Overwatch has consistently been one of the most popular games in the world for the past 3 years. It's still often at the top of the most viewed streams on Twitch, has thousands of players who log on daily, and even has its own eSports league.
However, while the game is still going strong, there are rumors that Overwatch 2 is in development right now. Overwatch still has a dedicated fanbase that plays the game religiously, so releasing a sequel is a bit of a risky move, as it could alienate fans who simply want to stick with their beloved hero shooter and not move on.
So this of course begs the question: If Overwatch 2 is being made right now, what does this mean for both the future of Overwatch, and the hero shooter genre?
What Is A Hero Shooter?
The hero shooter is a relatively new twist on the first or third person shooter genre. It's typically defined as a game where you have a selection of characters to choose from, all of which have different roles, classes, or abilities that can help your team win the game. These games are usually team-based, and have elements that are commonly found in MOBAs, such as lanes, payloads that need to be pushed, or points that need to be captured.
This was popularized by games like Team Fortress 2, which introduced a line of iconic heroes in a Pixar-esque cartoony style. Nowadays, the genre is best represented by games like the hero shooter/battle royale hybrid Apex Legends, or the subject of this article, Overwatch.
Why Overwatch Rules The Genre
While Team Fortress 2 held a certain amount of popularity, the hero shooter genre really didn't take off until the release of Overwatch. It succeeded where other games failed, and that could be chalked up to the quality product that Blizzard managed to create.
Their heroes had flashy, distinct designs, and though there's not technically an in-game story, you can still get a sense of who each hero is. The amount of craft and detail that went into creating each hero's personality allowed players to get emotionally invested in them, something that most other hero shooters fail to achieve.
Combined with smooth and incredible gameplay, a cheery art style, and a bevy of free content that regularly includes new heroes, maps, and events every month, Overwatch has overshadowed Team Fortress 2 as the premier hero shooter. That's the reason why a lot of developers are still desperately trying to make their own Overwatch to this day.
How Do You Make A Better Overwatch?
So what would an Overwatch 2 even look like? Perhaps the biggest change to the game could be one that fans have been requesting since day one: the addition of a story mode. The big rumor is that instead of a traditional story mode, Blizzard is planning on turning their annual PVE modes into a more permanent fixture.
During the Archive or Halloween events, Overwatch has four player modes that resemble Left 4 Dead more than your average competitive shooter. If Overwatch 2 wants to integrate their story into the game, having a mode where you can play through a whole campaign with three other friends would be a welcome addition.
Of course, this likely will only be added in if Overwatch 2 remains a game you buy, and not a free-to-play game. We are now in an age where paying for a game that only has a multiplayer component is becoming a thing of the past. If Overwatch 2 doesn't at least feature some extra modes in order to make a $60 dollar purchase worthwhile, it's highly possible that it could go fully free to play. After all, Blizzard is owned by Activision, and they've likely seen the success that EA has had with Apex. Therefore, it's possible that Overwatch 2 will be made available to everyone, along with a boatload of microtransactions.
Aside from that, the core game should mostly be left alone. Some slight tweaks, skins, and new abilities for heroes will probably be added in that will both delight and infuriate both fans new and old alike. Since this game is probably being developed for new consoles as well as PC, there'll likely be a significant graphical update, so you can enjoy the beauty of Reinhardt's hammer in glorious 4K - and hopefully functional 21:9 support this go-round. There's also things that can be improved, like load times, how to deal with toxicity among certain players, and the whole loot box situation.
Can't Forget About The eSports
The most important thing to consider however, is the Overwatch League. The OWL is a big deal for both Blizzard and their corporate overlords at Activision, so there's no way that Overwatch 2 won't be focusing on that.
The two things really go hand in hand, as the new game drives people over to watch the OWL, while the OWL playing the new game can convince people to buy it. Overwatch 2 will probably bump up the amount of promotions for the OWL, giving out in-game currency, skins, or other prizes for watching. With a new game out, more money than ever will be pumped into new tournaments. You should expect to see a whole lot more eSports integration.
The Future Of Hero Shooters
While this is all well and good for Overwatch 2, what becomes of the overall hero shooter genre? Right now the core three are Overwatch, the ancient Team Fortress 2, and Apex Legends - which is more of a battle royale, really, but technically counts. Apex actually may be the best example of how this genre will evolve.
A lot of games tried to emulate Overwatch, and while some like Paladins have managed to stay afloat, there are not a lot of others who have had the same level of success. Apex has broken the mold, as it's a hybrid of two popular genres mashed into one. Taking the idea of playing as your favorite character and having to survive to get your chicken dinner is a brilliant twist.
A lot of hero shooters will probably try to follow suit, combining with other genres in an effort to stand out. It's already kind of happening, with games like Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege, Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4, or the upcoming Bleeding Edge all taking cues from hero shooters, and adding them into their own games. Even the juggernaut Fortnite has instantly recognizable skins beloved by the community, which are sold as everything from action figures to Halloween costumes.
After all, the core concept of the hero shooter is that you have a roster of interesting characters to play with. Taking that idea, and melding it with anything from a sports game, to a side scroller, to a strategy game, to any other genre would be easy, and would give players a new kind of game to dress their favorite heroes up in. Overwatch 2 could possibly be the last real hero shooter, as the concept will soon be nothing more than a feature in most games.
Any multiplayer game without a roster of colorful characters may find themselves left behind.
Overwatch 2 will likely be a success. The original game was just too big of a hit for the game to suffer a Battleborn-esque failure. Even if a lot of players have fallen off in recent times, the allure of a sequel will be too tempting for most to resist.
While we don't know for certain that the game is actually in development, its release will likely make a splash across the gaming industry, especially if it goes free to play, or manages to add in some new feature that no one's ever thought of. Plus, its eSports scene could become an even bigger deal, which will just pour more cash into the coffers of Blizzard and Activision.
When it comes to the hero shooter, few have managed to compare to Overwatch. Yet many are now taking the idea of the genre and applying it to other games in other ways. The genre is evolving, so don't be surprised if the next big FPS, or action game has a Tracer or Reaper of their very own.