Don’t lose hope: Overwatch 2 will save the franchise and OWL

reinhardt ow 2Activision Blizzard

Overwatch 2 has been long delayed, causing many players to leave the game, but not a single person should be ruling out a revival for the franchise or its esport.

The sequel for Activision Blizzard’s ability shooter, Overwatch, was announced back at Blizzcon 2019. Back then, many thought the game had the potential to come out in 2020, or 2021 at the latest.

Then, the entire world was put on hold. People lost jobs, progress was stifled, and the world got a lot darker. We needed more heroes, and it won’t be long until we see them.

Coming at a time when everyone is ripe for a reset and primed for progress, Overwatch 2 will push aside the stone and walk again amongst the greats in gaming and esports.

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baptiste overwatch 2Activision Blizzard
One of the heroes getting an updated look is Baptiste, who has had his own reworks since release.

This time around, developers are listening

One thing that all Overwatch fans can likely agree on is that it’s struggled to keep up with community sentiment. We watch other games like League of Legends or Valorant quickly make patch updates that the players identify as important. For those players, it is swift and painless.

For many years, this was anything but true in Overwatch. Fans endured months of GOATS, double-shield bunker, and many other dread-inducing metas. A lack of patching could have been fixed with a boost in content, yet, that well was dry too.

Barely more than one hero a year, or at least that’s how it felt, and new Deathmatch maps that are anything but value-adding had me and probably a lot of other players fearful of the future.

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But, from what we’ve heard about Overwatch 2 thus far, it appears that developers have changed their tune. Just about every hero whose design and balance issues made players dislike Overwatch is getting a rework in the sequel. Brigitte, Sombra, and Bastion will all look different, and the changes to 5v5 will prevent all of the aforementioned metas from rearing their ugly head again. Oh, and no more 2CP.

It is unlikely that devs will stop here. My money is that they’re going to make sure this thing has fan approval in every way they can before launch. Fans will welcome it because people need to be convinced this isn’t just a reskin of an old game. They need to be inspired, hopeful, and eager for its release. *Queue an inspirational speech from Winston*

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rome overwatch 2Activision
One of Overwatch 2’s new features that have flown relatively under the radar are its new maps, Rome featured here.

5v5 was the perfect change

You could actually attribute many of the game’s frustrating elements to the team composition players were forced into.

With many different Tanks having the ability to use shields that prevent damage, in an FPS game where dealing damage is the goal, there were bound to be issues. And there were.

Moving to one Tank and down to 5v5 will do a whole lot more than people think to make the game more fun to play and feel different from the prequel. For me, and for many others, this is one of the things that will most help Overwatch 2 succeed in the future.

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Besides it just feeling fresh and new, 10 player duels should dramatically impact the way the game is played. It seems like it will be much harder to just rush in and brawl when you only have one tank to soak damage. Maybe OW22 will feel a bit slower, more like Valorant, with every death costing that much more to a team? Maybe, without shields, natural cover and understanding map geography will become more important than ever?

It’s impossible to know just what will happen with a change to 5v5, but the point is that something will happen. There’s no way this will feel like the same game, from Bronze to Grandmaster, and that is sort of the goal, right?

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lucio overwatch 2 gameplayActivision Blizzard
We’ll get to see pros face off for the first time on Overwatch 2 very soon, during the Grand Finals.

The esport is getting a sequel of its own

We may as well call the 2022 Overwatch League and beyond OWL 2. The league, much like the game, has struggled to stay as relevant as it was when it first started.

First, mid-week Watchpoint’s went away (a personal favorite of mine), then it was a broadcast talent exodus, then the worst timed transition to live events, all while viewership suffered. Sponsors have left, players have moved on to greener pastures, and the sense of unease continues to grow from fans all the way up to owners.

Despite all of that, the OWL may finally become what it was always meant to be this upcoming year. Being played on Overwatch 2, fans will have renewed interest to come back and watch.

With the state of the world changing back for the better, hopefully, in the coming year, the live event model could finally be actualized. Crowds can return to filling stadiums and a new wave of young players can fall in love with the game and the league, just like they did back in 2016 and 2018.

While 2022 will probably be messy, the league has always proven to be resilient in one thing – adapting. But, thinking three, five, or ten years down the line, I am confident we’ll all look back at these last two years of the OWL as nothing more than growing pains. With expectations set so high at the outset, there was always bound to be a leveling out at some point, albeit no one expected it to come in the form that it did.

In short, I’m buying OWL stonks now, while it’s at its relative lowest. Diamond-handed, I’ll see you all at the moon.

new york overwatch 2Activision Blizzard
The next generation of players won’t even remember the days when New York wasn’t a map in Overwatch.

Investing in the next generation

One of the other struggles the Overwatch community has had is establishing a sustainable and enriching path to pro ladder. This exists currently through Open Division and Contenders but has struggled to fulfill its potential.

This is evident when teams will pickup players strictly from scouting them in competitive matches, and when just about every team dropped their academy affiliate in Contenders. Only a handful remain when there was once so many.

There now seems to be a shift back to this sort of energy, but with a different angle – the collegiate scene. With universities continuing to adopt and implement esports programs, players are seeing the value of getting a degree while playing on a top-tier roster, rather than making the financial sacrifice of just playing on a Contenders or OD team alone. It’s even getting to the point where university teams are entering into and doing well in Contenders, which will continue to make for a huge change in the tide.

Developers seem keen on supporting this shift, with the newly announced Overwatch Collegiate branding being unveiled. While this has already had some backlash and some initial growing pains of its own, this has potential to essentially recreate the tier 2 and tier 3 scene in Overwatch. It also lends itself to more credibility when universities get involved, both in the eyes of parents and of potential new sponsors.

Universities entering into this space and shaking up the tier 2 scene is something that is long overdue. Mix this with a new wave of young talent that will flock to the new and shiny sequel, and you have a great mix for fostering the next generation of pro talent. For a game to survive long-term, it must always find a way to appeal to and give space for talent to develop. From the outset, it appears Overwatch 2 will do just that.

winston overwatch 2Activision Blizzard
The wisest gorilla in Overwatch, and one of my favorite video game characters of all time, strutting his new look for Overwatch 2.

It’s time to prove dreams can become reality

I’m writing all of this as someone who has played since launch, got his start in gaming/esports because of this game, and been to several live OWL events as press. For me, this whole thing is about much more than a sequel for a game I like doing well, it’s about showing that, even just sometimes, dreams can become reality. It’s about a changing of the guard for a company that desperately needs something to go their way.

Think about what Overwatch is, a group of misfits and outcasts banding together to make the world a better place for everyone. I’ve so often resonated with different characters in the game, even getting Winston tattooed on my body to commemorate his peanut-butter loving wits and optimism. So much of this game tells a beautiful story, and this is a story we are in the process of living out.

Why root against progress? Why actively sabotage something that so many have worked so hard to make great? No, we’ve done enough of that in these last few years, now is time for rebirth and growth.

In the wise words of Winston’s namesake and mentor, Dr. Harold Winston, “Always remember: Never accept the world as it appears to be. Dare to see it for what it could be.”

I’m taking his advice and daring to see Overwatch 2 for what it can be, will you join me?