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Overwatch is a team-based multiplayer online first-person shooter video game developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment. It was released in May 2016 for Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Overwatch assigns players into two teams of six, with each player selecting from a roster of over 20 characters, known in-game as "heroes", each with a unique style of play, whose roles are divided into four general categories: Offense, Defense, Tank, and Support. Players on a team work together to secure and defend control points on a map or escort a payload across the map in a limited amount of time. Players gain cosmetic rewards that do not affect gameplay, such as character skins and victory poses, as they play the game. The game was initially launched with casual play, with a competitive ranked mode, various 'arcade' game modes, and a player-customizable server browser subsequently included following its release. Additionally, Blizzard has developed and added new characters, maps, and game modes post-release, while stating that all Overwatch updates will remain free, with the only additional cost to players being microtransactions to earn additional cosmetic rewards.

Overwatch
Overwatch cover art (PC).jpg
Cover for the game's Origins Edition, featuring the hero character Tracer
Developer(s) Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher(s) Blizzard Entertainment
Director(s)
Designer(s)
  • Jeremy Craig
  • Michael Elliott
  • Scott Mercer
Programmer(s)
  • Mike Elliott
  • John LeFleur
Artist(s)
  • William Petras
  • Arnold Tsang
Writer(s) Michael Chu
Composer(s) Derek Duke
Platform(s)
Release
  • WW: May 24, 2016
Genre(s) First-person shooter
Mode(s) Multiplayer

Overwatch is Blizzard's fourth major franchise and came about following the 2014 cancellation of the ambitious massively multiplayer online role-playing game Titan. A portion of the Titan team came up with the concept of Overwatch, based on the success of team-based first-person shooters like Team Fortress 2 and the growing popularity of multiplayer online battle arenas, creating a hero-based shooter that emphasized teamwork. Some elements of Overwatch borrow assets and concepts from the canceled Titan project. After establishing the narrative of an optimistic near-future Earth setting after a global crisis, the developers aimed to create a diverse cast of heroes that spanned genders and ethnicities as part of this setting. Significant time is spent adjusting the balance of the characters, making sure that new players would still be able to have fun while skilled players would present each other with a challenge.

Overwatch was unveiled at BlizzCon 2014 in a fully playable state and was in a closed beta from late 2015 through early 2016. An open beta in May 2016 drew in nearly 10 million players. The release of the game was promoted with short animated videos to introduce the game's narrative and each of the characters. Upon official release, Overwatch received universal acclaim from critics, who praised the game for its accessibility, diverse appeal of its hero characters, bright cartoonish art style, and enjoyable gameplay. Blizzard reported over US$1 billion in revenue during the first year of its release, and had more than 35 million players by the end of 2017. Considered one of the best games released in 2016, the game received numerous accolades, including being awarded Game of the Year at The Game Awards, D.I.C.E. Awards, and Game Developers Choice Awards, as well as from numerous publications. Since its release, Overwatch has become recognized as an eSport, with Blizzard helping to fund and produce professional leagues, such as the Overwatch League, which mimics traditional North American sport leagues by having teams permanently based in cities.

Contents

Gameplay

Overwatch features squad-based combat with two opposing teams of six players each.[1] Players choose one of several hero characters, each with their own unique abilities and role classes. The four character roles include: offense characters with high speed and attack but low defense, defense characters meant to form choke points for enemies, support characters that provide buffs and debuffs for their allies and enemies respectively (such as healing or speed alterations), and tank characters that have a large amount of armor and hit points to withstand enemy attacks and draw fire away from teammates. During the pre-match setup, players on a team will be given advice from the game if their team is unbalanced, such as if they are lacking defensive heroes, encouraging players to switch to other heroes pre-match and balance the starting team.[2] Within a match, players can switch between characters in-game following deaths or by returning to their home base. The game is designed to encourage players to adapt to the opposing team during a match by switching to characters that better "counter" their abilities.[3][4]

 
A screenshot from Overwatch while in-match. The player (playing Tracer) and their allies are indicated in blue, while the opposing team is in red. The character's health bar is shown on the bottom left, their main skills and attacks are shown on the bottom right, and their progress towards their ultimate is shown in the bottom center.

Each hero has a primary attack or skill and at least two additional skills that can be invoked at any time, some requiring a brief cooldown period before they can be used again. Furthermore, each player slowly builds up a meter towards their character's "ultimate" skill; this meter builds up over time but can build up faster for defeating opponents or performing other beneficial tasks for their team such as healing other team members. Once ready, the player can use this skill at any time which may last for a few seconds (such as increased attack strength or immunity to attacks) or be a single powerful action (such as throwing a small explosive), after which they then must wait for the meter to fill up again. Opposing players will be alerted to the use of this ultimate ability by an exclamation from the character, often in the character's native language; for example, when using his "Deadeye" ability gunslinger McCree will call out "It's high noon" as the player engages the ultimate ability to target multiple visible enemies and deal lethal damage to those still in sight. This gives opposing players a brief moment to try to take cover or respond appropriately.[5]

A second meter tracks how many in-round points a player has scored over time, which are rewarded for killing or assisting in killing, providing team defense or healing, and scoring objective points. When a certain threshold is reached, the player character's icon will be "on fire," representing that that character is a threat, but otherwise does not directly affect gameplay.[6] This meter will slowly drop if the player does not continue to score points.

