Last Friday, Overwatch Developer Scott Mercer took to the forums to make an important announcement. Starting with Blizzard World, which debuted a few weeks ago, new heroes and maps will no longer be available in competitive upon release. Instead, players will have to wait until the start of the next season to try out Overwatch’s newest features in its most competitive mode.
There is a good thought behind this idea. You don’t really wan’t some dude who never plays support to just spam Brigitte in competitive for days after her release just cause she’s new, right?
Wrong. You do want that.
Without freedom to make mistakes like that, to get unfortunately dragged in with some asshole who just likes new heroes, Overwatch isn’t nearly as meaningful or competitive. It’s for that and a lot of other reasons that we’ll explore here why this ruling is one of the biggest mistakes the Overwatch developers have ever made.
It’s common in all sorts of games for new characters to release with a low win rate. It makes sense too. In games like Overwatch built around mastering a roster of heroes, the newest ones will have the fewest players who are “experienced” on them. It takes time to get there, to become the Brigitte one trick you want to be. We’ve all had the Hanzo that made us roll our eyes when they got picked, only to have them smash face. How do you think he got there? By losing a lot of Hanzo games.
So, to some extent, it makes sense why Blizz would say that Brigitte is only available in normal matches until she’s a little older. But at the same time, competitive mode is meant to pit you up against the best of the best. It’s meant to be a more competitive environment that asks more from each player. So why handicap Brigitte players? Why not give them the chance to build their skills in the high stakes environment that many people thrive in?
You can’t take that decision away, even if it’s to help the non-Brigitte players by not giving them a “bad teammate.” That’s the game, that’s part of what makes team based games work. The logic behind this is not too far off from Blizzard saying “well, when we nerfed Mercy, her win rate totally tanked so we’re taking her out of competitive until next season when she gets more changes.” This would never fly, and it shouldn’t.
The freedom to choose is what makes Overwatch playable. The same is true for League of Legends or Dota 2. When you take that freedom away, you take away agency. Being put with random teammates can suck, sure. You’ll have games where some asshole will lose the whole thing for you. You’ll also have games where your god-tier Winston steam rolls the enemy team.
The only thing you can control in a team game is how you play and who you play. Removing or time-gating heroes from the pool removes this completely. If I was spamming Brigitte in casual games, trying to get better at her, why would I ever play competitive that season? So I could pop in and say “wow, Brigitte would have been perfect for this situation, that’s who I really wish I could play” only for Blizzard to respond with “nope.”
That alone is a massive issue. But there is another that’s almost worse.
New heroes bring people back to the game. I would be lying if I said that I have played every competitive season. Like a lot of players, there are times when I’ll pop in, buy some boxes, and log out of Overwatch until the next event. But when heroes release, I’m there for it, especially when they’re support. The release of Moira got me back in to play competitive for the first time in months. And that’s the key, it was the release of Moira that got me back.
I’m a support main by trade in Overwatch. Zenyatta is my boy but I love them all (almost) equally. Brigitte looks to be exactly my kind of hero. The perfect blend between my usual video game tendencies of tank playing and my Overwatch love of supporting. But why would I ever come back with this new system?
Right now, I’m excited for Brigitte. But getting this announcement on the forums completely killed my interest in her release. If I can’t play her in the only mode that matters, that asks for real strategy, why would I play her at all?
I thrive on new heroes in any game I play. I love jumping into a League game and trying to learn why everyone thinks this new hero sucks and how I can exploit that. There are lots of players like me out there who work the same way, and they must all be as disappointed as I am.
By the time Brigitte is widely available in competitive play, she’ll be old news. A new game will have grabbed my attention for work or fun or whatever. This won’t get me to hop into normal games with Brigitte. Instead, I just won’t play Overwatch at all this season.
This decision seems to be one made in the eyes of fairness. Blizzard doesn’t want newbies ruining games with picks they aren’t comfortable on. But it does so much more harm than good. Players like me just won’t come back, whereas the hard core of hard core will be unable to truly grow as a Brigitte player for months.
We’ve written a lot of things on this website praising Blizzard for their awesome game. We’ve also written things that criticized the way they release content in Overwatch. If you ask me, this decision has been the hardest to swallow to date. If new heroes will never be available for competitive at release again, I’m not sure when I’ll ever be back in earnest.
The forum post links out to some other discussions. The post at the end of one such link is by user GuiltyCrown who asks:
And I couldn’t agree more.