“Overwatch.” A game that is so instantly recognizable, even those with a passing interest in video games will have heard about it. For those unaware of what the game is, a quick introduction: developed and published by Blizzard back in 2016 (before they became Activision Blizzard), the first-person multiplayer game set the games industry on fire with its color-saturated, superhero aesthetic, which helped set it vastly apart from competing franchises such as “Call of Duty.” It was wonderful for its stylized setting, memorable characters and exciting gameplay. With so much brand-recognition so quickly, many were curious to see what the developers would do with its sequel. However, when the state of “Overwatch 2” was launched on Oct. 4, I shared the same sentiment shown by many in the gaming community: “Overwatch 2” is an absolute mess!
What makes “Overwatch 2” such a mess? It may be better to start off with the positives about “Overwatch 2” before diving into the list of problems.
On the positive side, the “Overwatch” many gamers love is there with some improvements. The game runs on an improved proprietary engine now, which helps use more assets, improve lighting, utilize better shaders, use sharper textures and so on. However, these changes to how the game plays aren’t anything drastic. In addition to the above-mentioned technical changes is the new content available for “Overwatch 2,”
namely the new characters. Sojourn, Kiriko and Junker-Queen all feature stand-out designs and abilities that have been well-received by the community eager for new material, and fans are enjoying Push as the new game mode
That is where the positives end as Activision-Blizzard have made consumer-unfriendly design choices. To start, if you are a new player who also hasn’t linked their account with Battle.net, then you will start with only 13 of the 35 characters to play as. Next, the controversial lootbox system has been replaced with a Game Pass system. However, while it allows players to grind to unlock new characters and cosmetics instead of leaving it up to random chance, the game has become just that: a total grind! Want to play as Kiriko? Sorry, you must get up to Game Pass Level 55, and then you can!
According to Liam Doolan of Nintendo Life: “It seems the grind has also been pushed to the limits because of this new model. A Reddit user by the name of ‘Chibi Tracer’ on the Overwatch subreddit has done some calculations, and apparently, it would take around 5 years or about 15,600 coins to unlock all of the nonseasonal items for the new hero Kiriko.”
Which leads to even more monetization. If you’re a new player who doesn’t want to grind absurd hours just to play new characters, you can buy the “Watchpoint Pack” for $39.99! There is also the new “Overwatch Coins,” that have replaced said lootboxes. As pointed out in the aforementioned article, you will have to buy 15,600 coins for $150.00 to unlock all the cosmetics for just one character. This is not accidental, as the grindy nature of “Overwatch 2” pressures players to spend money for in-game currency to optimize their experience. Finally, the last point of major controversy is the SMS requirement players have to go through. You cannot play “Overwatch 2” without giving the company your number, and if you are using a prepaid phone then you cannot play at all.
All of this goes to show that Activision Blizzard haven’t learned at all from past mistakes, such as with the disastrous “Diablo Immortal” which also was extremely monetized. If Activision Blizzard wants to win back their audience, they could start by making “Overwatch 2” more consumer friendly, and thus help salvage their reputation.
Kelly Baker is an alumnus of West Chester University of Pennsylvania.