Overwatch employs an automated instant replay system, designed to highlight important moments of the game. After the game's end, the server selects a fragment of the match which had a large impact on the game's progression, such as a rapid succession of kills or an effective use of team healing, and then broadcasts it to all players from the point of view of the player responsible for it. This is called a "Play of the Game" (often abbreviated to "PotG"),[7] or "Play of the Match" ("PotM") in competitive games that have longer matches. Afterwards, a result screen is shown, highlighting up to four individual players from both teams for their achievements during the match (such as damage dealt, healed or shielded, or time spent on the objective), and all players are given the option to commend one of them.

Players gain experience points following a match towards a metagame level based on several factors such as whether they won or lost, how effectively they used their character's powers, being awarded gold, silver, or bronze medals for their team across six categories such as most time spent on the objectives; and beating past personal records in these categories. Initially, experience was only awarded when playing the game's matchmaking modes and not custom games, but the custom server browser update, released in February 2017, enabled experience gains for custom games. Each experience level earns a player a loot box, which contain four random cosmetic items for individual heroes, including victory poses, paint sprays, alternate skins (costumes), emotes and voice lines. Items are given out based on their rarity level, with "Common", "Epic", and "Legendary" tiers. Loot boxes my contain in-game currency called "credits", which can be used to purchase specific cosmetic items directly, with their cost based on the item's rarity.[8] Duplicate items are rewarded with in-game currency. Other items can only be acquired by completing in-game achievements. Players have the option to buy loot boxes with real-world money through microtransactions.

Roles

Characters in Overwatch come in four varieties: Offense, Defense, Tank, and Support. These roles serve to categorize the heroes by similar characteristics that can be used to describe them and their play style. The game shows tips to the players depending on which heroes have been selected; e.g., the team will recommend that a player selects a Support hero if there are none on the team.

  • Offense: Offense characters have high mobility and are known for their ability to deal large amounts of damage. To balance this, offense characters have a low number of hit points.[9][10][11]
  • Defense: Defense characters excel at protecting specific locations and creating choke points. Some can provide several means of field support, such as sentry turrets and traps.[9][10][11]
  • Tank: Tank characters have many more hit points compared to other characters. They are able to draw enemy fire away from their teammates to themselves, disrupting the enemy team. Tank heroes have various ways to protect themselves and their team with shield-like abilities.[9][10][11]
  • Support: Support characters are utility characters that have abilities that enhance their own team or weaken their enemies. They do not deal a lot of damage, nor do they have many hit points, but the buffs and debuffs they provide aid teammates in eliminating their opponents.[9][10][11]

Map types

In standard and competitive play, and in some of the special Arcade modes, maps are randomly selected for the match. Each Overwatch map has a specific game mode that it supports, which include:[12]

  • Assault: The attacking team is tasked with capturing two target points in sequence on the map, while the defending team must stop them.[3][4]
  • Escort: The attacking team is tasked with escorting a payload to a certain delivery point before time runs out, while the defending team must stop them. The payload vehicle moves along a fixed track when any player on the attacking team is close to it, but will stop if a defending player is nearby; should no attacker be near the vehicle, it will start to move backwards along the track. Passing specific checkpoints will extend the match time and prevent the payload from moving backwards from that point.[3][4]
  • Hybrid (Assault/Escort): The attacking team has to capture the payload (as if it were a target point from Assault) and escort it to its destination, while the defending team tries to hold them back.
  • Control: Each team tries to capture and maintain a common control point until their capture percentage reaches 100%. This game mode is played in a best-of-three format. Control maps are laid out in a symmetric fashion so no team has an intrinsic position advantage.

Each mode includes an "overtime" period that gives the attacking team additional time to complete an objective once normal time expires, as long as at least one member of the attacking team is actively on or near the objective throughout the overtime period. The attacking team has a brief period of time to return to the objective if they leave or are knocked away from it, with that grace time diminishing as overtime proceeds.

Other game maps exist in the game's Arcade modes or can be created through custom games. These include:

  • Elimination: First introduced in November 2016, two teams face off in a series of rounds, attempting to wipe out the other team; once a player is killed they remain out of the game until the next round though can be resurrected. If no team has won a round by a certain time, then the round is decided by the team that can first take a neutral control point. Players cannot change heroes until the next round. Some of these can be played in "lockout" mode, in which the heroes selected by the winning team for a round are "locked" and cannot be selected in future rounds.[13][14]
  • Deathmatch: Played either free-for-all or in two teams, players seek to kill opponents, scoring for each kill they make, and respawning a few moments later if they die. Matches are played until one player or team obtains a pre-set score. Deathmatch was introduced in August 2017.[15][16]
  • Capture the Flag: Introduced in February 2017, Capture the Flag is played on any of the symmetrical Control maps. Teams must attempt to capture the opponent's team flag while protecting their own. To account for the differences in hero movement and abilities, one must stand atop the flag for a few seconds to either capture or return the flag. Matches are played for 5 minutes or until one team has scored three captures.[17]

The custom server options enable players to create additional game modes not readily classified under the existing modes; for example, players can create 6 versus 1 settings, where one team must try to defeat a single player who is significantly overpowered compared to standard characters.

