Overwatch 2’s beta ending has left the community in limbo

Overwatch 2 characters - Several heroes fight around the new push mode
(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

Overwatch 2’s first beta period was always planned to end. But that doesn’t make it any easier to accept.

A new presentation unveiling what’s coming to Overwatch 2 in the next beta has been set for June 16. The hope is that we’ll get concrete information on what’s next, and crucially when the second beta phase will launch - with many pleading for it to follow closely after the event.

That’s because, for many players and professionals, the closure of the last beta has created a bizarre limbo - a purgatory of uncertainty about what to do now. Overwatch 2’s beta was great, not just for bringing some new things to the table like the Push game mode, four extra maps and Sojourn, but also because of the philosophy change to 5v5 from 6v6, which I think makes Overwatch fun again.

Getting the sequel into player hands is a good thing. It was rejuvenating for the community to be unleashed onto a whole new game. But as an unintended result, Overwatch 1 now feels lackluster. Gone is the updated engine, and the beefy new sound design of the weapons. Now that we’ve gotten a taste of what it ‘could’ be, it all seems undeniably dated. No wonder: we’ve had over two years without any meaningful new content. It’s also hard to feel truly invested in the competitive mode and certain heroes now there is a finite quality to them. 

I quite like playing Doomfist, for example. Since going back, however, I’ve been reluctant to play the hero - as he’s drastically changing in Overwatch 2. His shift from a Damage hero to a Tank brings new skillsets and considerations. If you play Overwatch to improve, as I do, there’s a feeling that any progress I make to get better with Doomfist right now will eventually be wasted when the hero, as he exists, ceases to be in Overwatch 2. In fact, the habits I learn now may work against me once the paradigm shifts, guiding my fingers to the wrong places. That’s true of Orisa too, who also saw a major rework. 

Professional play

Overwatch 2 characters charge into battle

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

For casual players and fans of the game, this is a concern, but not a major problem. Ultimately, we can choose to back out of Overwatch until the next beta launches to pursue other things. However, in the current world of video games, many people’s livelihoods are tied to certain titles, and this limbo is a much more pressing issue for Overwatch professionals. 

To really illustrate how awkward this absence of the game is, look no further than the Overwatch League. Currently, the only people who have access to Overwatch 2 outside of the development team are professional teams, since the League is being played on the sequel. 

This creates a unique problem. While teams practice against each other in pre-booked pick-up games of Overwatch 2, that can only happen so often. Most professional players will grind a game in excess of 10 hours a day, which just isn’t feasible in restricted sessions. They must return to Overwatch 1 which, while obviously similar, is still different enough to be disruptive. They’re professionals playing a game that, right now, exists in a bubble.

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The complication extends to other professionals in the Overwatch scene too. Streamers and content creators are finding themselves in a difficult position. When the Overwatch 2 beta launched and reached a wild 1.5 million concurrent viewers on Twitch, they were perhaps the ones who benefited most. However, a month later, Overwatch 2 isn’t open and viewership has returned to just around 11,000 at peak hours (according to SullyGnome.) 

On the Group Up podcast, which often brings Overwatch content creators together, guest Samito laid out his perspective on the situation: “Why are we going back to Overwatch 1? I have a feeling this next season of Overwatch [1] is going to be an even bigger graveyard season than the previous one.

“There could be Overwatch 2 beta right now,” he continued. “I would prefer the game to be in a permanent beta state than this back and forth pointless limbo. And I’m not sure if they realize this, but the second that beta came out, the bandaid was ripped off. Overwatch 1 lost all of its purpose and we are forward-looking 100% to Overwatch 2.”

The path ahead

Overwatch 2's new New York map Midtown.

(Image credit: Blizzard)

While there are almost certainly technical and development reasons as to why the Overwatch 2 beta couldn’t run persistently, without that communication from the development team, the question will continue to be asked.

It’s clear Blizzard still wants people playing Overwatch 1, as just last week, it launched its Remix Vol.2 event, which brought new skins and the ability to buy any cosmetic for any character regardless of the previous events it was tied to. However, these small happenings are a band-aid over the core issues currently plaguing the game. Especially in lieu of recent balance patches in Overwatch 1, the game feels totally stagnant. 

The Overwatch 2 beta, despite the drop-off towards the end, has to be considered a success, and everyone around the scene has tons of reason to be excited. That said, Blizzard would really benefit from finding a way to smooth out these down periods between phases, as this current system feels like a bad Sunday morning hangover.

Patrick Dane
Gaming Guides Editor

Patrick Dane is TechRadar Gaming's Guides Editor. With nearly a decade in the games press, he's been a consistent voice in the industry. He's written for a plethora of major publications and travelled the world doing it. He also has a deep passion for games as a service and their potential to tell evolving stories. To wit, he has over 2000 hours in Destiny 2, over 1000 in Overwatch and is now deeply into Valorant.