Overwatch 2 Scraps The PVE Mode It Used To Justify Itself As A Sequel, More PVE Events Instead

Overwatch 2 Scraps The PVE Mode It Used To Justify Itself As A Sequel, More PVE Events Instead

The much-anticipated, much-hyped PVE mode for Overwatch 2 is no more.

Blizzard Entertainment has announced that Overwatch 2‘s delayed but much-anticipated PVE Hero Mode has been scrapped internally, and the game will pivot to smaller, more regular PVE events (sans the talent trees and builds it originally pitched). Its cancellation is the subject of a wide-ranging Gamespot interview with game director Aaron Keller and executive producer Jared Neuss.

When Overwatch 2 was announced at BlizzCon 2019, PVE was one of its biggest box features. It was the thing that Blizzard used to justify the game as a full sequel. This was, it insisted, much more than a rework of the existing Overwatch product. And then Overwatch 2 launched with a PVP multiplayer mode that wasn’t much more than a rework of the existing Overwatch product and an announcement that the PVE mode had been delayed.

The idea driving the Hero Mode was to take the short-run, limited-time PVE events that had been such a success for the original Overwatch and spin them into something resembling a full cooperative campaign. Heroes could be upgraded through play, and full talent trees would let you augment or even change their existing skills to create powerful builds useful in PVE. It generated a lot of excitement, and that was what Blizzard wanted. People loved the PVE events, and spinning them into something more substantial made sense. It was a way into a popular new game for players unexcited by its often challenging and competitive PVP.

And now it’s all gone. How did this happen? Why cancel the one major mode that was the basis for calling Overwatch 2 a sequel in the first place? It turns out a free-to-play, seasonal, live service model is a hungry beast, a furnace into which content must regularly be fed. Simply put, it appears that Team 4 may have bitten off more than it could chew.

“In the years following our announcement at BlizzCon 2019, we had a really large portion of our team working on the PvE side of that game, and I think players of our live running game could feel that because we eventually stopped making content for it,” Keller told Gamespot. “It’s been maybe two and a half years since the last hero that we launched, and we don’t want to be back at the point where it’s another three and a half years since launching a PvP map. So we really looked hard at what we were doing with the live game in service of this much bigger thing that we were working on and hoping to release later.

“The interesting thing about it is, it’s such a difference releasing content for players that are playing your game instead of saving up all of that content for one big release that you’re going to do later. So we came to the realization that this wasn’t the right way to be developing for all of Overwatch.

Something had to give, it seems. Keller and the team realised that Overwatch 2 couldn’t be both things. Working on the dedicated PVE mode meant holding a ton of content in reserve until it was finished. But Overwatch 2 embraces a live service model that requires a constant flow of new content to keep players coming back (and, of course, spending). What Keller and Neuss are saying (without really saying it) is that devoting resources to PVE meant there was less bandwidth for the PVP content that makes Blizzard money. Much like the spice, the seasonal content must flow.

Tough cookies, I hear many of you saying. You pitched this. You told us this was the mode that justified Overwatch 2 as a sequel, not a cash grab or an asset flip. What does this do for the game beyond forcing you to publicly file the ‘2’ off the title?

Keller and Neuss are ready for the blowback. “We’ve talked a lot in the past about Overwatch 2 and how different it is from the original game, even just being free-to-play and swapping to a 5v5 team format and all the new content that we’ve developed for it,” Keller told Gamespot. “To me that’s the biggest change that we’re looking at here; it’s not just that we have some of the same Heroes in the game. It’s the way that we’re writing the game and how we’re looking at the game going forward. I really hope that the roadmap that we just released is something that illustrates that to players.”

Overwatch 2 does have a lot of content on the way this year. A new content roadmap dropped overnight that gives players a look ahead at Seasons 6 and 7, featuring a new Support Hero along with a new PVP game mode with two new maps. There’s also a PVE event in the offing, the first of what Keller calls “a whole new type of PVE content” for the game.

Neuss understands the scale of the sequel pitch they’re now dismantling, but tries to find the positives. “… the original pitch was this big monolithic thing that releases. It has all this pressure and expectations set against it, and really the decision that we’ve made was not to walk away from PvE or to totally sort of abandon this side of the game. It’s to move into a model that we know we can deliver on.”

“… I think moving away from that idea of this one big singular PvE release moment and into a, ‘No, we’re going to do PvE stuff all the time.’ We have all these plans. Season 6 has three different flavours of that, and we have a bunch of other versions of that coming up and seasons after that,” says Neuss. “We want to acknowledge that it’s not the thing that people were expecting, but also we have high confidence that we can deliver in the way that we’re shifting now, which for us is really exciting. You can never ask anyone to take your word for it, so the hope is that once we start releasing this stuff in Season 6, players can see it and believe it too.”

So, rather than one big dedicated PVE mode that would take a long time to develop and hold back a lot of content until it was ready, Blizzard is instead looking for ways to roll out smaller chunks of PVE content for Overwatch 2 more regularly than it ever has. But will it contain any of the systems and talent trees that made the original PVE pitch so enticing?

The short answer is no, but there is a hope that perhaps some version of those systems will find their way into Overwatch 2 in the future.

“We would love to see more of that in the game, and while that was an integral part of our Hero Missions, we’re no longer doing those, so those won’t come to the game that way,” says Keller. “But we had put a lot of work into our Hero talents and there were a lot of really exciting things, not just with gameplay but with the fantasy of what a Hero was when we could start interacting with the hero that way. So we would like to bring those back in the future. It’s just going to take a different form than being a part of a new co-op game experience.”

As Gamespot’s Tamoor Hussain astutely points out, Team 4 (Blizzard’s internal name for the team behind Overwatch) is no stranger to picking up the pieces of a dead project and doing something with it. Overwatch itself was born out of a failed MMO called Titan, assets from which the team used to create the MOBA/shooter blend that changed the face of online shooters in the 2010s.

So, there you go. RIP big, shiny Overwatch 2 PVE mode. We literally never even knew ye.

You can read Gamespot’s full (and excellent) interview right over here.

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