Overwatch needs healing and BlizzConline can be that doctor.
Overwatch is sitting in a dark tunnel. Torches line the walls, but it has no fire to light them. The game is suffering through a dry spell the likes we haven’t seen in a long time. For competitive fans, this harkens back to the drought before the Overwatch League.
However, for the average Overwatch player, your heart breaks for them. Left without much communication or explanation as to what’s happening or coming or not coming within some amount of time. They know Overwatch 2 has been in development, but how are they supposed to know what to even be excited about at this point?
BlizzConline needs to be the turning point, the striking moment when the first torch is lit, and a chain reaction sends Blizzard Entertainment’s beloved title into its next stage.
Obviously, recent news has put a sombre tone on the lead up to BlizzConline. The fact that during an Activision Blizzard earnings call, it was formally announced that neither Diablo 4 or Overwatch 2 would see a 2021 release was a sobering confirmation to what most had thought. However, things don’t have to end up being another year of nothing for the community.
Blizzard has bridged the gap between now and Overwatch’s long-awaited sequel. These fans, either competitive or casual, have been told that development has slowed down on the base version of Overwatch because the resources were tied up elsewhere for years now. There has to be a plan or roadmap, whatever you want to call it, to build up to the release so that there is a fan base to excite. And BlizzConline can be that turning point, and the idea should be to bring fans back into the fold, not just issue small nods to the few loyal followers.
In an interview with IGN Nordic, vice president of Blizzard Entertainment and game director on Overwatch, Jeff Kaplan, said that Echo was the last hero for the base version of Overwatch and that the resources for the next batch of heroes would be backloaded into Overwatch 2. That stance could and should be malleable, especially knowing where the health of the community is at. Adding a new hero to Overwatch would certainly help to bridge the gap. Even just announcing that there will be an additional hero to Overwatch along with a teaser would do some good.
However, staying rigid to the idea that Echo will be the last hero in the standard version of Overwatch limits Blizzard quite a lot in terms of repairing the very real apathy that Overwatch faces.
Obviously, something like a permanent move to a free to play model would do well socially, but that doesn’t do justice to just how shallow the game feels in its current state. People are not playing the game because it costs money, people are not playing the game because it’s become boring while new, more recent titles have caught their attention. Perhaps flanking a hypothetical announcement of Overwatch becoming free to play could be a battle pass, something akin to Fortnite and Apex Legends.
One thing Overwatch does extremely well, even to this day, is to create compelling skins and cosmetics that people genuinely want to purchase or play to earn. And giving them a sense of progression could easily be a more than a bandage on an open wound - a successful battle pass might genuinely begin to stitch the player base back together.
Something more obscure that could give Overwatch its shot in the arm is the announcement of scheduled open beta tests for Overwatch 2. Perhaps on select weekends throughout the year, Overwatch fans will be able to test out the new core game mode, Push. Maybe those tests, especially at a later date, might have teasers or new, playable heroes. Perhaps another story mission is ready for public viewing to appease those who want to learn more about their favourite heroes or those who want to replay the demos Blizzard had available at last years BlizzCon.
Any or all of these would certainly quell some of the problems the game is facing and draw people back into the fold—and that is precisely what should happen. What should be the goal of Blizzard’s Overwatch focused segment at BlizzConline is regaining their audience and beginning to push this game back into becoming the pop culture hit it once was. However, what cannot happen is appeasement in the form of lip service. A beautifully rendered animated short of a fan-favourite hero sounds nice, but that cannot be the sole ace up Blizzard’s sleeve. Tangible change has to be on the horizon if this game is to succeed.
In the face of a very disappointing announcement and insurmountable holding patterns, there are silver linings to the current affair Overwatch faces in its current state. The Overwatch League looks to be on the mend and is staring in the face of what is set to be its most competitive season to date. There is still a hungry fan base that absolutely loves the lore of this game. And perhaps with the added time, Overwatch 2 can have the time it needs to not become the next Cyberpunk 2077. That said, changes need to come quickly to ensure that there is a player base to actually enjoy the sequel.
BlizzConline is Activision Blizzard’s stage to do right by the community. If positive change comes, it will be reciprocated. Frequent communication and new content updates can become the catalysts to light the torches, to allow the fans to see the path moving forward, and perhaps then we can begin to navigate however long it will take to make it to Overwatch 2.
The Overwatch redemption arc has to start somewhere. These fans, these people whom you’ve captivated for years, cannot be left in the dark anymore.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment