With Overwatch‘s release just around the corner, this author believes that we should be thankful that Blizzard chose not to make the shooter free-to-play.
May 24th is an exciting day for shooter fans as that is the launch date for Blizzard’s latest project, Overwatch. The game is vastly different from most shooting games, acting as a sort of crossover between the FPS and MOBA genres, with each hero character having their own special powers which they can use to turn the tide of battle.
Since the game’s reveal, there has been a lot of talk about whether or not Overwatch would be free-to-play, a question I believe is due to the title’s perceived similarity to Valve’s Team Fortress 2. However, many fans were surprised when, 6 months ago, Blizzard announced that the game would not be free, and that it would be coming to consoles as well as PC. Since then, I’ve seen a lot of complaining online about Overwatch‘s price point. The shooter is currently set at $60 for consoles and $40 for PC gamers, but many people still believe that the game should adopt the free-to-play price model. Personally, I’m not so sure that would be a good idea.
Firstly, I do think that Overwatch should stop being seen as a new Team Fortress game. While the similarities are clear in the core gameplay and art style, the title has very real differences – such as unique character super attacks and more varied heroes. Valve’s shooter contains just 9 characters, with players tending to stick to their favorite throughout the match. Overwatch, on the other hand, has 21 playable heroes so far and gameplay that involves switching between them constantly in order to effectively aid teams. Although, admittedly, my experience in the beta proves that many people will still just stick to the characters that get easy kills, even as their team suffers.
As Game Director Jeff Kaplan previously stated:
“A lot of the free-to-play models that we were exploring involved people not having access to enough heroes to make those team compositions actually viable. We really didn’t want to change the core gameplay and limit it in some way just to make the game free-to-play.”
If a free-to-play model was added to Overwatch, the sheer number of characters would likely lead to several of the heroes being locked away behind a premium currency; one that of course players could buy for real money should they wish, or instead grind for countless hours to unlock the full roster. It also eliminates the pay-to-win elements to the game that would put off many potential players from the title. Of course, while each hero seems fairly balanced, some are very clear counter-picks to others, such as Genji to Bastion or Winston to Widowmaker. Without allowing everyone in-game to have access to the roster from day 1, teams with paid players on them would have a clear advantage over the teams that played for free.
Take a look at Blizzard’s other free title Hearthstone, it relies heavily on this freemium model, something that makes it nearly impossible to begin playing today and get the cards needed to form a competitive deck without purchasing packs. Furthermore, several of the cards deemed necessary for high level decks are locked behind the actual pay walls of the expansion packs. With Overwatch bringing in money from sales, rather than in-game purchases, its developer is able to offer any post-release content for free, something that is sure to keep players heavily invested in the shooter for years to come.
Another feature that tends to put players off from free-to-play games are the useless pay-to-open crates that free players hate to receive and many paid players hate to gamble on. You know the ones: Dota has them, Counter Strike has them, Team Fortress has them, and so on. The crates are awarded to players at the end of matches, but they have to actually invest real money to open them – with no option to use in-game currencies in lieu of real-world dollars. Once you’ve paid, you’ll be given a random item which could be rare and therefore ‘valuable’, or it could be a common drop that’s more worthless than the price you paid to open the box in the first place.
As it stands, Overwatch has loot crates incorporated into its levelling system, with players being given one per level, each containing 4 cosmetic items. So far, these crates are entirely free, though if I’m honest I can see Blizzard allowing players to buy them sometime in the future. There’s little doubt that microtransactions will be present in Overwatch in some way or another, but it’ll almost certainly be for cosmetic items and XP boosts only. Despite this, a price tag on the game means that all in-game drops are exciting and do not require keys.
For the mean time, all we can do is wait for Overwatch‘s release next week. Blizzard has promised that it is listening to its fans with the upcoming shooter, and if it plays its cards right then the company is sure to have yet another successful product on its hands. Personally, this Game Rant author is more than happy to purchase the title, based solely on my time in the well-populated open beta – as well as my faith in the company. I think the game will be well worth the money, especially for those that stick with it long-term, mostly because Blizzard is excellent at keeping games up to date with new content.
What do you think Ranters? Should Overwatch be free or are you happy to pay for the upcoming shooter?
Overwatch is currently scheduled to launch on May 24 for the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Retail copies of the game will allegedly be delivered starting on May 23, but the servers won’t go live until launch day.