UPDATE: We’re getting some tweaks to the skin in line with fan criticism, bringing in-game Casual Hanzo in line with his comic appearance.
We're working on some visual updates to the new Winter Wonderland "Casual" Hanzo skin for January! Here's a quick look at our work in progress.— Overwatch (@PlayOverwatch) December 16, 2017
More details https://t.co/vBuix3JMoN pic.twitter.com/GjKOxqjXjL
There were two major revelations from last year’s Overwatch holiday comic, Reflections. The first is that Tracer has a girlfriend at home, the delightful Emily. The second is that Hanzo doesn’t roll around in his battle garb all the time, letting one pec feel the breeze. In fact, he has a side shave! And facial piercings?! Who is this extremely cool Hanzo? It’s no surprise that the fan community went nuts over this depiction of Overwatch’s archer, and fans have wanted to see this panel come to life in the game itself.
We didn’t know that we’d have to wait a year to see this Hanzo in game. In fact, we got his Anniversary skin, where he’s a futuristic ninja archer, before we got his Reflections skin. Fans didn’t forget. As the months rolled on, we kept hoping. Fan edits and creations, like this amazing in-game concept by illustrator Rebecca Hahner.
Finally, Christmas rolled around, and we eagerly unwrapped our new Hanzo skin, only to find... well. This:
To the average Overwatch player, this skin was likely just a blip on their radar, something to appreciate before moving on to try Mei’s Yeti Hunt or try new skins. To the fans who had been waiting for a year for this skin, it was underwhelming. As a kid, I once asked my parents for a walkman that I could listen to on the bus or in the park. On Christmas, I unwrapped my final package to find a SQNY walkman. It wasn’t quite what I was hoping for, but it was close enough that I see what my parents were going for. This Hanzo skin is similar. I can see the Reflections panel there! It’s just... not what we were hoping for.
Fans have been hoping that we get some changes to the skin, and a set of Twitter edits have gone viral.
We don’t know whether we’re going to get these changes. It’s possible that we’ll never get the comic Hanzo, and the in-game Casual Hanzo is here to stay. Even with that possibility in mind, Blizzard can learn a couple of lessons here.
1) Fans love skins that give us canon glimpses at our favorite heroes. While ‘what if’ skins or alternate fantasies are fun, we want more of the actual heroes and their canon lives. Casual Hanzo was popular because it opened up a whole new perspective on Hanzo and what he does in his life.
2) It took one year to get this skin. That’s likely entirely justified on Blizzard’s end; I don’t know what their skin production pipeline looks like, but I can’t imagine that they can just make a skin in weeks without any hassle. That being said, fans built expectations up for a whole year. The final product was weighed against one year’s worth of fan art, fan edits, hopes and dreams. It’s not surprising that the real thing couldn’t measure up.
Overwatch fans are passionate about every part of the game, even things as seemingly trivial as skins. Hanzo’s new skin is a cautionary tale for both developers and fans—what you hope for may not be what you get. All that remains to be seen is whether Blizzard stands strong on their vision for Casual Hanzo, or takes him back into the shop.