Most of the game's maps are inspired by real-world locations;[18] the first four maps, "King's Row", "Hanamura", "Temple of Anubis", and "Ilios" are inspired by London, Japan, the ruins of Ancient Egypt, and Greece respectively.[4]

Game modes

Overwatch features several means of gameplay, including tutorials and practice modes against computer-controlled opponents, casual matchmaking, weekly brawls, custom games, and competitive play.[19]

Casual matchmaking allows players, alone, or in a party with invited friends, to be randomly matched against others. The game servers will attempt to match the gathered players in party via a dynamic queue with others based on general skill level, only broadening outside this search range if it takes a long time to find matching players.[20] Blizzard works to adjust this matchmaking approach to making sure players will find matches of people with roughly equivalent skill level. For example, in June 2016, Blizzard removed the option for players to avoid specific opponents; the option was meant for players to be able ignore trolls, but instead found that highly skilled players were being put on these avoidance lists and were having difficulty finding games or would be matched with new and less-skilled players.[21]

Overwatch was launched with a rotating Weekly Brawl mode, inspired by Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft's Tavern Brawls.[22] These matches featured unique rules, such as players forced to play a specific hero or a specific class of hero, or may force a random hero on the player each time they respawn; as the mode's name suggests, these Brawls would change weekly.[22] The Weekly Brawl was merged into an Arcade mode on November 15, 2016. Arcade mode features a rotating variety of games based on all game modes, and from which players can earn unique in-game items or loot boxes.[23][24][25] During seasonal events, these Arcade modes may feature unique game modes for that event, such as a three-on-three soccer-type game during the 2016 Summer Olympics,[26] a co-operative player-versus-environment defense mode during the game's first Halloween event,[27] and a Capture the Flag mode as part of the 2017 Chinese New Year event.[17]

Custom games enable players to have open or private games with several possible options that can be adjusted, such as match length, which maps to play, limitations on character selection, and similar options that are used to create the Weekly Brawl or Arcade matches. When initially released, custom games did not allow players to gain experience points. Blizzard has since allowed experience to be earned in custom games with safeguards to prevent players idling for experience points.[28][29][30][31]

Competitive mode allows players segregated by both region and platform to play in ranked matches to try to advance in their skill ranking as high as possible during 2-to-3 month long competitive seasons. Competitive matches uses the same rules as the professional Overwatch League. At the start of each season, players must play 10 matches to determine their skill ranking, a combination of their win/loss/draw record, their previous season's performance, and their own performance with the various heroes over the 10 matches. Subsequently, all competitive matches are played using matchmaking with players near similar skill levels, and one's skill ranking will rise of fall upon winning or losing a match, respectively; draws do not affect the skill ranking. One's skill ranking determines which of six tiers they are in, with end-of-season rewards given out based on the highest tier that one achieved that season. Those in the highest tiers, Master and Grandmaster, must continue to play matches to maintain their position within those tiers or will have their skill rank drop if they are inactive. Winning or drawing a match earns players "competitive points", a separate form of in-game currency that can be used to buy "golden weapons" for a selected hero. Blizzard continues to monitor how competitive play works out and has tweaked various aspects of the system throughout seasons in response to player feedback.[32][20][33]

Plot

The backstory to Overwatch is described through animated shorts and other information distributed by Blizzard in promoting the game.[34][35][36]

Overwatch is set sixty years into the future of a fictionalized Earth, thirty years after the resolution of the "Omnic Crisis". Prior to the Omnic Crisis, humanity had been in a golden age of prosperity and technology development. Humans developed robots with artificial intelligence called "Omnics", which were produced worldwide in automated "omnium" facilities and put to use to achieve economic equality, and began to be treated as people in their own right. The Omnic Crisis began when the omniums started producing a series of lethal, hostile robots, which turned against humankind. The United Nations quickly formed Overwatch, an international task force to combat the omnic threat and restore order.

Two veteran soldiers were put in charge of Overwatch: Gabriel Reyes and Jack Morrison. Though Overwatch successfully quelled the robotic uprising and brought a number of talented individuals to the forefront, a rift developed between Reyes and Morrison, and Morrison became the leader of Overwatch while Reyes took charge of Blackwatch, Overwatch's covert operations division. Overwatch maintained peace across the world for several decades in what was called the "Overwatch Generation," but the rift between Morrison and Reyes intensified. Several allegations of wrongdoing and failures were leveled at Overwatch, leading to a public outcry against the organization and in-fighting between its members, prompting the UN to investigate the situation. During this, an explosion destroyed Overwatch's headquarters in Switzerland, purportedly killing Morrison and Reyes among others. The UN passed the Petras Act, which dismantled Overwatch and forbade any Overwatch-type activity.

