There are a lot of big changes in Overwatch 2, but none may be bigger than how the game handles new heroes. As we’ve already discussed, access to new heroes is restricted to the game’s battle pass system, which is quite different from the first game, which allowed players to pick from whatever heroes they wanted.

Players are still in shock over this decision, but Blizzard says it was the right move to make, and they have plenty of reasons why. Overwatch game director Aaron Keller shared some insight into the decision during a call with media, and you can read his explanation below.

“We do believe that Overwatch is a highly competitive game, and we think that that’s something that resonates with our players. And even with this change, we think that it will continue to be a highly competitive game. We know that that’s really important for our players, and we have heard [that players] are worried about the difference in access to heroes per team. We think that there are a lot of changes to the game and a lot of details in this system, where we think that the game will still be highly competitive after we go live with this.”

When we were originally making Overwatch, we had considered making it as a free-to play-game with a limited hero roster and limited hero pools available to players. In that world, players would have had a very small choice of heroes available to them to play at any time, unless they put money into the game.

We’re in a really different situation right now. When [Overwatch 2] launches, there will be 35 heroes available to pick from. If you’re a new player to the game, and season 1, without putting any money into the system, you will have 34 of those heroes available for you to pick from. Over the course of season 1, you can unlock that 35th hero if you play regularly. So it’s a completely different situation that we have right now.

The majority of our players play a relatively small number of heroes. When they do switch heroes, we believe it’s because they’re switching to a hero that they’re familiar with, a hero that they’re effective with, and a hero that they are having fun with. And as the players get to be a higher and higher skill level, that band of heroes they play, it actually narrows, because it takes a really long time to get good at a hero to play at that level. We think that the higher level a player is, the more time they’ll be putting into the game. So the chances of them having either unlocked the hero on the free track of the battle pass, or just using coins that they’ve collected in previous seasons to upgrade to the premium battle pass, is pretty high. We want players to catch up and unlock all of the heroes. If you were to come to the game late a year down the line, we have a lot of avenues for you to play.”

[Overwatch game director Aaron Keller]

Walter Kong, general manager for Overwatch, also chimed in on the matter with a much shorter explanation for the move.

“Why put heroes into the battle pass? Well, the 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. There is this goal to be able to not just deliver a great experience on launch in October, but to be able to continuously deliver content and experiences for years and years to come.”

[Walter Kong, general manager for Overwatch]

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2y ago

The comment by the general manager is so backwards, and really betrays the flawed approach so many companies are adopting when building live service type games.

To get a player to "engage" with your game, put your energy into making an engaging game, not thinking about "engagement systems" to put into your game.

If the game is engaging, you don't need to implement any type of loot boxes, battle passes, or any other scummy "engagement systems."

Look at Splatoon: Nintendo concentrated on making an engaging game.
It has no microtransactions, no loot boxes, no battle passes. Yet it has a thriving, long-lived online player base and is incredibly popular.

Hint: it wasn't any "engagement system" that made that possible. It was gameplay.

Edited 1 time