This week, Blizzard gave us what might be the most disappointing Overwatch news since its original launch in 2016. In a developer talk, game director Aaron Keller and executive producer Jared Neuse told us that PvE, the most anticipated part of Overwatch 2 since it was announced in 2019, is being scrapped for something incredibly scaled back from what was promised. While many saw this news as a complete wipe of PvE, that isn’t entirely true; we will still get that content. It just will be severely limited compared to what was shown before. With no more Hero Missions or skill trees, for many the main selling point of Overwatch 2 has been lost.
Redefining “redefining the sequel”
Unsurprisingly, the community is upset by this announcement. Overwatch 2 was announced in 2019 with the message that they were “redefining the sequel.” You could team up with your friends and get some truly interesting and unique abilities for your favorite heroes. There was a level of depth to the features promised that was truly exciting for a game so focused on PvP. Now it looks like redefining the sequel means leaving the players out to dry for years before canceling the product you originally sold the game to be.
Regardless if PvE content is still coming to Overwatch 2 in the future, this situation is a massive misstep for Blizzard. Overwatch 1 was a huge hit for several reasons, but when 2019 rolled around, things suddenly took a weird turn. The content was being pumped out much slower. Blizzard explained this away as the team focusing so hard on Overwatch 2 that the original game was forced to suffer. It all leaves me with so many unanswered questions. Blizzard allowed their community to starve for content in one of the most popular games because they believed in the sequel so much. Today we can’t ever see the full ideas of that content because it was moving too slowly. What was making the game underperform so much internally that we never got any updates? Is it connected to the myriad of internal situations Blizzard has been dealing with, where they are bleeding employees who decide to leave for other ventures that might treat them better? So many questions we likely will never know the answer to.
We crawled through the desert for a PvE mirage
Flash forward to Overwatch 2’s launch last year. Sure, the server issues were vast and problematic, but everyone was talking about Overwatch again. The biggest problem with the game was that it essentially felt like the same thing we already had. In my review of the game, I said that Overwatch 2 doesn’t feel like a full sequel but rather a big update pushed to justify its sequel moniker while the original game suffered. That feels even more true today. At the time, we were okay with the game going free-to-play and giving new content because we believed we were getting that promised PvE content in the future. There was no way it could be that far ahead of us, right? What followed was more silence from Blizzard.
Luckily, we are no longer in the days of Overwatch not getting significant updates, but what was the point in waiting for Overwatch 2 without the PvE push? The fact that they added a store and battle pass? Congratulations, Blizzard, you have more ways to make money. Taking out such a significant selling point of this game makes it feel like the community was thrust through years of content drought for nothing. As a big lore fan, I’m pumped to see the story finally pushed forward, but now that excitement is accompanied by a level of resentment for this whole situation.
Two steps forward, one step back
I can’t entirely blame Blizzard for wanting to focus on the PvP side of Overwatch. That is where the game made its name and became popular in the first place. That said, the community also loves the world outside of the PvP games. We have been begging for more ways to enjoy Overwatch since before 2019. Sure, we will still get missions the developers already made, but how will these stand out from past seasonal events? This was supposed to be an exciting evolution of the game — a true second way to play. Something else to keep you engaged when Competitive isn’t going your way. While I love the PvE missions we’ve had in the past, I can’t help but feel let down by promises I have been waiting for for four years being suddenly stripped away from us.
Everything Overwatch 2 does always feels like we take two steps forward and then one back. Recent seasons in the PvP have been good, but that is followed up by the PvE news. At launch, the game went free-to-play, but server issues soiled the early experience. Season 2 had one of the biggest hero additions in Ramattra, but the hero balance at the time felt stale. Will we ever reach a point where we don’t expect any good news to be a bait and switch?
I largely have been a defender of Blizzard’s handling of Overwatch 2. Making the game free-to-play made so much sense and I believe that even the more questionable changes we’ve seen have a level of logic behind them. However, after all that Blizzard put us through in the lead-up to Overwatch 2, I can’t help but feel slapped in the face knowing that that time was wasted for a product that could have been more. Maybe when we see what the PvE Overwatch 2 release is, I will be completely content with what is given. That said, there will always be a side of me wondering what could have been.