Overwatch is set some years after the Petras Act; without Overwatch, corporations have started to take over, fighting and terrorism have broken out in parts of the globe, and there are signs of a second Omnic Crisis occurring in Russia. Former members of Overwatch decide to reform Overwatch despite the Petras Act, recruiting old friends and gaining new allies in their fight.[37]

Development

Overwatch came about in the aftermath of Blizzard's decision to cancel the massively multiplayer online role-playing game Titan in 2013, a project that had been in development for about seven years. While most others assigned to the project were transferred to other departments within Blizzard, a small team of about 40 people, led by director Jeff Kaplan, were tasked to come up with a new concept for a game in a few months. After some brainstorming, they came onto the idea of a hero team-based shooter, building upon the success of games like Team Fortress 2 and multiplayer online battle arenas. They started with assets developed for Titan to demonstrate the proof-of-concept, and were greenlit to build out the full game, the first new intellectual property that Blizzard had developed since StarCraft.[38][39]

The intra-company experience of Titan's cancellation served to help drive the narrative and setting. They created an optimistic vision of the near-future, some decades following the Omnic Crisis and the formation and collapse of the peacekeeping Overwatch group. This allowed them to create a diverse cast of characters, include non-human ones, and colorful settings from around the globe.[40] The Overwatch team continues to support the game through free updates, the introduction of new characters, maps, game modes, cosmetic items, seasonal events, and external media to support the game's narrative, as well as continuously tuning how the individual heroes play by monitoring meta-game statistics and user feedback.

Marketing

 
Overwatch being exhibited at Gamescom 2015

Overwatch was formally announced at the BlizzCon event on November 7, 2014; the game was playable during the event to all attendees, with fourteen characters available to select from.[41] During this event Blizzard released a cinematic trailer and an extended gameplay video for the game.[42][43] A month after the BlizzCon event, in December 2014, Blizzard published character introduction videos to its YouTube channel, and followed up on this May 2015 by posting weekly videos of game footage and character highlights.[41]

A closed beta period for Overwatch across all three platforms began on October 27, 2015.[44] The closed beta was put on "extended break" in December and brought back in February 2016.[45] Following the March 2016 release announcement, Blizzard announced an open beta period from May 5 to 9 for any registered user of the Battle.net client.[46][47] The open beta proven popular with Blizzard reporting over 9.7 million players participating,[48] and as a way of showing thanks, extended the open beta period by one extra day.[49]

In the week prior to release, Blizzard arranged to have three giant-sized boxes (approximately 15 feet (4.6 m) tall) of various Overwatch heroes, as if being sold as packaged action figures, put on display across the globe at Hollywood, Paris, and Busan, South Korea.[50][51][52] The displays were created by Alliance Studios, led by Steve Wang, who has collaborated with Blizzard before on past projects, and Eddie Yang.[53] After planning the design of the sculptures in January 2016, teams across the world, including Droga5, Scicon, Stratasys and Egads, raced to print, finish and assemble the works in time for the game's release.[54] Propelled by Overwatch, Blizzard had over 50% of the American advertisement share among gaming industry brands from May 16 to June 15, 2016.[55]

Overwatch was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One platforms on May 24, 2016, with the game servers coming online at 00:00 BST that day. Blizzard allowed retailers to sell physical copies of the game on May 23 to help players prepare for the servers' launch.[56][57] The game will be supported by updates, including new maps and characters. All of the additional content will be free for existing players and does not require additional payment. Blizzard hoped that through this method they can alleviate the concerns of some players.[58]

Two special editions of Overwatch were released alongside the base game. The Origins Edition, available both as a downloadable and retail product, includes the base game and five additional character skins, as well as other bonus items for other Blizzard games via Battle.net.[59] The Collectors Edition, only available as retail, includes the Origins Edition content as well as a statue of Soldier: 76, one of the playable characters, along with the game's soundtrack and a source book.[60] Those that purchased either the Origins or Collectors Editions received the Baby Winston battle pet in World of Warcraft.

In honor of its first anniversary, Blizzard released a digital Game of the Year edition of Overwatch on May 23, 2017; it includes all content from the Origins Edition in addition to ten free in-game loot boxes.[61]

Blizzard has expressed interest in supporting cross-platform play between console systems in the future, though has no plans for Windows-supported cross-play due to the precision advantage of keyboard-mouse controls over controller-based ones.[62][63]

Related media and merchandise

Blizzard opted to tell the story of Overwatch across various mediums, rather than include a story mode; Chu stated, "One of the things that's really great is we're able to leverage the strengths of these different mediums to tell different parts of the story," citing Soldier: 76's appearances in fake news reports, an animated video narrated from his perspective, as well as the Hero short.[64] Chu remarked that Blizzard's method of storytelling with Overwatch demonstrated a "gameplay first" philosophy.[65]

In March 2016, Blizzard announced that they would be releasing comics and animated shorts based on Overwatch in 2016. The related media included plans for a graphic novel called Overwatch: First Strike, which would have focused on the story of several in-game characters including Soldier: 76, Torbjörn, Reaper, and Reinhardt. The novel was to be penned by writer Micky Neilson and artist Ludo Lullabi.[66] Blizzard opted to cancel First Strike in November 2016, with Chu stating that since the announcement of the graphic novel, Overwatch's narrative development has gone in a somewhat different direction, changing out these origin stories would work. Blizzard still plans to reveal more of the characters' backstory in time.[67]

Blizzard began releasing the series of animated shorts in March 2016; the shorts maintained the style of the game's cinematic trailer, which centered on a battle in which Tracer and Winston fought Reaper and Widowmaker in the Overwatch Museum.[43] A collection of these cinematic sequences played in movie theaters across the United States as part of the game's launch event.[68] The first episode of the animated short series, Recall, was released on March 23. It centers on Winston and Reaper, and features flashbacks to Winston's childhood.[69] The second episode, Alive, showcased a standoff between Tracer and Widowmaker, and was released on April 5.[70] The third episode, Dragons, featuring the brothers Hanzo and Genji, was released on May 16.[71] The fourth and final episode of the series' first season, Hero, stars Soldier: 76, and was released May 22.[72]

