Too Many Heroes, Overwatch’s Future Problem

Blizzcon was awesome! Lots of information, and congrats to team USA for their first win in the Overwatch World Cup. There was so much news coming to Overwatch from Overwatch 2, to the new game mode, and new heroes.

With all the rumors and leaks there were also a lot of concerns: Will the cosmetics carry over to OW2? Will the game retain the same fundamentals? Will the player base be split? All of these were valid concerns. Many have been answered. The one that many people aren’t talking about is viewership.

Blizzard announced that there will be multiple heroes that come out with OW2. They confirmed Sojourn and we can assume Echo will be playable hero as well. Because the way they announced the addition of new heroes, we can assume safely that there will be 3-5 new heroes that come out before or with the release of OW2. With already existing cast of 31 playable heroes, we’re talking about 34-36 heroes.

For some, this isn’t a problem. They learn the new abilities quickly and it would just be a little more time to learn a couple heroes at once. The problem lies with the players who are not hardcore ladder grinders. What about those who don’t play that much, who watch more than they play, or the people who don’t play but really enjoy watching the competition? How is Overwatch supposed to grow an audience when you have to grind the game for countless hours just to understand what beam belongs to which hero and how much damage that does?

How Do Other Esports Do It?

Let’s compare Overwatch to traditional sports and other esports. Traditional sports don’t change the game this much. There might be a few rule-changes every year in some of the biggest traditional sports, but generally once you understand the game you can watch it forever without having to learn much more.

Before you start typing “but that’s what separates esports from traditional sports! The balance changing and the addition of new elements!” let me make another point. Other esports don’t do it. At least, not like OW. Let’s compare and contrast.

Let’s look at another first-person shooter, Counter Strike (CS). CS has the changing game. They add new maps to the rotation. This, however, happens only about every 12-18 months. In fact, they don’t just add maps. They rotate existing maps in an out of pro play. Every once in a while they’ll make a balance patch to a gun making it more viable, but that is not often either and does not add as many implications as adding a new hero in OW.

CS also is very simple. The game mode they play isn’t too difficult to understand and just by watching a map, you probably will understand how the game works. Spectating for new players is super easy too. A player shoots an enemy, they typically die quickly, each team wants to kill the other team, and they have their guns, pistols, and some grenades to do so. In OW, you have four different game modes (soon to be 5) played on every map in that was released, 31(+) heroes with different weapons, each having at least 2 abilities but often more, and each ability interacts with other abilities differently.

What Can Be Done?

Designated hero pool. Maybe there are only 30 heroes (or some other set number of heroes) that can be played during a season/stage/circuit/time period. This means, new viewers only have to learn those. If they decide to play, they only have to learn those heroes. Then, maybe they rework the other 4-6 and put a few of them in the pool of playable heroes and take out others that need reworking. New players wouldn’t be burdened with having to learn all these heroes at once.

This would allow for the addition of new heroes somewhat regularly but also allow a limit to not overwhelm new viewers and current players. It would also keep the game changing. Maybe some teams do well with certain sets of heroes but not with others and if a team does well no matter what heroes are in the pool then they are clearly the best.

This doesn’t mean these heroes would be taken out of the game. They could still be in arcade modes and the practice range and any PvE modes in OW or OW2.

What we don’t want is nobody, including to players, casters, and viewers, to know how hero 124 works because there are so many other heroes. We want new viewers to understand how the game works without discouragement of too many heroes.

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