Overwatch 2, the sequel to Blizzard's enormously popular team-based shooter, was first announced back at BlizzCon 2019, and though we had to go through a long period without any updates on its progress, Blizzard has now started dropping some big details on the game.
We now know that Overwatch 2's PvP component will be free-to-play and will release in early access this October, with PvE coming sometime in 2023. Blizzard has promised that each nine-week PvP season will introduce free seasonal updates, while every other PVP season will introduce a new hero. What's more, each individual season will have its own battle pass. That's right, loot boxes are gone.
Alongside season-specific content, Overwatch 2 will introduce new maps, heroes, modes, and cosmetics. In other words, this is a new era of Overwatch with enough new content to feel like a true sequel, rather than just glorified DLC. In fact, it's so much a sequel that Overwatch 1 has no future after Overwatch 2 launches, as the original game's being merged into this new release.
Some players have already been lucky enough to be getting some hands-on time with Overwatch 2, thanks to the (now finished) Overwatch 2 beta, which provided fans with a first look at PvP content, including one of these new heroes, some of the new maps, and the game's new 5v5 gameplay.
Want to know more? Read on for everything we know about Overwatch 2 so far.
Overwatch 2: cut to the chase
- What is it? The sequel to Blizzard's team-based shooter
- When is it out? PvP enters early access on October 4, PvE comes in 2023
- What can I play it on? PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PS5, Xbox Series X|S
Overwatch 2: Release date and platforms
It's an unusual move, as it means we won't actually be getting the full game in October, instead only getting access to free-to-play PvP. Blizzard hasn't confirmed when the full game will release but we do know Overwatch 2's second major element, PvE, will release next year. It's unclear if the release of PvE will mark the full release of the game, or whether Blizzard plans to release that in segments (or as part of early access) also.
When asked what "Early Access" means during an Overwatch 2 Reddit AMA (opens in new tab), game director Aaron Keller advised " this is just the start of many new things coming to the game. Elaborating further, he advises new seasons will launch every nine weeks as part of the live service model. Crucially, that includes new features envisioned as part of Overwatch 2.
Beyond this, we do know is that Blizzard has a roadmap in place for PvP, that includes the introduction of new heroes, modes, and more (find out more about this below).
Overwatch 2: Trailers
Below, we've included some of our favorite Overwatch 2 trailers, but it is worth noting that the Overwatch YouTube channel (opens in new tab) has been dropping video tidbits including Overwatch 2 playtests with Overwatch League Pros, short videos on Hero reworks for the sequel, and developer updates.
Early Access release date trailer
During the Xbox and Bethesda Showcase in June 2022, Blizzard announced an "early access" release for Overwatch 2. Launching on October 4, 2022, for all major platforms, we also got our first look at the Junker Queen, and you can see this in full below:
Sojourn Gameplay Trailer
In April 2022, the official Overwatch YouTube channel posted a gameplay trailer for new hero Sojourn. This is the best look yet we've got at Sojourn and her powerful Railgun and it's certainly got us excited to try her out in the beta. Check out the trailer below:
Behind the scenes
BlizzConline 2021 may not have brought us a release date for Overwatch 2, but a 40-minute behind the scenes video certainly gave an insight into the improvements and additions the game’s development team is looking to make. It also offered an insight into why we maybe had to wait a little bit longer for the game’s release date.
Former Game Director Jeff Kaplan and other members of the development team said, at the time, that while “right now, we can sit down and have a night of Overwatch 2 and have it be a really fun experience” they “need some more time till we can say it’s perfectly polished in the way that we want it.” Kaplan himself said that “in order to make a game great it takes time, energy, collaboration…Our goal is for Overwatch 2 to be the worthy successor to the first game, to be the next evolution and to be a true sequel.”
Over the course of the 40-minute video, the development team touched on the things that they’re developing and improving in the game, from its PvP, Hero Missions, and Hero Progression to the Campaign and the appearance of existing characters.
Two new maps were revealed during the video: New York and Rome. Both maps have completely different looks, with Rome leaning into Romance and ancient architecture while New York puts a sci-fi spin on Art Deco. Check it out below:
As far as PvP is concerned, it seems that the development team isn’t afraid to experiment with it for Overwatch 2 with the intention of making something that feels like a “big departure” from what’s currently there. Tank characters, for example, are being re-evaluated in a way that will make them “toe-to-toe brawlers” rather than protectors. And it seems that no mode is safe, as Kaplan suggested that some modes could be replaced for new ones.