Overwatch characters and elements have been brought over to Blizzard's crossover multi-player online battle arena game, Heroes of the Storm. The characters Tracer, Lúcio, Zayra, Genji, and D.Va are all playable heroes in Heroes of the Storm, and an arena based on the Overwatch map Hanamura has been added to the game.[73][74] Blizzard plans to add Junkrat, Ana, and a map based on Overwatch's Voskaya Foundry.[75]

A 100-page art book, titled The Art of Overwatch and featuring various artwork and art prototypes from the game, was published by Dark Horse Comics in October 2017.[76]

Funko has produced several Overwatch character figurines in their Pop line since the game's launch.[77] Good Smile Company announced they will produce Nendoroid figurines of various Overwatch characters in 2017 and onward, starting with Tracer, and followed by Mercy and Mei.[78]

Professional competition

 
A group of people playing Overwatch at Gamescom 2016

According to Kaplan, Overwatch was not developed with any dedication towards eSports. Although Blizzard had success with committing to eSports with the development of Starcraft II, they had found that "it's dangerous to be overly committed to esport too early in the lifespan of the game", instead seeing how the community developed this over time as they saw from Hearthstone.[79] Kaplan stated they included and planned for features for the game to support the competitive community.[79] Dan Szymborski writing for ESPN stated that Overwatch was poised as the next big eSport for having a sufficiently different look and playstyle from established eSports titles like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Call of Duty, enough variety in maps and characters, and strong support from Blizzard to maintain the game for a long time.[80] Bryant Francis writing for Gamasutra noted the speed and short match times of Overwatch make the game highly favorable for viewership, further supporting the title as an eSports title.[81]

Just prior to the game's release, PC Gamer writer Stefan Dorresteijn contacted professional eSports players and hosts for their opinions. Longtime eSports host Paul Chaloner stated that "[Overwatch] needs a much better spectator system," going on to elaborate, "Right now, it's incredibly difficult for commentators and viewers to see the skills of the players: who used their ultimates and how did they interact? Who is on cooldown and who has changed hero?"[82] Fellow eSports player Seb Barton and Michael Rosen criticized the game's map designs and game modes; Barton remarked that "the game modes are a little hit and miss," adding that "King of the hill [Control] is super exciting and fast paced but then you have the payload [Escort] maps, which are just a snoozefest for everyone involved."[82] Rosen expressed a need for tweaking to the maps used for the control game mode, as they are "just too prone to the snowball effect. The moment the attacking team captures the first control point they don't just have the momentum but also the last advantage for the second and final capture point."[82]

In June 2016, the eSports organizer ESL announced that they would host the first international Overwatch competition in August 2016, called Overwatch Atlantic Showdown.[83] The competition will use four open qualifiers beginning in June, followed by regional qualifiers and then a final online qualifier. Eight teams will then compete for a six-figure prize in the finals to be held at Gamescom 2016 from August 20–21.[84] Turner Broadcasting's ELeague announced the first Overwatch Open tournament, starting in July 2016, with a total prize pool of $300,000, with plans to broadcast the finals on Turner's cable channel TBS in September 2016.[85] In November, Blizzard hosted their own Overwatch World Cup, allowing users to vote for teams to represent their nation or region, with finals taking place during their BlizzCon event.[86]

Overwatch League

During the 2016 Blizzcon, Blizzard announced their plans for their Overwatch League, using an organization of permanent teams in league placements similar to more traditional North American professional sports leagues,[87] rather than the use of promotion and relegation used in a series like League of Legends Championship Series.[88] Blizzard sought potential team owners including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke, and by November 2017, had established twelve franchises around the world with plans to expand further in later seasons. Contracted players on these franchises are guaranteed a minimum salary, benefits, and revenue sharing. The first season of the League to start on January 10, 2018, with play-offs planned for July 2018, with teams vying for a US$$1 million League winner prize, alongside other winnings from a total prize pool of US$3.5 million. The first season will be played at Blizzard Stadium in Burbank, California, but Blizzard anticipates developing other venues around the world with teams traveling to participate in games.[88][89]

Reception

Reception
Aggregate score
Aggregator Score
Metacritic PS4: 90/100[103]
XONE: 91/100[104]
Review scores
Publication Score
Destructoid 10/10[90]
EGM 9/10[91]
Game Informer 10/10[92]
Game Revolution      [93]
GameSpot 9/10[94]
GamesRadar      [95]
IGN 9.4/10[96]
PC Gamer (US) 88/100[97]
Polygon 8/10[98]
VideoGamer.com 9/10[99]
PlayStation LifeStyle 10/10[100]
The Escapist      [101]
The Guardian      [102]
Edit on wikidata  

Before its release, Overwatch experienced a period of pre-launch attention not typically expected; Game Revolution noted that "[Overwatch's] reputation has quickly permeated through cyberspace, attracting attention from people who may not traditionally put down $40 to $60 each time a new first-person shooter releases."[105] The game's open beta, which attracted 9.7 million players, was very heavily covered by the media.[106]

