Blizzard’s Jeff Kaplan Has Some Thoughts About Overwatch’s Meta

Blizzard’s Jeff Kaplan Has Some Thoughts About Overwatch’s Meta

Ah, the meta. Sometimes OK, sometimes terrible, always there, it’s rare that it’s not a hot topic of conversation among fans of Overwatch (or, well, any online game), and a boring one at that. But when a prominent developer weighs in on the subject, that’s a bit more interesting.


What’s the “Meta”?

The “meta” is defined as “any approach to a game that transcends or operates outside of the prescribed rules of the game, uses external factors to affect the game, or goes beyond the supposed limits or environment set by the game”. Basically it’s an ever-changing coalescence of a game’s accepted norms, determined by both fans and developers through play.

Jumping into a thread on Blizzard’s forums, Overwatch’s Jeff Kaplan has posted a surprisingly detailed outline of he and his team’s thoughts on the game’s meta, in particular about fan’s repeated calls for certain heroes to be excluded from competitive play.

I’ve seen a lot of discussion about hero bans the past few days and I just wanted to offer some perspective on the topic. As always, the OW has a wide variety of opinions about the concept. Interestingly, we don’t have many people on the team vehemently arguing for the feature. More of us, including myself, are reluctant to add hero bans to Overwatch. As I’ve said before, we’re not of the mindset that we’re opposed to the idea entirely and will never add them. But overall, there are a number of issues that make us want to proceed carefully.

Some of those issues include the establishment of a “ban” culture, the fact banning heroes might actually make the meta worse, and that some players just need to suck it up and remember this is a PvP game, where you’ll sometimes run into strategies and approaches that you don’t like.

What I found most interesting, though, was Kaplan’s comments about the presence of a meta itself.

As a team, we agree with and understand that players want the meta to be more fluid and move more frequently. Even though the vast majority of players only experience the meta through OWL, feedback from GM’s, streamers and YouTubers, we get that the perception of a stale meta is not good for the game.

“Meta” is a word that casts a long shadow. It’s actually the reason I stopped playing Overwatch, years ago now, because as a casual player I just couldn’t stand everybody continuously talking about it, or trying to be a part of it, instead of just hanging out and enjoying the game.

The way Kaplan phrases that paragraph sounds like a gentle reminder to people to remember that. That hey, the meta is indeed a thing, but it’s not a big deal for a lot of players, so maybe stop listening to pros and worrying about it so much unless you’re in a position where you actually have to.


  • The “meta” is why I stopped bothering with competitive OW years ago. It was so dull and annoying, especially when you got people in chat bugging you to change character so they could play their “main” or whatever.

    Yeah nah, get fucked kid.

    So now I just play Mystery Heroes and live my best Overwatch life.

    • I never really played competitive but even casual was the same story, “we need 2-2-2”, “switch off X, X isn’t viable in the current meta” (keeping in mind my brief stints in competitive pegged me at high gold so none of the meta strats ever got executed even if the “correct” heroes were picked)

      Mystery Heroes was a breath of fresh air actually allowing the entire toolset of the game to get used and giving every character the chance to set up a big play or a steamroll.

      • Yeah Mystery Heroes is amazing when you get a team that has a “bad” comp but you win anyway through good play and strategic thinking.

  • “Meta” is not a dirty word, the problem is Overwatch isn’t good at being everything for everyone. They want it to be a casual FPS that has a competitive scene, but those scenes want very different things out of the game. Anyway, the reason why the “meta” might seem overbearing for a casual player is that it’s pretty much all the competitive scene is based around. Every meta has a handful of heroes that are way overpowered in all ranks of play (not just pro level) that if you’re trying to treat it as a competitive game you have to know it and play it to win. And the fact that it relies so heavily on team coordination means being a solo casual player that just wants to play their favourite heroes is gonna be a bad time for both casuals and competitives.

  • Roll back the game about 3-4 years when it used to be about fun, not esports bullshit.

    I miss the days of a flanking Roadhog who could hook/one shot people, or drag them off edges from nowhere. Reinheart having a shield that actually did something other than just stand around bored. And when Bastion wasn’t used at all because his dps sucked!

    • Yeah I’d love for there to be a game mode that is just Overwatch v1.0.
      All original abilities and no added heroes.

    • The game was only good then because supports controlled the meta.

      It was partly that everyone was learning, but mostly that everything was simple. Only a few heroes, one shot kills took pure mechanics not skill cooldowns, and if you wanted to win you had to coordinate.

  • There’ll always be a meta in any game. And while sure it’s annoying to have team mates tell you to switch if you don’t pick a hero they like but I quite ages ago not because of that. I could tolerate that. I left from the reworks and the dev’s belief that some of the most hated ones were ‘successes’.

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