‘Overwatch 2’ battle pass makes characters more “valuable,” devs say
Overwatch 2 has had too many ups and downs to count at this point. Fans were hyped to watch pros and streamers play the Overwatch 2 beta at first. Then, things turned a bit sour. Some considered it not different enough and others said it was too different from the original game. Overwatch players are still waiting to see whether or not the shift to a free-to-play model will work as well as the development team at Blizzard hopes. In a recent preview for the press, developers promised that the team is hard at work perfecting the series’ new live service strategy.
Part of that includes a somewhat controversial choice: New playable characters will be part of a battle pass, so rather than accessing them on release day, the player will either have to buy the premium battle pass or spend a great deal of time gaining enough XP to grind through the free tiers. Walter Kong, Overwatch General Manager, acknowledged fan concerns about this, but he remains confident that the new model is the best way to ensure the franchise’s future for years to come.
“We want to be able to continually invest in this live game service. From the perspective of the business, this isn’t free,” Kong said at a recent press event. “We spent a long time thinking through how to be able to fund our continuous development in a way that would still present fair and enjoyable experiences for all players, whether they choose to pay or play for free. Our approach in terms of players who pay is to deliver a tremendous amount of value.”
When asked about why the team chose to put Heroes behind the battle pass, he replied: “The Heroes are the single most engaging content that we have in the game and, as we designed this model, it seemed to be a very strong fit to put those heroes into our new engagement systems.”
“From the perspective of the business, this isn’t free.”
Each Overwatch 2 season starts with a new battle pass. Blizzard PR also notes that it will alternate between releasing a new Hero or a new map, but the first few will focus on Heroes as an exception. Players who reach Tier 55 in the free-to-play battle pass can unlock the new Hero. On the other hand, those who choose to pay for the Premium battle pass will get them automatically. Overwatch 2’s competitive system will also bar new Heroes for several weeks before adding them into the rotation so that free-to-play players have more time to earn and learn them.
So how do you earn points for your battle pass? Play games and complete Daily, Weekly, and Seasonal Challenges. Anyone who’s played Fortnite, Apex Legends, or Warzone should be familiar with the process.
The team designed the Daily Challenges to be the easiest to accomplish. These can range from DPS-focused tasks like racking up kills to something simpler that encourages teamwork, like queueing up as each Hero archetype that day: Tank, Damage, and Support. Challenges like these ensure that a larger number of players will experiment with different characters and roles rather than fixate on their mains.
Completing Dailies rewards players with a high number of battle pass points, which makes it easier to reach higher tiers by simply playing every day, even if you don’t complete the harder Weekly Challenges.
“It’s going to be hard to get the 60 coins every single week.”
Weeklies take more time and effort to complete but come with more “valuable” rewards like unlockable Heroes and Overwatch Coins, the game’s new virtual currency. If you can’t reach Tier 55 before the end of the season for whatever reason, you can still unlock Heroes from past seasons through Weekly Challenges. If you end up saving enough Overwatch Coins through Weekly Challenges, you can also use those to buy a Premium battle pass or other cosmetics. Jon Spector, Overwatch VP and Commercial Lead, emphasizes that this is not an easy task to complete.
“It’s going to be hard to get the 60 coins every single week,” Spector said. “That’s our most engaged players. That’s not your typical player doing that 9 weeks in a row.”
Completing all the Weekly Challenges adds up to 60 Overwatch Coins per week in a 9-week season. That’s about 540 Overwatch Coins a season if you manage to earn every coin possible. A Premium battle pass costs 1000 Overwatch Coins, meaning those who save all those coins over an 18-week (or 4- to 5-month) period would technically be able to unlock a character right away. However, as Spector explained, it would take a disciplined player to dedicate the time to do that and also perform well enough to easily earn those 60 Overwatch Coins a week.
The battle pass system prioritizes anyone who pays and/or plays the most. It seems fair to prioritize the most dedicated gamers, but as Inverse wrote earlier, it risks alienating casual fans. How will players ultimately react? The battle pass is a big change for Overwatch, but by all accounts it should be better than loot boxes. Despite a few potential growing pains, it could wind up being just the invigorating boost that the franchise needs right now.
Overwatch 2 launches on October 4, 2022 for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch. Expect cross-progression and crossplay.