Overwatch 2's Free-To-Play Announcement Changes Everything – Screen Rant

The Xbox & Bethesda Showcase revealed that Overwatch 2 will be going free-to-play, and such a move could help the maligned sequel once it releases.
A new Overwatch 2 trailer debuted in the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase presentation, and it revealed that the game will be completely free-to-play, which could bode well for it. New elements such as heroes and maps have also come out recently, but the free-to-play model is perhaps the biggest and most shocking news to come out so far. Overwatch 2‘s PVP will have an early access release in October of this year, but the full release date with PVE is still yet to be announced.
In Overwatch, players control one of the many available heroes and villains in a variety of game modes in a 6v6 competitive match. Overwatch 2 makes a few changes from the original game, including revamped character designs as well as new game modes such as the Push mode featured in Overwatch 2‘s Beta. Perhaps the biggest change aside from the free-to-play transition is the new 5v5 player limit on matches that fixes the rosters into one tank and two healers and damage dealers, whereas the original Overwatch had two of each, and no role queue at all in its early days. It’s possible that more news will be announced before Overwatch 2‘s release date, especially about the new hero, Junker Queen.
Related: Overwatch 2 Beta – Which Heroes Are Best & Why
Whether Overwatch 2‘s changes are for the better remains to be seen. New heroes like Sojourn as well as additional game modes are exciting, but they may not be enough to make it a fully distinct gaming experience that steps free of the original Overwatch‘s shadow. Additional features that will help it stand out are hopefully coming, if not upon release, then at least added as part of future updates. The 5v5 change in Overwatch 2 hasn’t been working well in the Beta so far, but for the time being, it looks as though it’s here to stay.
Overwatch 2 has suffered from a number of problems since its announcement in 2019. It’s had a general lack of hype, which hasn’t been helped by the scarcity of news coming from Blizzard Entertainment. The April Beta revitalized it and brought much-needed attention to the game, but there was still little interest for quite some time. Disappointingly, updates on the original Overwatch also slowed down due to the work on Overwatch 2. The free-to-play announcement could help bring Overwatch 2 into the spotlight and generate more hype in the time leading up to its release.
Overwatch 2‘s other problem has been its developer and publisher, Activision Blizzard. News and updates have somewhat distracted from Activision Blizzard’s controversies due to the ongoing lawsuits pertaining to its corporate culture and the treatment of its employees, and the game’s initial announcement coincided with 2019’s Blitzchung controversy, which saw Blizzard expel Hearthstone pro player Blitzchung from a tournament after he publicly supported the protests in Hong Kong against China that same year. Scores of players abandoned the company’s IPs, including Overwatch, in protest of both controversies; the negative press has also understandably harmed Overwatch 2‘s reputation and possibly its development, with one character, McCree, even having to be renamed following employee controversies. Overwatch 2 should be one of the most anticipated titles of 2022, but these repeated issues have understandably tainted its development. Free-to-play could reverse the maligned sequel’s fortunes somewhat, however, as such a model makes it easier to reach audiences who may have found a paid title prohibitive.
The transition to a free-to-play game model could help Overwatch 2 in a few ways. Not having to actually pay for the game aside from an online membership on certain consoles could help make it more accessible to players and broaden its core audience. A larger player base could mean more work would be done on the game, such as more updates with new heroes and game modes. The new maps in Overwatch 2‘s Beta are exciting, but more of them could go a long way towards helping it feel like more than just an update for the original. More characters were sure to come to Overwatch 2 regardless of if it was a paid title or free-to-play, but a healthier pool of players could lead to more regular updates. If it’s done right, then this could be the best decision that Blizzard has made for Overwatch 2 so far.
Related: Games That Feel Like They Shouldn’t Exist On The Nintendo Switch
Being free-to-play could also help Overwatch 2 compete with other popular online games such as Warzone and Apex Legends. There’s a lot of competition in the world of gaming, especially for titles that feature competitive online multiplayer. Overwatch 2 needs to stand out in order to attract players, and as a paid title, it might not have been able to do that; the reworked heroes introduced in Overwatch 2‘s Beta can only go so far towards making it unique. Battle royale games have also been on the rise ever since the release of Fortnite, and although it is a good game, team-based titles like Overwatch haven’t been getting as much recognition as they perhaps should.
Of course, just as free-to-play can help Overwatch 2, it can also hurt it. Free-to-play games have their own sets of problems, which Blizzard may stumble into if it doesn’t make the transition carefully. Excessive monetization has plagued online games for some time now, which the original Overwatch was not spared from. Its loot box features have been widely criticized almost since the game first released as a form of light gambling. Changes like Overwatch 2‘s new 5v5 teams may not matter if some of the most desired skins are locked behind even higher prices, although there’s also the possibility that it could give players more to strive toward while playing, and lead to increased playtime.
The other big issue surrounding Overwatch 2 is role queue times, namely how long it takes to play a damage character in the game’s role-queue system. Role queue was introduced in the previous Overwatch in service of a diverse meta, locking teams into two tanks, two damage characters, and two supports. While this arguably led to more compelling team dynamics, this also locked the majority of players out of picking DPS heroes, which still represent the bulk of Overwatch 2‘s characters and heroes. The priority pass system (which encourages players to pick support, tank, or flex for faster queue times on DPS) hasn’t fixed things either, and though it’s possible a wider player base from free-to-play could help negate that somewhat, it doesn’t solve the issue altogether. If it still takes upward of 10 minutes to play as the majority of Overwatch 2‘s roster – those of which are more traditionally shooter-like – then new players could be turned off quickly.
Next: Will Overwatch 2 Have Cross-Progression
Editor’s Note: A lawsuit has been filed against Activision Blizzard by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which alleges the company has engaged in abuse, discrimination, and retaliation against its female employees. Activision Blizzard has denied the allegations. The full details of the Activision Blizzard lawsuit (content warning: rape, suicide, abuse, harassment) are being updated as new information becomes available.
Austin Geiger is a nerd and a Game Features author at Screen Rant. He has loved to read, write, and play video games for longer than he can remember, and does each one daily. He likes Pokemon, Digimon, The Elder Scrolls, and more.

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