Overwatch will go offline today, beginning almost two days of downtime before it will be formally replaced by Overwatch 2, its free-to-play sequel. It marks the rather ignominious end to one of the most beloved multiplayer shooters ever made, a full-priced investment for those who bought in at launch gone in the blink of an eye.
The game that launched in 2016 is rather different to the one that will shortly disappear. It launched with a roster of 26 heroes, all unique and all fulfilling specialised roles even within their own classes. It was a game that required communication and solid team composition to rack up wins. There was a clear sense of rock-paper-scissors design at play among many of the heroes, and swapping up your picks during the game was encouraged.
People loved the heroes of Overwatch. They loved their designs, their personalities and their quippy little voice lines. Online communities around them exploded in the months after launch. So intense was the scale of the adoration that voice actors like Matthew Mercer, who plays Cassidy, grew weary of hearing their own catchphrases constantly thrown back at them in public.
Back then, the game had yet to cement its hero selection criteria — you could choose multiples of the same hero, for instance. The days of the 6-stack Winston Rush were heady indeed. When that was outlawed, you could still field as many heroes from a single class as you pleased. This birthed the triple-tank meta, a large part of why, at the game’s end, it had enforced a two-two-two DPS-tank-support meta.
Fans loved that the game added heroes and maps for free, never asking the players for more than the original investment. But the regular addition of new heroes caused the game to bulge and shift, until it was eventually straining at the seams. Though they meant well, Blizzard began to use the introduction of new heroes as a way to shake up rapidly metas like GOATs, which had been further calcified by the growing Overwatch League esports tournament.
Indeed, Overwatch League would create more problems for the game than it would solve. Where DPS had been an important component in a wider composition in the early days, Overwatch League catapulted it into the class everyone wanted to play. Because everyone wanted to play Genji and Widowmaker, it was led to a dearth of tanks and supports. To combat this, Blizzard eventually implemented the aforementioned two-two-two role queue. Rather than solve the problem, role queue created an entirely new one: because RQ didn’t stop players from choosing DPS heroes, they just kept doing it. This blew out the queue times on DPS disproportionately compared to the tank and support classes. If you were happy to play tank or support, you could get a game in seconds. If you wanted to play DPS, you’d now have to wait as long as 10 minutes for a game.
This problem has now been expanded in Overwatch 2, with its decision to reduce team sizes to 5v5 by allowing only one tank. If the OW2 betas are anything to go by, you’ll now have DPS and tank queue times stretching out to over ten minutes. With its seemingly renewed focus on DPS, one wonders if Blizzard has learned anything from the mistakes of the original.
All of this, of course, says nothing about the scandals that have plagued Blizzard in the last two years. Characters named for disgraced former staff have had to be renamed. Some of the biggest names to every work on the project, including Jeff Kaplan, the face of Overwatch itself, have departed the company.
Overwatch 2 now enters a markedly different shooter market, one upended by its own predecessor. Will it find the same success? We’ll find out when it launches TOMORROW, October 4.
Vale Overwatch. I loved you. I’ll miss you. The world really did need heroes, and you showed up when we needed you, but now your watch is ended.
Drop your favourite Overwatch memories in the comments below! I want to hear about your greatest victories, your sneakiest plays, why Mercy is actually best girl, where the game ultimately went wrong, and anything else on your mind.
The Cheapest NBN 1000 Plans
Looking to bump up your internet connection and save a few bucks? Here are the cheapest plans available.