Overwatch received "universal acclaim" upon release, according to review aggregator Metacritic.[107][103][104] IGN's Vince Ingenito praised the game's characters and maps, writing "Overwatch takes just about every possible opportunity to make its cast and locales seem like people and places rather than puppets and scenery." Ingenito added that the game has a "strong online experience that gets you into games quickly and reliably."[108] The Verge's Andrew Webster praised Overwatch and previous titles Titanfall and Splatoon as "friendly online shooters" that have room for both new and casual players who may not desire to master the game but can still compete fairly with others, and for expert players that can utilize the various heroes to adapt to the dynamic tactics of the game.[109] Webster went on to cite the atmosphere of Overwatch as a reason for the game's approachability, writing, "The first thing that makes Overwatch's world appealing and approachable is, well, its world. This isn't the dour brown-and-grey shooter you might be used to. Instead, it's bright and colorful, with a cast of characters that's eclectic and diverse."[109] Caty McCarthy of Kill Screen echoed similar thoughts, writing "When playing Overwatch, the player is absorbed by its radiating positivity. It's a world filled with lively color and energetic, playful competition, much like Nintendo's creative kid-friendly ink-shooter Splatoon."[110] Mike Minotti of VentureBeat commending the team-based gameplay, the game's diverse character roster and colorful settings, as well as the unlockable cosmetics earned through level progression and the smooth server connection.[111] Referencing its similarities to Team Fortress 2, Minotti confirmed that "[Overwatch has] distinct classes, the team- and objective-based combat, and a bright, cartoon-like art style," and that "Overwatch certainly takes plenty of inspiration from Valve's online shooter series," but opines that "[Overwatch is] just better."[111] Daniel Tack of The News & Observer positively received the game, expressing that "no matter what happens – win or lose – you’re going to have fun," adding that "the game's strength lies in its simplicity and polish."[112] Tack went on to praise the game's characters, writing "Unforgettable characters are the lifeblood and driving force of Overwatch."[112] The Denver Post's Hugh Johnson lauded the game for its emphasis on characters, rather than focusing on traditional first-person shooter tropes, such as weapon load outs and incremental level upgrades.[113] Johnson went on to insist that the characters are balanced writing, "The big question with class-based shooters like these is whether or not the characters are balanced," expressing that "some characters are naturally better, but no character is so overpowered that their mere presence spells doom for their opponents."[113] In June 2016, Vulture's Joshua Rivera listed Overwatch as one of the "best video games of 2016 (so far)," writing, "It's hard to separate Overwatch the game from Overwatch the phenomenon — and why bother, both are fascinating."[114]

The online magazine Inverse, while expressing an overall positive reception for the game, pointed out the balance of McCree, teams composed of only one character, issues with matchmaking, and the Play of the Game as problems that should be fixed by the game's development team.[115] Gabe Gurwin of Digital Trends, directed criticism at Blizzard, for their decision to exclude the story from the game, which left players "with a great game, a great story, and no way to reconcile the two."[65]

Shortly after the game's competitive play mode was released, Kotaku's Nathan Grayson stated that "Overwatch's competitive mode [is not] all that bad, for how new and unpolished it is," but opined that "high-stakes competition and toxicity tend to go hand-in-hand, and Overwatch's competitive mode already has an ugly toxic stain." Grayson concluded his piece with "Overwatch is, most of the time, a feel-good team game. Introducing high-stakes competition with a muddled message about the importance of individual skill drags the game into confused, oftentimes negative territory. If Blizzard wants this thing to work, they're gonna have to figure out a competitive framework that's true to Overwatch's spirit, rather than just the spirit of competition."[116] Kaplan acknowledged that with the introduction of competitive mode that the whole of the Overwatch community has become more toxic, and they are constantly adapting elements behind the scenes to help deal with aggressive players in a more responsive manner, while trying to promote more enjoyable matches.[117]

Sales

Overwatch player growth
 

A week from its launch, Blizzard reported over 7 million Overwatch players with a total accumulated playtime of 119 million hours;[118] Blizzard reported more than 10 million players by mid-June,[119] and has reported continued increases in the player base, with 35 million players as of October 2017.[120][121][122][123][124] The NPD Group, a video game industry tracking firm, reported that Overwatch was the third best-selling retail video game (nb. discounting digital sales through Battle.net) in the US in May 2016 on the month of its release, and was the top-selling game in June 2016;[125][126] the NPD Group later reported it was the 7th highest selling game by revenue (excluding Battle.net sales) in the United States for all of 2016.[127] With digital sales, Overwatch was the fastest selling game during its release month.[128] SuperData Research estimated that Overwatch brought in more than $269 million in revenues from digital sales worldwide in May,[129] and over $565M in sales on personal computers along by the end of 2016, making it the highest revenue-generating non-free-to-play game for personal computers in the year.[130]

In Activision-Blizzard's quarterly earnings report for Q1 2017, the company reported that Overwatch revenues had exceeded one billion dollars, the eighth such property owned by the company to do so.[131]

In June 2016, Gametrics, a South Korean internet cafe survey website, reported that Overwatch overtook League of Legends as the most popular game played across 4,000 of South Korea's PC bangs.[132]