When it comes to the new Hero Missions, every existing map will apparently be usable, with mentions of brand new areas in some specifically for the Hero Missions. We should expect dynamic weather and different times of day as well as different objective types.
Since 2019, the team has been making efforts to make PvE combat more interesting, so Null Sector enemies are now more engaging to fight. Hero Progression has also developed and deepened since 2019 and every hero now has their own talent tree.
For Overwatch 2’s campaign, the story will focus on Overwatch heroes coming together to find out the who and why of a second Omnic Uprising. The aim is to have the story be “a little more integrated” into the game’s missions than before, with seamless cuts between gameplay and cinematic cutscenes, as well as developing character relationships and branching dialogue. Each story mission is going to have its own “gigantic” custom map, and some of those shown include India, Gothenburg, and Toronto.
We also got a look at the new hero Sojourn, initially revealed alongside the game. Sojourn is going to carry a railgun and is apparently a play-tester favorite, though good aim is required to make the most of her. In the spirit of leaving no stone unturned, even existing characters will have updates to their appearance. The video revealed four of those: Widowmaker, Phara, Reaper and McCree.
The BlizzCon 2019 reveal gave up a glorious eight-minute cinematic trailer titled "Zero Hour", and we suggest you have some tissues at the ready before you give it a watch:
There was also a three-minute gameplay trailer that showcased the sequel's new look:
Overwatch 2 beta
The Overwatch 2 beta has now gone through two testing periods, with the first taking place over April and May and the second over June and July 2022.
In a blog post (opens in new tab) announcing the end of the second phase of the beta, the development team didn’t mention any plans for a third phase but it’s worth keeping an eye on our guide to the Overwatch 2 beta in case that changes, as well as our guide on how to sign up for the beta. There is, after all, some time left until the game enters early access in October.
In a July blog post (opens in new tab) covering the second phase of the beta, the team said that “each piece of feedback we received was incredibly valuable, and we were able to focus on both our technical and gameplay goals throughout the testing period”.
They will “continue to balance heroes” based on the findings from the beta, adding that the data will be shared “over the next few weeks”. There are also “new features and content” that will be shared “over the next couple of months.”
Overwatch 2: Gameplay and modes
Overwatch 2 will be made up of both PvP and PvE, the latter of which is a first for the series.
Right now, details on PvE are thin, but we do know that PvE will be released through the live service sometime in 2023 and will introduce story-based missions to the series for the first time. These story missions will see Winston, Tracer, and other members of the original Overwatch, join forces with a new generation of heroes. Players will take an active role in the Overwatch saga as a new global crisis unfolds through a series of intense, high-stakes four-player missions. As the story progresses, players will team up as different sets of heroes and fight to defend the world from the omnic forces of Null Sector, uncover the motives behind the robotic armies’ attacks, and come face-to-face with rising new threats around the globe.
Hero Missions, on the other hand, will see the Overwatch team traveling the globe, defending cities against robot invasions, taking on elite Talon agents, and battling the villainous forces laying siege to the world. This "highly-replayable mode" will allow players to level up their favorite heroes and earn powerful customization options that supercharge their abilities in co-op play – such as altering Reinhardt’s Fire Strike to ignite nearby enemies or modifying Tracer’s Pulse Bomb to cause a devastating chain reaction – granting the extra edge they need against the overwhelming odds.
Both these modes will feature cooperative missions that see players teaming up to "stand together against an overwhelming outbreak of threats around the globe". PvE generally will move the Overwatch story forward and we already know it will feature a Gothenburg map set in Torbjorn’s workshop.
While there's still plenty to find out about PvE, we do know plenty about Overwatch 2's PvP element. According to Blizzard, the PvP element of Overwatch 2 will be free-to-play and will be an "always-on, living game". Overwatch 2's PvP modes will see a shift from the first game's 6v6 structure to 5v5, with only one Tank hero allowed per team, which has required a rework of some of the game's returning heroes.
According to game director Aaron Keller (via PCGamer (opens in new tab)), the move from 6v6 offers players "the opportunity to have a larger individual impact on their own team" and generally streamlines gameplay. To make up for the fewer Tanks per match, Tanks generally are "a lot more aggressive" in Overwatch 2, while gameplay generally has been sped up thanks to increased movement speeds for Damage heroes and passive healing abilities for Support heroes.
