Overwatch launched in May 2016, and the team-based shooter became a fast hit. It has attracted over 50 million players. However, things have slowed down a bit with Blizzard focusing on Overwatch 2, which does not have a release date. In the meantime, the original Overwatch has not had significant updates, including no new heroes since Sigma released back in August.
But you don’t need to release a new hero to bring change to a game like Overwatch. You can tweak existing heroes, which in turn changes the meta, meaning which characters are considered strong or weak. Keeping the meta evolving can keep the game fresh, and Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan notes in a video released by Blizzard today (below) that the studio is committing itself to making more frequent balance changes.
More experiments, more changes
To do this, Blizzard is making a change to how it is testing these kinds of balance updates. Before, players would have to download a separate version of Overwatch, the PTR (public test realm) client, to try out new content or changes. But the PTR is only available to PC players, leaving out console fans. Plus, the PTR being a separate (large) install that wouldn’t gain players things like experience points or loot boxes discouraged many from trying it.
Now, the normal Overwatch client will have the Experiment Card mode on the launch screen. This will let players try out changes that Blizzard is considering without having to use the PTR, and they can still earn loot boxes and other rewards. This mode is meant just for trying out balance changes, so the PTR will still be important for searching for bugs.
That’s not the only big change coming to Overwatch. For the game’s next competitive season, Blizzard will be trying out Hero Pools. This will make certain characters unplayable. Again, the goal is to keep the game fresh and force the meta to involve. Blizzard is quick to note that this is an experiment that may not last beyond the next competitive season, and other modes, like Quick Play, will not restrict which heroes you can play. Blizzard will choose the heroes for the pool itself.