Blizzard Entertainment’s first-person shooter “Overwatch” began its fifth special event “Overwatch: Uprising” on April 11.
“Uprising” introduces a brand new Player-versus-Environment (PvE) mode in which players take a step back into the game’s history to the omnic crisis, when heroes were tasked with fighting back rebellious autonomous robots (omnics).
The new game mode has a team of four face off against hordes of omnics as they complete objectives like hacking terminals and moving equipment.
Longtime players who enjoy the colorful, light-hearted aesthetic of the game world finally have another break from the constant competitive Player-versus-Player (PvP) action, but Blizzard is going to strip it away from them on May 1.
The game mode feels like a breath of fresh air that the community needed desperately. Despite the game having sold over 25 million copies, signs are starting to point to a dwindling active player base.
It’s been almost a year since the game’s release last May and queue times to find a game often slow to a crawl during non-peak hours throughout the week. This is likely due to the lack of consistent variety in its multiple game modes.
Besides the game’s wildly infrequent releases of new heroes, Blizzard’s only perceived remedy for this potentially fatal flaw is to roll out delightful themed events every two months like its Halloween, Christmas or Chinese New Year events. In addition to new, innovative game modes like “Lucioball” and “Junkenstein’s Revenge,” each event has dangled shiny new skins and emotes in front of players to incentivise continued play.
However, after a certain point, cosmetic changes aren’t enough to keep people playing. Blizzard has proven that it can design and execute PvE modes quite well with “Junkenstein’s Revenge,” but game director Jeff Kaplan doesn’t see them as a lasting part of the game.
“I think we’re all dying to explore PvE at some point, but not for this game,” Kaplan said in a 2016 interview with Game Informer.
With this statement, Blizzard has betrayed part of its community and established its comfort with the status quo of bringing tired players back in bimonthly for a few weeks at a time.
Each event and game mode is crafted with evident care and has the palpable polish that comes with all of Blizzard’s products. To confine the hard work of the development teams into a few weeks is a shame and benefits no one.
If Blizzard would keep its new game modes as permanent emplacements, “Overwatch” would be far better off. The community could end up naturally dividing itself into two camps: those who enjoy PvE and those who enjoy PvP, but queue times would most likely benefit, and the fatigued players would be more likely to stick around.
The remainder of the events could remain the same. The cosmetics could still be available for the limited duration of the events for players to don their skins in battle to show all of the hard work that went into obtaining a random item from a box. Changes should be made.
Blizzard has a really good thing going for it with “Overwatch.” The characters are fun and lively, the moment-to-moment gameplay is exciting and engaging for a while and the presentation is brilliant. But as the game approaches its one-year anniversary, Blizzard should consider investing in more permanent variety to maintain its momentum.