Overwatch 2's PvP will have a nine-week seasonal model, with regular free seasonal updates and a new hero being added every 18 weeks (every other season). The developer has confirmed it has two Supports and a Tank in the works for the upcoming seasons and has characters in the pipeline for the next year to year-and-a-half. In a recent video, Blizzard admitted that it didn't do a good enough job with updates in Overwatch, so the developer looked to find a way to deliver new maps, modes, and heroes on a more frequent basis in Overwatch 2.
In addition, Overwatch 2 ditches loot boxes and instead will have a battle pass for each season. During an Overwatch 2 Reddit AMA (ask me anything), Keller confirmed that what's contained in existing loot boxes owned will transfer to Overwatch 2. Keller tgeb confirmed the original game's existing currencies, which are credits, Overwatch League tokens, and competitive points, also transfer. Unfortunately, there's things you can't buy with the previous currency.
So what about modes? Overwatch 2 will see the return of old modes (bar Assault) from Overwatch as well as the introduction of new modes. Here are the Overwatch 2 modes we know about so far:
- Push (new) - a new mode that sees teams playing tug of war with a robot
- Control (returning) - a returning mode that sees teams vying for dominance of control points
- Escort (returning) - sees teams aiming to push a payload as far as possible
- Hybrid (returning) - a returning mode that combines Assault and Escort
These modes will span both casual and ranked play and will be available to play when early access launches in October.
Overwatch 2 will also include new cosmetics like gun charms and banners as well as Mythic Skins, the "next tier above" Legendary skins, which you'll be able to customize. The first Mythic Skin set is a cyberpunk demon skin for Genji.
Blizzard has said that it's re-evaluated almost every aspect of PvP in Overwatch to make sure it's got it right and that this change to 5v5 wasn't something capable in the first game. The developer also says it is now able to make balance changes very quickly, almost as fast as the design team can identify issues, which should make for a smoother experience. What's more, the developer says that this game has a focus on giving players the information they need to improve, with the scoreboard giving more information and a post-match "after-action report" providing details on how to improve next time.
Skill Ratings in Overwatch 2 have undergone some changes too, and will no longer be so granular. Rather than a numeric rating, players will be given skill tiers similar to those in Apex Legends and Valorant. Also like Apex Legends, Overwatch 2 will have a ping system, allowing you to alert teammates to points of interest.
This new era of Overwatch will also introduce cross-progression, so all the cosmetic items earned in the original Overwatch will be ported over to Overwatch 2. This game will also see the return of crossplay, allowing you to play with friends on any platform, the introduction of 25,000 new voice lines, and will offer 3D audio alongside a handful of home theatre settings.
Finally, current Overwatch players will be able to play Overwatch 2 heroes and maps.
Overwatch 2 characters
Blizzard has already confirmed several of the characters that will appear in Overwatch 2. That list includes the return of some familiar (and often overhauled) faces such as Tracer, Bastion, and Cassidy, but it also includes new heroes like Junker Queen, alongside Sojourn – Overwatch's first playable black female hero. Check out our guide to all Overwatch 2's confirmed characters or you can find more specific character guides below.
The Overwatch 2 Sombra rework is one of the most powerful in the beta, and you'll do well learning how to best utilize it. Her overhaul changes her from a utility character to one with more individual offensive capabilities.
Sojourn is the first new character added to the Overwatch roster in over two years, with the last hero, Echo, releasing all the way back in April 2020. She’s also the first new character to be released for Overwatch 2, making her a special milestone in the franchise's history.
Our Overwatch 2 tier list is complete, after many hours of play with all 33 heroes available in the beta. If you're looking for the best character to play in each role, our ranking of all the champions will give you a guide on who to pick.
As for how often we can expect new heroes, Aaron Keller sought to address fan concerns during that Overwatch 2 Reddit AMA. "We pour our hearts and souls into every one that we create," he tells us, then admitting this is a reasonable question. "To be clear, there is no secret vault of completed heroes and other content that we’re holding for future seasons".
What's clear from his wider response is that Blizzard sees an opportunity to release new heroes more frequently with a live-service model. Explaining how its restructured to succeed in this new plan, Keller tells us "We have big plans for the game, beyond new heroes, maps and game modes, and to accomplish these while still creating content for our seasons takes a lot resources and a lot of planning."
Notably, he ends by confirming that three planned future heroes are "deep into development", revealing they are now in varied stages of playtesting.
