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Exploring the year’s most popular Overwatch ships

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Decoding the Olympian Village of Overwatch ships

Blizzard Entertainment

Over the winter holidays, Google posted a wonderful piece of data showing the rise (and fall) of Overwatch’s most popular ships in search trends. Now, this isn’t a complete look at all of the rich data of Overwatch shipping and searching, but it gives us a tantalizing look at the game’s most popular ships and their rankings.

Before we begin, some quick notes on shipping. Shipping, the act of “relation’shipping’” two characters together, is when you dream about which characters would smooch and date outside of the confines of the game. Sometimes, these are plausibly ships that could take place in the canon of the game. When we look at the data, it’s worth considering:

  1. Ships like “Roadrat”, aka Junkrat and Roadhog, can go by multiple names. (Would a ship by any other name smell as sweet? Junkhog has a certain ring to it.)
  2. Some communities hit a point of growth, and then stop. This is especially true for ships that are “out there”; the people into it find their communities, settle down, and prosper. A lack of growth doesn’t mean the ship community is doomed.
  3. There are far, far more than these five ships. If none of these whet your palette, how about Spiderbyte (Sombra/Widowmaker) or Genyatta? The only limit is your imagination.
  • McHanzo spent nine months in first place, with an average ranking of 1.18
  • Reaper76 spent two months in first place, with an average ranking of 2.27
  • Pharmercy surged into first place for once month, and held an average ranking of 2.54
  • Widowtracer enjoyed an average ranking of 4.09
  • Roadrat held slow and steady with an average ranking of 4.63

McHanzo

The most popular ship by far, McHanzo emerged early in Overwatch’s lifespan despite having absolutely nothing to back it up in the game itself. McCree and Hanzo represent the East and the West; they’re both classic loners looking for redemption. Since the game’s launch (and possibly because of the loyal fans), the two now banter about alcohol and McCree compliments Hanzo’s markmanship. We’re a long ways away from a cinematic revealing McHanzo, but Blizzard have joked about he ship before, and there’s a certain je ne sais quoi about the duo. It’s not a surprise that McHanzo claimed the top search spot and refused to give it up.

Does this look like a man who’s totally uninterested in handsome cowboys? I thought not.
Blizzard Entertainment

Reaper76

Reaper and Soldier 76 battled with Pharmercy for the second most popular ship, but there’s arguably the most backing it up. Reaper, aka Gabriel Reyes, and Soldier 76, aka Jack Morrison, both went through the Soldier Enhancement Program together. They fought in the Omnic Crisis, founded Overwatch, and saw the organization through its golden days. They loved each other, and lead writer Michael Chu has admitted that Reyes and Morrison’s bond is what led to their falling out. It’s the sort of thing that very easily translates into romance for fiction writers and fan artist.

This ship is laced with tragedy. Even if one buys that Morrison and Reyes were once in love, they’re now the most heated enemies in the game. They’re out to end the other one as far as we know. Of course, that can be the appeal to a certain kind of shipper, and its no surprise this ship has lasted into 2018. It may be the ship that lasts longer than the game itself in certain circles of fandom.

Reaper’s got two guns, but one big ol’ heart
Blizzard Entertainment

Pharmercy

Pharmercy is a fascinating ship because it has almost nothing in the game to support it. Pharah and Mercy are both pretty ladies, the age difference isn’t enough to sink the ship, they’re both heroic figures who fly...

That’s kind of it.

That being said, it’s a fun dynamic to imagine and the Pharmercy community has stayed strong, even though it’s becoming apparent that Blizzard is making Genji and Mercy a thing instead. Maybe we’ll get a cinematic where these two meet, or a comic about them keeping the skies clear during a crucial battle, and that will get the ball rolling once again. For now, the Pharmercy fans are left using their own imagination and the rich body of work created by their fellow shippers.

Get out of here, Genji! You’re ruining everything!!
Blizzard Entertainment

Widowtracer

This ship is both incredibly easy and incredibly difficult to explain. Widowmaker and Tracer have the most shared screen time out of any two characters; they faced off in both the announcement cinematic and Widowmaker’s cinematic, Alive.

“But don’t they hate each other? They’re mortal enemies!”

Well, yes, but that’s part of the appeal. Add in the fact that Widowmaker may have known Tracer before she was brainwashed by Talon, and we once again have a tragic, deadly ship on our hands. If you think Tracer’s girlfriend cancels this ship out, there’s still a spark of hope: Emily sure does sound a whole lot like Amelie, doesn’t it?

Roadrat

Intrepid readers may have noticed I said that Reaper76 “arguably” has the most to back it up. There’s one other contender: Junkrat and Roadhog. The two of them have synchronized dance emotes. There’s only one bed in their Junkertown outskirts abode. They’ve had two comics written about them, one animated short, and new voice lines and interactions in game. Roadhog claims to hate Junkrat and only be in it for the gold, but the truth might just be that Roadhog is totally tsundere.

Ships may not influence Overwatch’s gameplay or the esports realm, but the practice has brought a ton of new fans into the game. Hopefully, this guide to the year’s most popular ships enlightens players who are more interested in earning Competitive Points or perfecting their Pulse Bomb drops than thinking about who kisses who in the wonderful world of Overwatch.