Controversies

While the developers were aiming to avoid sexualization of the characters, there was some criticism of the female characters of the game during its development. In February 2015, Anita Sarkeesian commented on the lack of diversity in the female heroes' body types from the game's first twelve revealed characters,[133] while Nathan Grayson of Kotaku remarked that "Overwatch's women are mostly super slim and clad in cat suits."[134] In March 2015, the development team revealed a new female character, Zarya, a Tank class character with a muscular body, and pledged commitment to diversity.[135]

Following promotional images featuring the female character Tracer in March 2016, a thread on Blizzard's official forums drew attention to one of Tracer's victory poses, which was criticised by a user as out of character and oversexualized. Kaplan apologized for the pose, stating "The last thing we want to do is make someone feel uncomfortable, under-appreciated or misrepresented," and confirmed that Blizzard planned to replace the pose. Kaplan's response drew mixed reactions from the gaming community, with many claiming Blizzard had forgone its creative control over the game and censored its content to placate one offended user, while others praised Blizzard's willingness to listen to the community and adhere to standards for portraying a character according to their personality. Kaplan later stated that the team was already unsure of the pose and was thinking of changing it.[136] The following week, a replacement pose was released, although it was noted to be similar to the original pose.[137][138] The replacement pose was alleged to be influenced by Billy DeVorss cheesecake pin-up art.[138] The pose was replaced during the game's beta period.[137]

Following the game's release, some of the alternative outfits for characters had come under criticism for using cultural stereotypes, such as a Native American headdress option for the character of Pharah, who seemed to be primarily of Egyptian origin. Kaplan noted that they considered for all these outfits if they were appropriate, believing they were respecting the cultures of the characters they had created, and would make necessary changes if they felt there were valid concerns. Kaplan commented that many players have responded positively to these outfits and feel they fit in appropriately with the idealized version of Earth.[139] Later game developments showed that Pharah was actually set out as a half-Egyptian/half-Native American character, making such outfits appropriate in hindsight.[140]

In Overwatch's Asia servers, there were problems with numerous players using hacks tied to the growing number of younger players using PC bangs in South Korea that allow them to play Overwatch on an inexpensive hourly rate rather than purchasing the game. As these players do not need permanent accounts, they can use disposable Battle.net accounts and employ game hacks without repercussion, and if that account is banned, they can quickly make another and continue playing. Blizzard continues to block these accounts at a rate of thousands per day, but have not been able to find a more permanent solution.[141] Subsequently, Blizzard announced that players from South Korea will be required to log into a Battle.net account to play the game from February 2017 onward, which requires a difficult-to-spoof resident registration number among other unique information, which Blizzard believes will help to alleviate the problem.[142]

As to maintain a fair competitive field on consoles, Blizzard has spoken out against the use of input converters that would allow console players to use keyboard/mouse controllers, believing this gives an advantage to players that can afford the converter.[143] Some players have criticized the ability to use these converters, as players with them often populate the top of the competitive ranking ladders. Though Blizzard has appealed to Sony and Microsoft to either prevent such converters, or to detect when such converters are used as to be able to segregate players into servers based on this, disabled players have spoken out against such action, as many need to use such converters to play the game on consoles lacking the ability to use a normal controller.[144]

After a year from its release, journalists observed that the player community was becoming more toxic, disrupting the enjoyment of playing the game. It was believed this came from the nature of the game that requires teamwork, and when teammates see players unwilling to switch to different heroes to balance the team or otherwise play for individual gains, this would cause the teammates to become angry and lash out at the player, become griefers and throw the match, or other negative behavior that would spread over time, particularly in the game's competitive mode. Players are able to report malicious users with in-game tools, and Blizzard can ban players for egregious actions, but they do not attempt to segregate out bad actors from the larger pool (a method used by other developers in multiplayer games), instead keeping an inclusive community for all non-banned players, which is believed to contribute to the growing toxicity. Kaplan said in a September 2017 update that Blizzard was very well aware of the problem, and have worked to improve their in-game player behavior reporting tools to help combat the toxicity, but because they have had to put greater effort into this, they are distracted from developing new features and content for the game. Kaplan urged the community to consider how they can improve individually and as a whole to help combat the situations.[145][146][147]

In November 2017, the Belgian gambling regulator announced that it was investigating Overwatch, alongside Star Wars Battlefront II, to determine whether loot boxes constituted unlicensed gambling.[148]

Accolades

Overwatch won numerous awards in 2016, including being named Game of the Year at The Game Awards 2016, the 20th D.I.C.E. Awards, and the 17th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards, as well as several awards and nominations highlighting its game direction and as a leading multiplayer game. Several publications, including IGN, GameSpot, Game Informer and Eurogamer, named Overwatch the best game of 2016, receiving 102 "game of the year" awards across critics and reader polls.[149]