Overwatch 2 maps
Overwatch 2 will see the return of PvP maps from Overwatch as well as the introduction of new maps, including ones for its new Push mode. However, Overwatch 2 will also do away with some pre-existing maps: Temple of Anubis, Volskaya Industries, Hanamura, Horizon Lunar Colony and Paris (the latter two of which had already been rotated out of Overwatch). Check out the confirmed maps for Overwatch 2 PvP below:
- Circuit Royal – Escort
- Midtown – Hybrid
- Toronto – Push
- Rome – Push
- Portugal - Push
- Rio - Hybrid
- King’s Row
- Lijiang Tower
- Route 66
- Watchpoint: Gibraltar
We don't know much about the PvE maps yet but we do know each story mission is going to have its own “gigantic” custom map, 2x larger than regular Overwatch maps, with locations including India, Gothenburg, and Toronto.
Blizzard is looking to do more with co-op missions in Overwatch 2 by increasing the size of the game’s maps and populating them with a wider variety of enemies.
In a July 2020 blog post (opens in new tab), that touches on development tools and engine being used for the game, Blizzard said that “Overwatch 2’s PvE maps are larger and more complex than Overwatch maps like Retribution and Storm Rising". "That doesn’t just mean more distance to cover, but also longer missions involving more kinds of foes and more elaborate encounters," the post reads.
During an Overwatch 2 Reddit AMA (opens in new tab) in June 2022, game director Aaron Keller was questioned about what would happen with unused OW1 maps, such as Hanamura and Temple of Anubis. Keller revealed these maps will be available still in custom games but won't feature in other modes at launch. "I have some ideas I'd love to try when it comes to repurposing them," he admits, but later concedes this wouldn't be able to happen until the distant future, given current plans.
Overwatch 2 seasons and roadmap
As we've said above, Overwatch 2 PvP will have a seasonal model and Blizzard has already shared a road map of when we can expect new content.
Overwatch 2 will launch with three new heroes, Sojourn, Junker Queen, and an unannounced Support character, six new maps (Circuit Royal, Collessio, Midtown, Toronto, Portugal, and Rio), the new Push game mode, the new Mythic Skin feature, over 30 skins, and the battle pass mechanic. This is technically Overwatch 2's first season.
Blizzard plans to roll out Overwatch 2 Season 2 on December 6, which will bring with it a new Tank hero, a new map, over 30 skins, a new Mythic Skin, and a new battle pass.
Then, in future seasons in 2023, we can expect new heroes, maps, and modes, alongside over 100 new skins and the launch of PvE
Overwatch 2 news and rumors
New Fox support character teased
The Overwatch 2 development team has teased a new, fox-themed support hero for the game. The first tease happened in the game’s Xbox Showcase trailer but now it’s been explicitly mentioned in a July blog post (opens in new tab) covering the end of the game’s second beta period that “a certain unannounced fox-related hero who will be joining the support roster”.
The team didn’t say when exactly we can expect this character to be officially revealed but there’s not long before that October 4 early access release and the post closed out by promising that “new features and content” will be shared “over the next couple of months.”
Queue time improvements
In a developer blog (opens in new tab), the Overwatch 2 team has offered up some stats that suggest that their recent tweaks to support have helped even out the game’s queue problems. That's good too because some heroes had queues of up to 10 minutes.
Narrative focus “With Overwatch 2, we’re building the cooperative, narrative-driven game experience that players have been asking for since the original—and that we’ve wanted to make for a long time,” said J. Allen Brack, president of Blizzard Entertainment. “We’re looking forward to telling the next chapter of this epic story in-game, and we’re excited to give players a whole new kind of co-op experience built around progressing and customizing their favorite heroes – all while providing even more of everything they love about Overwatch today.”
The beta was a hit on Twitch
The reception to the Overwatch 2 beta has been fascinating to track over the last week. The game exploded on Twitch, peaking at a staggering 1.5 million concurrent viewers, boosted by a promotion that gave players access to the beta for watching four hours of streams. But is the name setting up fans for disappointment?
Nintendo Switch compromises
Overwatch 2 is definitely still coming to Nintendo Switch consoles but Blizzard has revealed that the game will need to make “some compromises" on the system.
This was revealed in an AMA for the game on Reddit (opens in new tab), in which fans were able to ask the developers questions. One fan who described themselves “as a solely Switch player” noted the graphical improvements that are being made in Overwatch 2 and asked what compromises might have to be made for Nintendo’s console version and Technical Director John Lafleur responded.
