It’s Overwatch, Anakin! I have the Battle Pass!

Did you ever try sliding down the stairs as a kid? I know I did and it was fun! It seems as if Blizzard enjoy this as well, but they decided to cover the stairs in sandpaper and add obstacles to hit their head on the entire way down. Judging by their recent history, those stairs are quite long too!

Well, That Sucks

When a friend shared a Dexerto article this morning showing evidence that Blizzard were advertising new hero Kiriko would be part of Overwatch 2’s first Battle Pass (and then Blizzard edited that out), I sighed. I wasn’t surprised, but I was definitely disappointed. I’m glad we’re moving on from the Loot Box model for the game and while I’m a bit exhausted of so many games I play having these Battle Passes at this point, I can see why this makes sense. Putting a hero on the Battle Pass though? This changes the core values of the game fundamentally – let me explain why.

Whenever characters have been introduced into Overwatch, they are done so instantly and without strings attached. As long as you can play, you have the character. This keeps the community together – nobody gets left behind and everyone can share in the enjoyment and frustrations of having a new, usually overpowered and in need of tuning addition to the roster.

Square Peg, Triangle Hole

By pushing access to new heroes like Kiriko into the Battle Pass, Blizzard instantly puts a nice big Mei ice wall between those that bought the pass and have the character instantly, and those that need to invest potentially a lot of time into unlocking the character. If you don’t get the character in time, it sounds like there will be a way to get the character for free in future seasons.

I play Destiny 2 and that has a similar model each season – an exotic weapon will be available instantly to anyone who has bought the Season Pass, while those that don’t have to play until they can get it or obtain it from a kiosk once the season is over with in game materials.

This desperately needs further elaboration!

At a quick glance this sounds like the same scenario, but this absolutely isn’t the case. In Destiny 2 you always have the main character classes available and while there definitely have been exceptions, most Season Pass exotics are good, but not game-breaking. While Destiny 2 does have PvP and even some competitive modes, I definitely couldn’t claim it is PvP focused and it absolutely isn’t an esport. It still sucks that players without the pass have to work to get the weapon, but generally speaking it just means they don’t have an option available to them rather than an entire character.

I realise a similar argument could be made in terms of the Stasis subclass in Destiny as it requires the Beyond Light expansion, but given that isn’t a straight comparison (Expansion vs Battle Pass) I feel its best for now to stay focused on a more direct comparison and discussion. That being said I might revisit this in another post.

Overwatch 2 is a heavily PvP focused game with an esports scene however and having a hero in a battle pass creates a lot of problems. It is essential to consider also that there is considerably more emphasis in Overwatch on teamwork. Assume Kiriko follows the tradition of new Overwatch characters and is incredibly powerful for a while, to the point where their character is considered an essential team member, particularly in Competitive play.

Overwatch, assemble!
Image taken from the Overwatch 2 Press Kit

If you have access to Kiriko and can play them well, congratulations! You will probably be in high demand. Don’t have Kiriko and they are viewed as being that important in a team? In comes the potential for bullying and I can’t think of anything that could be more opposed to what Overwatch represents. The varied roster of characters has people of all kinds of backgrounds and some people play characters they feel a strong affinity with. To me Overwatch is a game meant for everyone and even if this is a division that only lasts for 15, 20, however many levels, the idea that one now exists at all is diametrically opposed to what the game used to stand for.

The claim of heroes having free paths to unlock them once the season is over also has me quite concerned. My thoughts turn to Call of Duty’s recent games where if you miss a new weapon, you can grind it out in future by completing challenges. That works for Call of Duty but I can’t imagine anything worse for Overwatch. As an example, imagine a new hero is coming in and like Brigitte, Reinhardt etc. they use a shield. The season comes and goes and since this character uses a shield, the challenge created for them is to block a certain amount of damage with a shield character. I’m sure some would just do this casually, but there are those that absolutely would pick one of these characters and do things they would never do normally to get it done quickly. Imagine your only tank ignoring their job and wildly rushing out of position, your Brigitte wandering off instead of supporting the team etc. That would be AWFUL.

Another thing to consider is that Overwatch 2 is taking on a new approach entirely as 5v5 game instead of the old 6v6 model. Any new characters from this point will have been designed more with this in mind and may end up having an advantage purely from that alone. I’m already concerned that some Overwatch characters may end up obsolete going into Overwatch 2, particularly tanks in the one-tank era which would make it a lot easier for them to be outperformed by new characters designed this way.

A Matter of Time

I’ve seen some people mentioning that having a hero on the Battle Pass isn’t a problem. Just play more and you’ll get them eventually, right?

Can’t stress this enough – I hate that mindset.

Worth pointing out Overwatch 2 launches 26 days from now at time of writing

I enjoy playing Overwatch with friends, I enjoy occasionally playing solo. It will never be my main game though. I play some matches every now and then for fun and I definitely won’t be alone in that category. I certainly wouldn’t want to turn that fun into loads of extra play sessions and turn it from something I want to do to something I feel I have to do.

For those that don’t want to pay but don’t necessarily want to or even have time to dump 10-20 hours (most likely) to get a character to have an even playing field, they’ll be stuck. I’m sure at this point some will come rushing in going “But a Battle Pass is only £___!” and if you can afford to say that, good on you. There will be those that can’t though, who especially in current world circumstances will be stuck on the other side of the fence. For Overwatch particularly to divide that way straight up feels wrong.

Also worth noting, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Overwatch character release before this where people have gone “I’ll pay £10 for that, and I’ll encourage everyone else to as well!”

Something to think about.

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