Overwatch 2 canceling PvE is what’s best for the game

Patrick Dane
Overwatch heores stand looking at the sun

New reports around Overwatch 2 have suggested that the game has canceled PvE entirely. While many are disappointed, here’s why this is the best thing to happen to the game’s future.

When Overwatch 2 was announced, it was very exciting. The franchise’s story was finally expanding. The fantastical world of heroes and villains would be fleshed out, and players would be able to enjoy a campaign centered around their favorite characters, whom they’d been playing for years.

That was back in 2019. If you’ve been a fan of the game, that’ll feel like an age ago now. Looking at where we were then and where we are now is a stark reminder of the journey this beleaguered franchise has been on.

Last week, Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier reported that PvE has been entirely canceled after poor sales of the first three missions of the campaign. With that, it seems that the team is ready to cut their losses on the mode.

While much of the response has commenters piling on, it’s curiously also been shrugged off by players still engaged in the game’s ecosystem. That’s because Overwatch 2 feels pretty great right now. Here’s how it got into this situation, but also why this might be the best thing to happen to the sequel since it was announced.

Overwatch’s big mistake

Overwatch 2’s whole reason for existing was PvE. That was why the first game was abandoned — to facilitate this new direction for the franchise that would incorporate PvP and PvE into one package. 

Obviously, that didn’t happen. PvE was the baby of Overwatch 1’s director, Jeff Kaplan, who also chose to halt production on the PvP side of the game to focus on the sequel. However, he famously left in 2021, and thus, that side of the game lost its biggest champion. 

The Overwatch 2 team was left with a difficult position. They lost the visionary behind the mode; it reportedly wasn’t close to being ready, and they effectively had a once monumental PvP game stuck in stasis and draining players.

So, Team 4 decided to pivot to get a functional Overwatch 2 out in 2022 and revive the PvP side of the game with new heroes and maps. The phrasing then was that PvE was still coming, but it would be later down the road. 

However, eventually, it was revealed that PvE would be getting stripped back. We would get the story the team had worked on but none of the skill trees or replayability. The first three of those missions finally arrived in the Invasion update.

Ultimately, it didn’t work, though. The aforementioned Bloomberg report alleges that Overwatch 2’s PvE missions did not sell well. This has seemingly led to a decision internally to scrap the continuing story in-game and instead refocus entirely on PvP. 

For those of us who cared about the world of Overwatch, it’s a blow. However, the reality is players now have to accept the conclusion that the developers clearly came to in their process of development – this is what’s best for the game. 

Overwatch 2 is in its best state to date

OW2 icon for champion rank
Overwatch 2’s new competitive overhaul has been well-received

While Overwatch 2 is many things to many people — a fictional world, a haven for cosplayers, a home to many Twitch streamers — ultimately, it’s a PvP game. While attempts have been made to broaden the universe, what people fell in love with was the core gameplay that launched in 2016. It’s unique, and there is precious little like it out there. That is the experience Overwatch 2 needs to nurture, and that appears to be what Blizzard is doing.

Overwatch 2 has already defined its new identity after scrapping PvE. This is the best decision – I know that because we are already reaping the rewards. The game is in its best state in years because you can feel the development team united behind PvP. 

Season 9 has been a crucial content drop for Overwatch 2. It introduced a great competitive overhaul and rebalanced a lot in a positive direction. While it still feels like initial steps towards a better game, Overwatch 2 is in the ascendency. That’s before you even get into recent announcements about heroes becoming free for everyone and old maps getting reworked.

Blizzard is finally focused where it should be — on the game that’s in front of them. 

Soldiering on

A screenshot featuring Tracer in Overwatch 2.

I’m of the belief that if the Overwatch team keeps its head down and continues to make consistent and meaningful content updates, it will, albeit slowly, return to its peak. Sentiment, at least anecdotally, feels like it’s changing for the better.

Of course, there is still anger out there. Why was Overwatch 2 announced? Why did the game effectively die for two years for no reason? They are big questions, but at this point, do they really matter? Jeff Kaplan is no longer on the team. Nor are other Activision executives who members of Team 4 have alleged were an enormously disruptive force on the game. Things have changed so much, the franchise is now owned by Microsoft. It’s staggering how different a place we’re in now than in 2019 when the sequel was announced.

The people in charge of what happened with the announcement of Overwatch 2 and the subsequent development difficulties are gone. Understandably fans and players want somewhere to place the blame, but the reality is that the current devs who face the brunt of disparaging comments aren’t the ones responsible for the mess. They are the ones pulling this game from the event horizon of an all-consuming black hole. 

It’s not over, watch and see

Overwatch 2 Heroes coming at the camera
Blizzard just needs to continue down the path it’s on.

Overwatch 2 is a cautionary tale about how hard game development is. Many games are canceled or have modes stripped out all the time. Ideas that get far into production but ultimately are cut due to time and money restrictions are relatively normal. The only difference here is that Overwatch 2 had to go through this process painfully publicly. Should Overwatch 2 have been announced as it was? No. Should it have ever had the number 2 attached to it, like an albatross around its neck? Probably not.

The other side of that cautionary tale, though, is that this story is not over. The team is clearly focusing on the PvP side of the game, with some promising results already. We have a frequent and reliable drip of heroes, maps, and game modes. This season alone, we’ve had four patches. The game is getting updates faster than even the most active times of Overwatch 1. As long as that remains sustainable, that’s the Overwatch 2 I want – a continuing release of heroes, maps, and updates to keep my favorite competitive game fresh.

That’s why the development team dropping PvE feels for the best. It was an ambitious idea, one everyone would have loved to see executed. It didn’t come together, though, even after putting the live game on ice to the detriment of the franchise. PvE might be a failed experiment, but the key failing of the franchise was putting it on life-support for over two years. It’s all spilled milk though – and really, I’d rather efforts were put into making the best possible PvP game now. Blizzard tried to add PvE to Overwatch. It didn’t work out. The game should move forward regardless. In other words, — GGs, go next.