Everything we know about Overwatch 2: Free to play, new heroes and more

The Big Mistake Blizzard fixes with Overwatch 2

What happens

Overwatch 2 transitions to a free-to-play model with combat passes and new content each season. Players will receive a new hero or map every nine weeks, where developers commit to updates forever.

Why it matters

Although the changes in Overwatch 2 may seem small on the surface, they fix the original game’s biggest flaw: the inability to support long-term updates. The changes are also driven by significant upgrades under the hood which should mean that fans do not have to suffer from a content drought ever again.

What comes next

Registrations for the second Overwatch 2 beta are now open to PC and console players, and the game is scheduled to launch early on October 4.

Overwatch 2 was announced with a bang (and some controversy) at BlizzCon 2019, but that announcement was followed by two years of virtual silence. Overwatch players got the hope of a new game but waited for months without any news on how the game developed. The original game stopped releasing new heroes and competitive maps, which made Overwatch 2 feel more and more like a false promise – something that would get infinitely latewhether it was due to a global pandemic, a the workplace is alleged to be drowning in harassment or churn in the executive joints.

But now we finally get a steady stream of information about Overwatch 2 and how it compares to its predecessor. At a unveiling event on June 16, we got the most detailed look ever at the future of Overwatch, and fans should be hopeful that the shooter will return to the glory. The developers talked about the game’s transition to a live service model and describe how it will allow them to continue delivering new content to the game for many years to come.

Do I wish these changes had taken place earlier and without a perennial drought? Yes absolutely. But the changes also seem to be exactly the right direction for the game – corrections to the problems that plagued Overwatch in its later years.

Here’s why fans should finally be hopeful about Overwatch 2, including plans for the first two PvP seasons, the end of loot boxes and the introduction of a new tank hero that I will be fooling around for the foreseeable future: Junker Queen.

Release Date for Overwatch 2

Overwatch 2 is scheduled for released in early access on October 4. It will be available on PC, Xbox Series X / S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Players who buy the game before 11.00 PT on June 23 will also receive the Founders Pack, which includes skins for Sombra and Doomfist, as well as an exclusive player icon and an as yet unannounced gift.

Can’t wait that long? Overwatch 2 gets one the second beta version Tuesday, June 28 at 11.00 PT. The beta version is scheduled to run through July 18 at. 23:59 PT. Players will be able to play as Junker Queen and play on the new map, Rio – home of support hero Lucio. You can sign up for Overwatch 2 beta page. If you really want guaranteed access to the beta and don’t mind spending some money, you can buy the Watchpoint Pack for $ 40 and unlock exclusive skins for Cassidy and Soldier 76 as well as premium Battle Pass for season 1, another exclusive player icon and little currency in the game.

Overwatch 2 content roadmap

The Overwatch 2 developers announced a series of changes to the game at Thursday’s event. Outside the move to 5v5, which mainly shakes up the pace of the game, no individual change feels like a huge shift. However, the sum of the changes should provide a gaming experience that blends familiar free-to-play structures with Overwatch’s unique, vibrant games.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • PvP will have new seasons every nine weeks, with a new hero or map at the beginning of each season. The developers said that the goal is to give each season its own distinct feel, which can include major balance spots. They aim for 3-4 new heroes per year.
  • No more loot boxes: Each season will have its own combat pass, which will include various cosmetics, including new shells for characters.
  • The ranked system is changing. The skill rating, or SR, system is replaced with a new system designed to give players a better sense of progression, including multiple levels within each rank.
  • Players will be given new tools to help them improve, including a new post-match report designed to tell you more about how you perform.
  • The game adds mythical skins – a level of legendary skins that allows players to customize each shell. Mythical skins also come with unique cosmetic effects in the game.
Genji mythical skin concept art

Mythical skins allow players to customize their colors.

Snowstorm

The new details of season plans may sneak in the biggest news from Thursday’s event. In the live game, seasons begin and end quite arbitrarily, without there being anything that distinguishes one from the other. Getting a new hero or map (or both) along with major balance changes every nine weeks will finally give each season of Overwatch its own identity and, most importantly, will give players a reason to continue playing season after season.

Ahead of the unveiling event, I asked Overwatch 2’s game manager, Aaron Keller, what will help the game stand out from other free-to-play titles that follow similar season releases. His answer: Overwatch is special. “I think what made the original game stand out – I think the magic is still part of Overwatch 2,” he said. Keller also believes that the game will continue to attract fans with its fast-paced gameplay, unique heroes and a long line of exciting releases when the game launches.

As someone who has been playing the game for five years now, I can only agree.

Game overview and content map for the first two seasons of Overwatch 2

Players will see four new heroes and seven new maps during the first two seasons.

Snowstorm

Overwatch VP and Commercial Lead Jon Spector added that the biggest opportunity for Overwatch has been that players want more: “They want more heroes and they want more maps and they want to try new game modes and they want to see the story continue and evolve.” The free-to-play model will allow the team to continuously add new content to the game in a way that the original game could not hold over the years. A one-time purchase no longer does that, which is why games like Destiny 2, Apex Legends, Valorant and many others have adopted the free-to-play, pay-for-cosmetics structure.

Getting rid of loot boxes is also a welcome change and helps to distinguish Overwatch from the more vicious aspects of recent times. Diablo Immortal launch. But we still have to wait for details about the overall business model for Overwatch 2.

Overwatch 2 new hero: Junker Queen

Almost five years after she first appeared on posters in Junkertown’s escort map, the Queen of Junkertown will be a playable character in Overwatch 2. The newest tank hero is ready to rush into battle and deal some damage. Her abilities allow her to rush forward, hurt enemies, and even draw them near. Everything we’ve seen so far screams aggressive, in-your-face style of play.

Blizzard also debuted the game’s first film since 2019’s Overwatch 2 trailer. The new feature film focused on the Junker Queen and her rise to power.

Junker Queen rests a shotgun on her shoulder

Mohawk? Check. Arms? Check. Abdominal muscles? Check.

Snowstorm

We have also seen hints of another hero going on, probably a support hero. The trailer for release date showed a brief flash of a blue fox spirit leading a team forward toward spectral gates.

Overwatch 2 desperately needs more support. When Junker Queen arrives in the next beta, tank players will have 10 heroes to choose from, both damage players will choose from a list of 17 heroes, and two supporters will split between just seven heroes – about half as many hero options per player as the other roles.

I asked Geoff Goodman, the lead hero designer for Overwatch 2, about that imbalance. He said the team was aware of the problem, that Overwatch had trended towards tanks and support over time in new hero releases, but that the team is now discussing the possibility of speeding up that process. It could potentially involve releases from back-to-back support heroes. “We want to add more support,” he said, “and we have some coming after release.”

Overwatch 2 PvE

The announcement video did not say much about the PvE side of Overwatch 2, but the developers said that the PvE events will start in 2023 as part of the live service. That’s as much as we know right now, but the developers said they will reveal more information before launch.

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