There is something rather special about Overwatch’s cast of characters. Their personalities resonate with people and the passion that surrounds each of them is stunning. Even the relationships between characters is loved by so many, whether it is a popular character ship on tumblr or just a cute high-five between two best buds.
The question here is simple: why has Overwatch been so successful in this space? Games like this one, filled to the brim with lots of personality filled characters, have existed for years. Yet, despite all of this other competition, Blizzard has managed to create something that far more people care about only a year after release.
Well, there are a couple reasons for this. The first is fairly simple: Blizzard has been committed to solid cinematics, comics and overall lore since day one. It has been a huge part of their content release schedule. It has taken games like League of Legends years to start doing quality lore content, but Overwatch hit the ground running.
Another fairly easy point in Overwatch’s favor is the size of its roster. At release, Overwatch had 21 heroes. One year later, that number has only marginally increased to 24. Consider, for a moment, that League of Legends and Dota 2 each have about four or five times that. While that is perfect in those games for gameplay variety, it spreads out the fan base drastically.
Each character probably has a couple people that really love them, but the collective is so spread out that the focus is diverted. The slow nature of Overwatch’s character releases actually helps counter this. Between beta and release, we all got to spend so much time with the original 21 that by the time Ana was added, the slight expansion only made the love stronger.
The final factor here, and certainly the most important, would have to be the first-person perspective. Playing the game as a first-person shooter means that your eyes are action-level all the time. Not only are you close to all of your comrades in arms while you fight, but you are literally looking through the eyes of one of your favorite heroes.
The top down perspective of League of Legends and Dota 2 is absolutely perfect for those games. They are strategy games that require a wide view of the entire field. But, it gives the player a feeling of commanding Volibear, not playing as him. That was even a massive part of the League of Legends lore before it was completely redone years ago.
Overwatch is different. You aren’t commanding Zenyatta, you are Zenyatta. And you aren’t seeing other characters from the top down, where their comparison’s are hard to see. When playing Roadhog you can look down at every other character in the game and see just how they stack up. There is a sense of place, an immersion in the world that makes Overwatch so very special.
That may seem silly, but seeing through the eyes of another character grants a lot of sympathy. The first-person perspective feels familiar to all of us because it is how we see everyday life. The ability to see that way through someone else, even in a game, should not be ignored.
Overwatch’s ability to make you care about its characters and world is unparalleled in gaming at the moment. Moreover, it doesn’t look close to stopping either. With possible new heroes on the horizon and Season 2 of the animated shorts coming up, there will be no shortage of community love for the Overwatch squad.