Year Award Category Result Ref
2016 Golden Joystick Awards 2016 Best Original Game Won [150][151]
Best Visual Design Nominated
Best Audio Nominated
Best Multiplayer Game Won
Best Gaming Moment (Play of the Game) Won
Game of the Year Nominated
PC Game of the Year Won
Competitive Game of the Year Won
The Game Awards 2016 Game of the Year Won [152][153]
Best Game Direction Won
Best Art Direction Nominated
Best Action Game Nominated
Best Multiplayer Won
ESports Game of the Year Won
GameSpot's Best of 2016 The Best PC Games of 2016 Top 5 [154]
The Best Xbox One Games of 2016 Top 5 [155]
The Best PS4 Games of 2016 Top 5 [156]
Game of the Year Won [157]
Giant Bomb's 2016 Game of the Year Awards Best Debut Won [158]
Best Multiplayer Won [159]
Best Game 3rd Place [160]
Eurogamer Game of the Year Game of the Year Won [161]
Polygon's 2016 Games of the Year Game of the Year 3rd Place [162]
PCGamer's Game of the Year Awards 2016 Best Multiplayer Won [163]
Game Informer Best of 2016 Awards Best Competitive Multiplayer Won [164]
Best Shooter Won
Game of the Year Won
2016 Hollywood Music in Media Awards Best Original Score – Video Game Won [165]
IGN Best of 2016 Awards Best Shooter Won [166]
Best eSports Game Won
Best Multiplayer Won
PC Game of the Year Won
Game of the Year Won
Slant Magazine Top 25 Best Video Games of 2016 Game of the Year 3rd Place [167]
Game Revolution's End of 2016 Awards Best Game Won [168]
EGM's Best of 2016 Game of the Year Won [169]
GamesTM's Game of the Year Awards Game of the Year Won [170]
The Escapist Awards 2016 Best Shooter, Multiplayer Won [171]
Game of the Year Won [172]
Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences D.I.C.E. Awards 2016 Game of the Year Won [173]
Action Game of the Year Won
Outstanding Achievement in Animation Nominated
Outstanding Technical Achievement Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Online Gameplay Won
Outstanding Achievement in Game Design Won
Game Developers Choice Awards 2016 Game of the Year Won [174][175]
Best Audio Nominated
Best Design Won
Best Technology Nominated
Best Visual Art Nominated
2017 2017 SXSW Gaming Awards Video Game of the Year Nominated [176][177]
ESports Game of the Year Won
Trending Game of the Year Won
Excellence in Design Nominated
Most Promising New Intellectual Property Won
Most Memorable Character
Tracer
Nominated
Excellence in Multiplayer Won
Excellence in Art Nominated
Excellence in Animation Nominated
13th British Academy Games Awards Best Game Nominated [178][179]
Game Design Nominated
Multiplayer Won
Original Property Nominated
AMD Esports Audience Award Nominated
National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers Game of The Year Won [180]
Game, Original Action Won
Original Light Mix Score, New IP Nominated
Character Design Won
Game Design, New IP Nominated
Golden Joystick Awards 2017 eSports Play of the Year (Agilities) Won [181][182]
eSports Game of the Year Won
Still Playing Nominated
The Game Awards 2017 Best Ongoing Game Won [183]
Best eSports Game Won
IGN's Best of 2017 Awards Best Spectator Game (People's Choice) Won [184]
2018 Game Informer 2017 Shooter of the Year Awards Best Shooter as Service Won [185]

Legacy

Overwatch's fan base has been noted to be generally kind and supportive; Daniel Starkey of Wired wrote, "where many fresh games struggle with an endless stream of player complaints and developer-prodding, Overwatch's community is vivacious and jubilant."[42] A gamer with cerebral palsy publicly praised the game's customizable controls, which let him make his first snipe in a video game.[186][187] One of Blizzard's artists, Roman Kenney, drew concept art based on one player's daughter's original Overwatch character design.[188] Blizzard altered one of the game's maps to include a tribute to an avid Chinese fan of the game who died from injuries while trying to stop a motorcycle theft on the day before the game's public release.[189]

 
Cosplay of various Overwatch characters at New York Comic Con 2016

Blizzard has encouraged fans of Overwatch to make artistic content based on the game.[190] To support this, Blizzard released the hero reference kit before release, providing official colors and costume and weapon designs for all 21 heroes present at the game's launch.[191] Fans have used these, the game's animated media, and other assets to create a large amount of content, including art,[192][193] cosplay,[194][195] and anime opening-style music videos.[196][197] Some Overwatch concepts have created internet memes such as "Gremlin D.Va", which focuses on the character D.Va, portrayed through Western gamer stereotypes.[198] In some cases, Blizzard has reciprocated these fan creations back into the game, such as an emote for D.Va, based on the Gremlin meme.[199] At the 2017 D.I.C.E. Summit in February 2017, Kaplan said that much of Overwatch's narrative is now being borne out of the game's fans, adding "We love it, that it belongs to them...We’re just the custodians of the universe."[40] Kaplan recognizes that he himself is seen as an Overwatch character within the fan community, and following similar steps that Hearthstone's lead designer Ben Brode has done, has continued to engage with the fan community.[200]

There exists pornographic fan art of the game, with Pornhub searches of Overwatch characters partaking in sexual activities spiking by 817% shortly after the release of the open beta.[201] A large amount of such pornographic fan works are created with Valve Corporation's Source Filmmaker tool and make use of the game's actual models, which were ripped from the game during its closed beta and consequently spread over the internet.[202] Blizzard made efforts to remove the works.[190] Kaplan stated that while the studio does not want to infringe on anyone's freedom of expression, Blizzard is mindful that many players are teenagers or younger and would hope the community would try to keep such imagery away from them.[139]

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