BlizzCon 2021 Aftermath | Overwatch 2 — Too Little, Too Late?
BlizzCon 2021 gave us a fairly good (and somewhat thorough) look at Blizzard’s upcoming slew of releases. And it was quite an exciting showcase. If you’re a fan of Overwatch, you had a reason to tune in as well, although it’s highly debatable whether you have a reason to be satisfied, now that we’re a couple of weeks removed from the event.
The folks over at Blizzard were pretty excited to showcase all of the progress made on Overwatch 2 during BlizzCon, and rightfully so. Numerous brand-new maps (most of which are breathtaking), exciting new stuff relating to PvE hero progression, story details, hero missions — you name it. They went out of their way in an attempt to get us hooked and excited for what’s to come. But at a certain point, it felt like they were going above and beyond to make us forget that oh-so-crucial bit of information: Overwatch 2 isn’t coming out any time soon.
In fact, it’s not even coming out in 2021.
Now, that wouldn’t be such a massive problem if Overwatch were in a good spot. But it isn’t. It’s not exactly a “dying game,” but it isn’t as alluring or exciting as it was back during its heyday. Heck, it’s not even close. To make a bad situation even direr, it seems like Blizzard has all but given up on further developing it. It’s in a WYSIWYG state — what you see is what you get. Sure, they’re still balancing it from time to time, but the game isn’t going to change in any meaningful way any time soon, nor will we be getting any new heroes or maps.
Blizzard has mobilized all of its resources into developing Overwatch 2, which means the original game is pretty much an afterthought. And they’re doing this out of necessity. The first game came out in late 2015. The world of esports (and gaming in general) has changed since then. Regardless if you like the direction it’s headed or not, it’s impossible to deny that there are other titles out there right now (the Valorants of the world) that have taken center stage. Overwatch, by comparison, feels like a well-known (and relatively uninteresting) relic of the past. It’s still a devilishly good time, but it’s no longer “vogue.” And that’s okay — it’s over five years old at this point.
But that’s “okay” to us because we’ve moved on, which, frankly, is the one thing Blizzard wanted to prevent. That’s just the way things work — there’s always something new and more exciting on the horizon. And that holds true for esports as much as it does for gaming. These “trends” last for a couple of months, and then everyone’s onto the next “big thing.” Right now, it’s Valheim, but it wasn’t that long ago that everyone was talking about Fall Guys or Among Us, for instance.
But Blizzard has their way of doing things, for better and worse. There’s very little rhyme or reason behind their M.O., but we always went along with it because, frankly, their games always had that extra bit of something. The virtual worlds they were able to create were second-to-none.
As time went on, however, that changed in nuanced (but important) ways. The industry has developed in an entirely different direction than what Blizzard had anticipated. They were too slow to adapt and follow along. One could argue that they declined to follow along, either because they thought they knew better or because they believed their venerable position within the industry would allow them to “call the shots.” But no such thing transpired, and now they’re trying their hardest to make up for lost time. Diablo IV and Overwatch 2 need to deliver in more ways than one for Blizzard to remain relevant.
Fortunately, they’ve been a lot more receptive to player feedback lately and have made the necessary changes across multiple IPs. World of Warcraft is in a pretty darn good spot with Shadowlands, and the same goes for Hearthstone as well.
After BlizzCon, the only question now is: Is Overwatch 2 just a case of “too little, too late?” Has the proverbial ship sailed? 2021 is still a ways off, and seeing how we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. It feels like time flows a bit differently. Life has both slowed down and accelerated all at the same time. Most of us are either under lockdown or have severely limited our interactions with the outside world. And in this highly unique state of being, we’re often in dire need of entertainment.
By the time 2021 comes around — and Overwatch 2 finally sees the light of day — there’s a very real chance that most folks won’t care much. And that isn’t because Overwatch 2 won’t be good or entertaining, but instead because it’ll serve as a somewhat augmented iteration of a well-known (and arguably outdated) concept.
Hardly anything to write home about. There’s a phenomenal quote from the first season of AMC’s Mad Men. The most important idea in advertising is ‘new.’ And the same holds true for gaming and esports. You can offer a repackaged game for the nth time, but you really shouldn’t be surprised if it fails to get off the ground.
The Blizzard Conundrum
There’s very little use in ending on a downer. Frankly, it’s still not time to abandon ship. Although to be fair, that point might not be as far off as some people think. A lot was showcased. The grunt of it looked great, if not even amazing. But between every good reveal and moment of brilliance, a bleak reality permeated throughout, filling in the gaps. After BlizzCon, we still don’t have a definitive Overwatch 2 release date to look forward to. And these renders and cinematics, breathtaking though they are, didn’t get our blood pumping precisely because they were giving us a glimpse at something so darn remote.
Blizzard is hoping for yet another home run, but there’s a (very) good chance that they’re out of touch with their most dedicated playerbase. And, well, it wouldn’t be the first time. That’s why most people are worried. We’ve been here before. When push came to shove, Blizzard rarely made the correct call, for whatever reason. Fans and players can’t sustain this hype by themselves. Seeing how the sequel is still somewhat shrouded in mystery, it won’t get any better any time soon.
We’re still somewhat optimistic, but we’re running on reserve, and our optimism is a fairly scarce commodity by this point.