A little over a year ago OVERWATCH crash landed into living rooms all over the world. After a fun cinematic trailer, gamers everywhere looked forward to the game’s release in May 2016.
OVERWATCH has had a successful start for a multiplayer game that essentially never changes its core principle: win your team’s objective. This isn’t an uncommon goal since games like CALL OF DUTY, and BATTLEFRONT 2 live by them as well. OVERWATCH has started to expand itself into the realm of esports in ways that those two others have not.
Though CoD has its own competitive scene, I would argue that it hasn’t been marketed as well as the Overwatch League is. After developing from a small idea, Blizzard’s new competitive league seems to be taking the world by storm. So, why is it that OVERWATCH is still killing it in the gaming industry?
What is OVERWATCH?
OVERWATCH is a team-based first-person shooter. In fact, some would simply say it is a MOBA(Massive Online Battle Arena). The game provides an online multiplayer experience focused on several objective game modes. Some of those include King of the Hill, Escorts, Capture the Flag, and most recently Deathmatch. It’s currently available on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.
The story centers around an organization that would fight global terrorism named OVERWATCH. The organization had been disbanded after the government believed they were no longer necessary. After new threats developed in the form of the villainous group Talon, Winston (the big ape character) calls OVERWATCH back into action.
Visually the game takes a less gritty approach then online first-person shooters like GEARS OF WAR. It stylistically resembles something straight out of a Pixar movie. The characters are extremely diverse and have unique personalities. How could you forget the Brazilian rollerblading DJ named Lucio or even the Korean gamer who controls an exploding mech?
It’s a game that has so much character. The heroes are as diverse as the maps you play on. Places such as Hollywood, Route 66, and Numbani offer us a look at the cultural inclusivity of this game’s universe.
If you’re more of an intense gamer, OVERWATCH’s competitive mode is extremely challenging and fast-paced. In this mode, players have paired with teammates of a similar rank, and wins/losses affect your overall rating. The quest for Top 500 is real in this game, yet few get to truly reach it.
What Makes OVERWATCH so Catchy?
Objective-based gaming is not a new concept in the industry. Games like DOTA 2 and LEAGUE OF LEGENDS have been baking the MOBA recipe for several years. OVERWATCH takes that recipe and adds cinnamon by making it a first-person experience.
Some find the bird-eye view approach well. I used to play a lot of LoL and dabbled a bit with DOTA 2. So I’m familiar with the MOBAs and how they work. I’m aware that it’s hard to consider OVERWATCH a MOBA fully, but I can see why people call it one.
That being said, I’ve played OVERWATCH since the day it was released with almost minimal days off. I’d even claim that it’s one of my favorite games. My opinion can come across as biased since I fit into Blizzard’s average play time statistics. Even with that, it’s not hard for me to see why people just can’t put the controller down.
Firstly, OVERWATCH is a game that constantly updates its content. Every few months Blizzard will add a new character, new maps, new skins, or even fresh patches. Sure this isn’t daily or weekly content, but it’s a good enough system because people will remain engaged long enough.
The first character added to the roster was a sniping healer named Ana. When she was first released gamers would lock her in as a choice almost instantly. This went on to happen until Ana maining players took ownership, or until a new hero was patched in. The constant flow of new characters and unlockables makes OVERWATCH supremely addictive.
Gimme the Loot!
They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. I will gladly admit that I have a problem when it comes to buying in-game content for OVERWATCH. The game has loot boxes that you can get either by level grinding or purchasing. Though it can take you just a few matches to get one box, sometimes it’s easier to just drop $10 for eleven of them. But, I had to stop with that mindset, or I’d go broke.
Lately, there has been a lot of negative feedback for in-game content. EA recently had a lot of backlash for how their microtransactions were handled in BATTLEFRONT 2. Where EA failed, Blizzard succeeded. The big difference here was the loot boxes in OVERWATCH are strictly cosmetic. You could spend hundreds of real dollars on boxes, but it wouldn’t make you a better player. All you would get are fancy skins or some funny voice lines.
EA’s in-game content gave players an advantage in gameplay. New weapons or classes were more easily available to players willing to pay for it. Blizzard made sure that all players had an equal opportunity in gameplay. A player’s major difference comes from how they handle a particular character or how they utilize abilities and maps.
Inclusivity is Key
Many joke that the OVERWATCH community is toxic. People will always rage quit, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the game’s community is tainted. In fact, Blizzard’s community of gamers is probably the most inclusive of any out there. Gamers in the Blizzard universe have expanded to other Blizzard IPs (Intellectual Properties) quite easily and frequently.
OVERWATCH is an inviting game that does not push off a single demographic. Players can range in age, sexual orientation, culture, etc. The differences are endless. For example, OVERWATCH recently added a map in Australia called Junker Town (a map for my favorite character Junkrat). A restaurant sign on the map stated “Take-Out” which offended Australians because over down under it’s called “Take-Away.” Blizzard made sure to patch that change in just a few days.
That a small sample of how much Blizzard is willing to listen to their fans and the cultures they represent. Several of the games heroes and voice actors speak in their native tongues.
So Blizzard has proven that they are willing to cater to a diverse group of gamers. They’ve even made culture a key part of the game’s world. Nothing is more exciting to me than hearing a character casual speak Spanish. It’s natural, it’s fresh, and it makes me feel hopeful for the future of representation in games.
The Future of ESports
OVERWATCH has plenty to offer for anyone who’s looking to play for a few minutes or a few hours. It’s quite easy to jump into, and it’s really fun. That’s not a plant that can last forever though unless it’s watered and given sunlight. Blizzard’s shown that they’re pretty decent gardeners the way they’ve grown the pro OVERWATCH market.
A few weeks ago Blizzard closed out the OVERWATCH World Cup with South Korea taking the gold. In the global tournament, they showed fans that the spectator experience was significantly improved. Watching the game easier and less headache-inducing thanks to new spectator functionalities.
During this tournament at BlizzCon, Blizzard announced full details for the game’s professional OVERWATCH League. The league has 12 teams that will face off to be the best of the absolute best.
Blizzard has invested heavily in this new official esport. They’ve released hype trailers including Serena Williams and have talked about official jerseys viewers can by. It’s wild to think that players will be able to support their favorite OVERWATCH team as if they were a basketball team.
They’ve has made sure that the inaugural year in OVERWATCH’s pro circuit will change the esports forever. This is a game that has the potential to pull crowds to a stadium while sporting their team’s gear.
Grab a Copy
Truly and honestly, OVERWATCH is a game that everyone can enjoy. It’s fun and creative. You could play it for a few minutes or several days non-stop. The game will never judge you, and its developers will almost always listen. What more could you ask for from a game?
Sure, OVERWATCH doesn’t have a campaign, but it still has a tightly knit backstory that will always find a way to pull you in. Someone recently asked me if I think this game will remain successful for a few more years. Honestly, I think OVERWATCH will be around for centuries as long as it continues to improve. A year and change later, I’m still as obsessed with it.