Convincing Blizzard To Merge Overwatch 1 And 2 Was 'Very Challenging'

overwatch 1 overwatch 2 blizzcon 2019

Overwatch 2 game director Jeff Kaplan said that the team wanted to redefine what people expected from a video game sequel. That might not come to fruition in time, but so far the Overwatch fan base is happy that they won't have to spend another few hundred hours grinding out skins and cosmetics.

Given the financial advantage with just expecting players to buy a new game outright, something every video game publisher does in 2019, and the difficulties facing Blizzard over the past year, it's an interesting choice. And in an interview with Kotaku Australia, Kaplan highlighted just how difficult getting that decision over the line has been.

About halfway through our interview, I asked Kaplan and the game's technical director, John LaFleur, how they were able to convince management to merge Overwatch 1 and Overwatch 2 players. It's the antithesis of how most publishers would approach a sequel, and something that investors would certainly raise an eyebrow over, and as soon as I asked the question Kaplan laughed out loud.

"That sounds like a very difficult argument to make from a strategic level in 2018-2019, to convince a company to go forward with that kind of vision," I asked, prompting a laugh from Kaplan and LaFleur.

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"Welcome to my world," Kaplan joked. "You want to talk about that, it absolutely is. It's very challenging because the industry has done things the same way for so long. And so it's hard to get people, push them out of their comfort zone and say, hey I think we could do it a better way."

The Overwatch game director made a simple argument: developers are usually better off when they make decisions that benefit the long-term health of the players, rather than making short-term decisions for the benefit of financial pragmatism.

"The way that I try convince people, I try to tell them if we do what's right by the players, they will be happy, we we will have a better game, and we will end up in a better place in the long run. Rather than having this short sighted thinking that's usually driven by anxiety of 'the only way to get players to play Overwatch 2 is to cut off all the Overwatch 1 players and starve them out and force them to come over and, you know, make that game just sort of die on the vine."

"That in my opinion is not the right way. I always try to come at things from a player-first standpoint. What do I want as a player? And I'm really lucky I work with a lot of awesome people who are willing to take big risks, and look at things differently and go, hey we can really influence this to be different."

Kaplan mentioned that the release of the original Overwatch was equally challenging. When the game was first announced, there was a lot of discussion internally and externally about whether Overwatch would be free-to-play and, if not, whether a new first-person shooter could succeed with an upfront cost. The team eventually opted to include all future maps and heroes as free content updates, but that decision took some convincing at the time.

"The fact that we were going to include all future heroes and all future maps, you know, moving forward on basically a boxed game was unheard of at the time," the Overwatch 2 director said. "A lot of the people at the company had to take a big leap and go, wait, nobody else is doing this. And we challenged. We said, we think this is right: if I'm a player of the game this feels right and fair."

"We were greatly rewarded for that and I think that made this decision easier for people. There was a level of trust they had in us as a development team that we were, we're the ones who drove this decision. And they have trust in us that we grew this amazing community, to do what's right by them and if we take care of them, they'll take care of us."

The author travelled to Blizzcon 2019 as a guest of Blizzard.


Comments

    So will Overwatch 1 owners get a discount on Overwatch 2, since its sounds like the only thing they'd be getting is the PvE mode?

      No, your compensation for the sheer indignity of having someone else able to get something you already paid for is the last three plus years of access to the content.

      You want a discount on the new thing you're meant to pay for?

        From the articles thus far, its essentially just a DLC pack and not a 'sequel' since owners of the vanilla are still getting all the same content as it.

        Seems like a DoA5 -> Ultimate -> Last Round, or a Street Fighter -> Insert Prefix here more than anything else.

          All the content minus the PvE, however large it ends up being in the end, that is.

