Overwatch 2's title is doing more harm than good

Overwatch 2 characters charge into battle
(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Overwatch 2's PvP beta is more like an update than a sequel, and the name is setting up fans for a disappointment. 

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. Content creators were excited, there were a ton of players, and Overwatch was back after two years without content. 

A week later, the dust has settled, and sentiment has started to cement into a more considered position after the initial burst of hype. Interestingly though, the reception seems wildly divided. And even more interestingly, that divide seems to exist between two different groups of players: the engaged audience, and the returning and casual audience.

In my report on the Overwatch 2 beta titled, 'Overwatch 2 makes Overwatch fun again', I argued that despite Overwatch 2 looking a lot like its predecessor, it was a massively needed reset due to how cluttered, and stun-heavy the battlefield had gotten in the original game. 

This is a sentiment that's been echoed by other Overwatch content creators too. In a Your Overwatch video titled 'Overwatch 2 Isn't Overwatch Anymore', a returning host – who had been put off Overwatch in its last few years due to its direction – says that Overwatch 2 has pulled him back in due to its refocus on being a shooter. 

But on the flipside, Overwatch 2 hasn't been working for a lot of people too. For returning or casual players, there seems to be a general bemusement as to what the fuss is about. 

This is perhaps best exemplified in a video by popular YouTuber videogamedunkey titled ‘Overwatch 2 a Pathetic Preview’, which has been viewed 3.6 million times. In it, he argues the game uses the same skins, a lot of the same maps, and only has one new hero. He says, “you can never escape the feeling that you are still just playing Overwatch 1.” He also jokes that the game isn’t even Overwatch 1.5, but rather Overwatch 1.1. 

And the reality is he’s not wrong, but neither are the enthusiastic audience and creators. Both sentiments remain true.

2 Confusing

The ‘2’ in Overwatch 2 has always felt like a weird fit. Live service games are often iterated upon over time, slowly refreshing themselves with constant seasons. That content allows them to survive for years – potentially even decades – past their initial release.

Instead, Overwatch opted to go down the sequel route. As a result, there's been no fresh content for two years. Players have had only having skins and patches to keep them satisfied. This saw complaints spring up as the nature of the game stagnated to one full of bloat, shields, stuns, and more. 

The Overwatch 2 beta is a commitment to answering those complaints. For those who have continued to play, and saw that stagnation up close, this is a refreshing hit and a promise from the developers that it's righting the Overwatch ship. The series feels like it has a clear, positive vision for the future.

However, slapping the 2 on the title also sets expectations. It says 'this is a sequel' – so you should expect everything sequels are. Mainly, all new content, using the trapping of what came before and making it newer, shinier, and fundamentally different. Overwatch 2 – at least where PvP is concerned – is not that. 

In terms of first impressions, if you’ve not been following what this beta is and its goals, the ‘new’ content in Overwatch 2 is lacking. There are barely any ‘back of the box’ features included here. It’s fair for players to expect to see Overwatch 2 farther along than it is.

The Path to Overwatch 2

Overwatch 2 hero

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Overwatch 2 looks to be following a similar path to the Overwatch 1 beta, which ran for extended periods – the first from October 27, 2015, to January 21, 2016, before a second ran from February 9, and finally closed on May 9. 

Blizzard has expressed that there will be multiple betas for Overwatch 2, meaning that when the current build ends on May 17, a second should be close behind with more heroes, maps, and improvements. In marketing terms, Overwatch 2 is functioning almost like an early access model.

At least where the PvP is concerned, the title is aiming to be iterative, rather than something entirely new. Some have complained that the Overwatch 2 beta feels like an ‘update for Overwatch 1’ – which it is. Overwatch 1 owners will get Overwatch 2 PvP free, as it will replace the old game.

The real sequel content will come when the supposedly extensive PvE mode, and the new heroes and maps are added. 

That said, this confusion is a mistake on Blizzard's part. It’s perfectly understandable that players not familiar with Overwatch 1's beta – or the impact of changes like the move from 6v6 to 5v5 – would find this underwhelming. Again, this is Overwatch 2. This is supposed to be all new. 

Videogamedunkey’s point about Overwatch 2 feeling like Overwatch 1.1,  while intended as a joke, is actually a good way of looking at it. Overwatch 2 is the end goal of this beta period. The game is at the start of its journey and it will likely change drastically, as new maps, heroes, and radical balance changes are implemented. 

It’s going to be changing fast, and will likely be pretty volatile in terms of stability. However, the future path is being established, and Blizzard, despite the confusion around what Overwatch 2 is, has been both communicating and acting upon community feedback very quickly thus far. 

However, a feeling lingers that this confusion could be avoided if this was championed as a huge PvP update, rather than having the expectation of a sequel swinging over the game's neck.  

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.