According to Lafleur, the team is “working hard to make sure all of our platforms get the best experience, even in PvE” but added that the Nintendo Switch “is a little more challenging than some, and we'll have to make some compromises there.”
As a result, players should expect that “some of the higher-end visual enhancements might not be visible, there. We'll focus on making sure all of the gameplay-related features get in, first, and then accentuate with additional features as much as possible.” Lafleur wasn’t forthcoming with specifics so it’s likely we’ll find out more about these closer to the game’s release.
Blizzard also revealed in the AMA that the plan is to release the game on all platforms at the same time if possible, with Lead Software Engineer, Bill Warnecke, saying (opens in new tab), "As a live ops engineer I loved shipping Overwatch on all platforms and in all regions at the same time, it was a huge challenge and was very exciting. It's definitely our goal to do the same for Overwatch 2, but of course, I can't promise that we won't' hit any blockers that prevent us from doing that."
Sombra and Baptiste get new looks
Blizzard Entertainment showed up briefly during the Summer Game Fest 2021 kickoff event to share a new look at two of the iconic characters from the first Overwatch and how their appearance is changing in Overwatch 2.
Specifically, Sombra and Baptiste have new and improved looks that stay true to their prior designs, which you can check out in the gallery below.
Overwatch 2 is to include a new feature known as Environment States. Writing in a technical blog post (opens in new tab) on the Overwatch site, software engineer Marco Alamia and developers Bruce Wilkie and Fabien Christin went over the feature. It will, in essence, make it possible for the team to make all of the environmental properties of a particular game map (its weather, its lighting, its time of day) a single thing that can be applied easily to other levels.
“Let’s take the fast-paced deathmatch map of Necropolis,” writes Christin. “You’ve probably played it in its night scenario, which marries the contrast of the cold blue colors of the night-time with the bright orange of the torches lit around the buildings.”
“But let’s say we want to experiment with a different scenario, and we decide to try the hot desert colors of Temple of Anubis. With the new Environment States system, all we need to do is take the Environment State from the Temple of Anubis and apply it to Necropolis.”
Jeff Kaplan quits
Jeff Kaplan, director of Overwatch 2 and Vice President at Blizzard Entertainment, left the company after 19 years in April 2021. Leadership on Overwatch 2 has passed over to Aaron Keller, another long-standing member of the team at Blizzard working on the game.
Michael Chu leaves Blizzard
Overwatch's lead writer Michael Chu announced his departure from Blizzard after 20 years of working there in 2020. Chu, responsible for much of the game's lore and character backstories, posted the news to his blog (opens in new tab) and on Twitter. Chu hasn't revealed what his next steps are but has said he hopes "to continue to tell these stories and build worlds that unite people through games."
Overwatch fans, naturally, will want to know how this departure might impact the development of Overwatch 2, especially since it seems to be putting an emphasis on Story and Hero missions. According to Blizzard in a statement (via PCGamer (opens in new tab)), the game shouldn't be affected.
"We’re incredibly grateful to Michael for his contributions, and his presence at Blizzard will be missed. We’re not anticipating an impact to our plans for Overwatch 2. The game’s development is a massive collaborative effort involving talented people across multiple teams, all with a shared commitment to the values of Overwatch and the vision for Overwatch 2. We’re working hard to create an epic, story-driven experience for players, and we can’t wait to share more."
Larger maps and more heroes
Overwatch 2's assistant director, Aaron Keller, and lead writer, Michael Chu expanded a little on the team's ambitions for PvE play, back in 2019. According to Keller, there are "lots of heroes" in the work for the game and its PvE maps are "2x larger than regular Overwatch maps."
This increased scale is all in the service of telling more stories in the Overwatch world and the new co-op story missions will allow for “a more traditional way to tell a story in the Overwatch universe.”. A story that, Chu said, will have a "beginning, middle, and end".
Naturally, as stated before, PvP is still a focus for the team, and progression in PvP will be "entirely separate" from PvE.
According to Keller, “we don’t want gameplay-changing talents and abilities to give an unfair advantage in PvP. We’re still exploring what players can earn in PvE and building out the progression system for that. Our goal is to make a robust meaningful progression system that feeds into our Hero Missions where players can play and replay for many hours or as their main mode of play after they complete the Overwatch 2 story.”
New engine upgrades
Overwatch 2 introduces significant engine upgrades that support larger maps for co-op (PvE) play, as well as the wide variety of new enemies and factions that players will encounter on their missions. The game also introduces visual enhancements.