured a diverse cast. Its heroes come from all corners of the world, each with unique personalities that have somehow managed to transcend the general lack of lore and story. There’s a hero in the roster for everyone to identify with and enjoy playing, with many more to come. It stands to reason that there might be plenty of gamers out there who find characters like Tracer, Baptiste, Zenyatta, Hanzo, Moira, and Briggite appealing for their traits and dispositions or their backstory, but who just hate pvp and so have foregone playing the game.
When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, the damnable fact is this: some people simply don’t enjoy PvP. Maybe they find themselves growing toxic in a competitive environment. Perhaps they suffer from performance anxiety under pressure, or find they can’t relax when they’re facing off against other players instead of NPCs or AI. Whatever their reason, these people prefer games in which they have a choice to not engage in battle against other players. Overwatch doesn’t have much to offer in this arena, but Overwatch 2 is based on it.
The story campaigns Blizzard has planned will offer something for everyone, and bring an entire new crop of players into the game. They won’t have to PvP to enjoy Overwatch. Instead, they can experience an immersive story with a progression system, choose talents as they level up their heroes, and feel as if they’re playing a first-person ARPG rather than an FPS/MOBA hybrid.
Overwatch 2’s PvE Offers the PvP Community Alternatives:
Nobody who plays Overwatch is immune to tilt. Even the greatest, most zen-appearing pro players can suffer from frustration and injured ego. Toxicity exists throughout the entirety of the competitive ladder, from bronze all the way to Grand Master—it even sometimes rears its ugly head in Quick Play and casual Arcade mode games. Loss streaks, crushing defeats, that evil Symmetra tactically crouching over and over on top of your face—all of these factors combine into an amalgam of annoyance, anti-fun aggravation asphyxiating all amusement.
When most Overwatch players find themselves under the effects of tilt, they shut off the game and go find something else to do. Maybe they go outside for the first time in a month, or maybe they play another title to cool off. Whatever they choose, they’re not playing Overwatch, because engaging in PvP when tilted is a free ticket aboard the loser train to the final destination of Defeat Town.
When Overwatch 2 launches, fans will have another activity to occupy their time and minds when they’re frustrated with the game’s competitive aspects. Hopping into a story mode, they can pick their hero and take their exasperation out on some enemy omnics or the forces of Talon. The different abilities and talents available to augment hero skills in the PvE modes will give them a grander sense of power, letting them feel like winners. Tilt thus obviated; they can return to PvP modes without their emotions getting the best of them.
Fans Are Hungry for More Lore and Story:
Many who enjoy Blizzard’s other franchises would agree that when it comes to these games, it’s not just the gameplay, graphics, or genre that have the most appeal. It’s the characters, the stories, the rich and vibrant worlds in which players find themselves. Arthas Menethil. Illidan Stormrage. Sarah Kerrigan. Zeratul. Tyrael. Diablo, Lord of Terror. All these characters and so many, many more have special places in the hearts of people around the world.
With Overwatch 2, Blizzard has a chance to bring to the franchise the kind of story and lore that makes their titles so memorable and their characters so beloved. Fans can step into the shoes of their favorite hero, see the world through their eyes, and experience their lives in a far more intimate way than is possible when all choices are dictated by the competitive nature of PvP.
Players have clamored for more lore on the official game forums and Reddit, begging over the past three years for yet one more tidbit, one more short story, one more cinematic. Blizzard heard them, it seems, for not only will Overwatch 2 have story missions, but each of those missions will have their own opening and closing cinematic sequences. If there’s one thing Blizzard has proven over the years, it’s that their cinematic storytelling is always a sight to behold.
A Pathway to Introduce New Maps and Game Modes:
Very few players make use of Overwatch’s public test server (PTS). With the exception of the role queue PTS cycle, most iterations of the test server are sparsely used outside of the first day or two of a new hero release. There are many reasons for this, chief among them the lack of proper matchmaking due to the tiny population—and in the end, it doesn’t serve well for testing out new maps and game modes.
Overwatch 2’s story missions will allow developers to implement new maps and mode gimmicks in a non-competitive environment before introducing them into PvP. The new Toronto map that will launch alongside Overwatch 2 is also the first “push” game mode map; and the story mission for it will introduce players to the mechanics of controlling the robot that serves as the map’s main objective. Developing maps in this manner—introducing them in a PvE environment and allowing players to learn the mechanics before they arrive in competitive—will serve well toward alleviating frustration when new modes crop up. Nobody enjoys a game where half their teammates don’t understand the way the map works.
More Interest and Income for Esports and In-Game Content:
The Overwatch League (OWL) is a point of some contention among the Overwatch community. Many players enjoy the League, watch the games live on Twitch or ESPN, sport their favorite team’s colors in game, and look up to players like Jjonak as examples of what true skill can accomplish.
Others loathe the OWL with a passion usually reserved for such horrors as water levels, the word ‘moist’, or pineapple on pizza. They believe that Overwatch esports detract from the main game, taking away time and effort, siphoning away funds that could go toward creating new skins and in-game content. In addition, many of these players also believe that making game balance decisions with the Overwatch League in mind hurts those who engage in competitive ladder play, as pro players make up the smallest fraction of the game’s population.
A third subset of the Overwatch population are realists, who understand that the presence of the OWL is, overall, an asset to the franchise. Anything that generates income and interest in the game is a boon to the community, as this means more content down the line, including expansions and sequels. While Overwatch 2 won’t directly impact the OWL other than performance anomalies due to the upgraded engine, new players attracted to the game’s PvE aspects might also find themselves interested in watching League play. More interest leads to more income, and from there to more content for the entire franchise.
The Evolution Cannot Be Stopped:
There exists one imperative, one constant truth in this universe: change is inevitable. One can fight it, rail against it and make every effort to delay change, but it will come. While Overwatch 2 and the original title will exist alongside each other for a while, game director Jeff Kaplan has stated that there will come a time when the two clients merge into one.
I love Overwatch. I fear change as much as the next player, peering at patch notes with dread and trepidation that I’ll see the names of my favorite heroes under the section labeled “Balance Changes.” Nothing ruins my Tuesday quite like discovering that Blizzard has decided my main character’s niche is in the garbage can.
In the case of Overwatch 2, however, I feel no fear. I have no worries about the fate of the game. I look at what the franchise is slated to become in the future, and I see something wonderful. I see a great game with diverse, interesting characters that contains an immersive story experience alongside the competitive PvP experience I, and many others, crave.
Overwatch 2 will kill Overwatch. And that’s the best thing that could possibly happen to the game.