      The only reason I was considering it is because of the PvE, but I don't want to pay full price for small section of the game. It's like paying full price for half a sandwich

        It'd want to be a pretty substantial amount of PvE content for me to even consider it, and it'll want to be miles above the quality of the PvE content we've gotten in Overwatch events thus far. Those have left a hell of a lot to be desired, especially since their idea of added difficulty to this point has been nothing beyond the incredibly lazy "Give enemies more health and damage!" routine.

        I fully expect that the majority of the new content it sees after release will be PvP oriented, thus available with the original game. Because I absolutely do not see them keeping Overwatch 2 supported with decent PvE content over any sort of prolonged period of time... This isn't WoW where a few million players throw money at them monthly.

        Even Diablo 3's seasons quickly became little beyond modifier changes.

          Yeah, I hated that they artifically raised the difficulty by using bullet sponges. I hated that in Uncharted too.
          I don't *mind* the PvP but I'm not a huge fan. And if I'm being completely honest, I really want to see the loot box system changed as I'm still burned by that.

      I think what you're not seeing is they chose this route as a middle ground so they didn't end up doing the other option.

      The other option being they release a completely isolated standalone game, then what would you be sitting here complaining about:

      * OMG I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M LOSING ALL MY SKINS! <- I am 100% shocked they didn't do this solely for this reason as every other developer does this kind of stuff and in my opinion this some HEAVY damange control to try and win back people after the last 2 yars.

      * My friends still play OW 1 and I'm playing OW 2 (or vice versa). The fact they're willing to keep both alive still with this method (and no doubt costing them sales in the process - hence the article on why they would've had to convince Blizzard to let them do it) shows that they're not just thinking about the $$$$.

      * Omg I just bought Overwatch 1, can't believe I have to buy it again - You don't. This is the point. For you if it's just the PVE mode and you can't justify it then don't. I'm sure Blizzard are well aware there will be people with this attitude and it will cost them sales.

      I'm surprised they took this direction as it is the direction that will lose them sales (as some people wont care about PVE and will be happy to keep playing OW 1). If people don't see this as a positive thing then its no wonder blizzard can't win.

    "The fact that we were going to include all future heroes and all future maps, you know, moving forward on basically a boxed game was unheard of at the time," the Overwatch 2 director said.

    Except for the fact that Rainbow Six Siege had done the same thing 6 months earlier.....

      Is Siege actually older than Overwatch?!

        It was released around the same time as the Overwatch closed beta, so yes.

      The decision would have been made (and pitched to stakeholders) during development though, so it was likely before Siege was released.

      Weird, 'cause I'm pretty sure every agent post-release has to be bought whether it be through a really long grind or real money.

      Hardly comparable to OW.

      Yeah, but Siege's new operators aren't available unless you bought the freaking "Season Pass" or whatever.

      You mean the same Rainbow Six Siege that has season passes and where you have to grind to unlock operators or pay extra to get them first? Don't fetmme wrong, Siege is good and not as bad as other games but it's not the same model as Overwatch

      Except the new heros of siege cost a lot of in game currency to purchase them all and at this point it'd take many hundreds of hours of game play. But they sell expensive season passes to give you heros a week early.

      I'd argue its different.

      Ugh no. Siege makes you pay for content with season passes. That’s nowhere near the same model as Overwatch.

    I'm pretty sure Counter Strike released more maps for free (granted from fans) to the wider population back in 1999

      or the unreal tournament games. they had numerous free content packs released with 100+ maps.

    Of course its a hard sell.. why would people pay full price for 1 new mode when they get the rest of the game for free? it's basically overwatch 1.5

    I actually really dislike that progression and everything carries over.... I like the feel of a fresh start in a NEW GAME.

      You can buy the game in a different account to do a fresh start tho

    I'm excited for this concept. And the way he's speaking sounds a little like old school Blizzard.

      Kaplan is one of the few old-school Blizzarders left (he was the original game director on World of Warcraft), so that's not surprising :)

        He was a quest designer on the Original WoW, but yes he was there for the glory years after vanilla.

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