In an interview with Kotaku about the current state of Overwatch (and its future in light of the recent announcement of Overwatch 2), lead director/papa Jeff Kaplan has confirmed that the original Overwatch and its sequel will eventually merge into one singular game client.
Essentially, this means that those who decide not to purchase the new title -which is expected by many to be priced at $60, due to being released as a stand-alone AAA title- will still be able to experience an updated version of the game's multiplayer. Specific details have yet to be provided as to how Overwatch 2's additions will be implemented into the original. From the sound of things, those who choose to stick with regular old Overwatch will be able to play as new heroes and on new maps.
As well as new heroes, buffs and nerfs to any characters and weapons will apply to both versions after 2's launch. This will ensure that the competitive multiplayer component (which makes up Overwatch's core) will be functional identical across both titles.
Kaplan explained that the reasoning behind the decision to keep Overwatch players in the loop was made in order to not split the franchise's fanbase. Blizzard also wanted to ensure that Overwatch 2 players don't receive any sort of competitive advantage.
Plenty of commenters online have debated about whether or not Overwatch 2 is more of a sequel or expansion, given that its name denotes a sequel. Its contents suggest an iteration on the existing game rather than a completely new idea. Following Kaplan's confirmation about a shared multiplayer experience, the novelty of Overwatch 2 now seems to hinge almost entirely on its PvE campaign.
Based on what we know currently, the only other element that could potentially not be added to base Overwatch is its updated character remodels, which likely won't offer any sort of competitive advantage or disadvantage. The sparse details about the merging of both games' multiplayer components, as well as the far off and yet-to-be-announced release date of Overwatch 2, do mean that the mutliplayer experiences of both games may ultimately differ. Whether it's through game modes only available to Overwatch 2 players, exclusive heroes, or another differentiating factor remains to be seen.
Nonetheless, Kaplan has now declared his desire to keep Overwatch alive and well in the days leading up to its sequel and beyond. At least we now know.