The first time I played Overwatch was during the open beta just before it released in 2016. I fell in love. HARD. The pick-counter pick, hero synergizing, ability and ultimate timing gameplay hooked me.
I bought the game on day 1 and my obsession began. I read online guides while at work and watched YouTube video guides while at home. I craved to know every detail about each character, ability, and play style. For months, my nights featured Overwatch Time, where I would play at least a few matches, if not a few hours of matches.
The launch version of Overwatch wasn't perfect by any means, but I absolutely loved playing it.
Blizzard settled into a cadence of releasing heroes and maps at a steady pace. As the months turned into years, they added custom game modes and servers, and an arcade with rotating modes. One of those new modes, Mystery Heroes, was my jam. More than 75% of my game time in Overwatch was strictly Mystery Heroes.
I was happy.
Another eventual addition was limited time PVE modes. Generally speaking, these modes pitted 4-6 players with traversing maps, sometimes into areas never before seen, and defeating ai opponents or surviving waves of ai opponents. My friend group really enjoyed these modes, but they never clicked with me. I played Overwatch for the team play and adrenaline rush from beating another team, not downing a bunch of bots over and over again.
In 2019, Blizzard announced that they would be halting hero and map updates to Overwatch to focus on a grand, huge PVE mode. This mode was going to be SO big that it would necessitate an entirely new engine and a big ol' 2 at the end of the title when it eventually released. They needed to step away from the PVP to focus entirely on the PVE.
It was an exciting proposition, but one that sucked for me personally. I had zero desire for a big PVE mode, skill trees, and hero specific missions. That's not what Overwatch was for me. I was open to the developers changing my mind, though. If it was fun, I'd accept it.
With Overwatch being held in a stasis, I eventually moved on to other games to play as my Nightly Game. Nothing came close to giving me the joy that Overwatch had given me. Our friend group gradually stopped talking to each other as we all moved on to different games.
In a plot twist no one could have seen coming, one day I got married. Through meeting my wife's brother and her friends, one of the things we found that we all had in common was playing Overwatch in the past. So we all started playing Overwatch again every week to hang out.
I still wasn't excited for the new PVE mode, but at least I'd have a group of friends and family to play it with, and heck, maybe we'd enjoy it.
Then Overwatch 2 actually released. And with it came a lot of changes to the previously-content dormant hero shooter.
Gone were the loot boxes and in its place we were given a battle pass and paid skins. Gone was the 6v6 gameplay and instead we now played 5v5. Gone were new heroes for everyone to play on day 1. Now we had to pay for them or grind to unlock them. They removed the 2-point maps and introduced Push mode maps.
Again, this decision sucked for me personally. Sure, loot boxes aren't technically the most ethical gameplay mechanic, but it was at least a way for me to earn skins through gameplay. I never spent a dime on loot boxes, and collected hundreds of skins. But with Overwatch 2, it was flat out impossible to earn a skin unless I paid dollars. And paying for or grinding for heroes that would previously have been free on day 1 was a major slap to the face. The battle pass was a joke, too. Why would I pay money for dozens of skins/emotes/sprays for characters I won't ever play? 5v5 felt different at first, but I actually got used to it and rather enjoy it now. The push mode is acceptable.
I still haven't spent a penny in Overwatch 2 and I'll continue to not do so. It's unacceptable to offer something for free and then switch to making it cost money. It just feels gross to me.
But the game remained our weekly friend and family hang out game because it's really all we have.
And now today, Blizzard announced they have canceled the PVE mode they've been working on for at least 4 years. I'm stunned.
Overwatch as I knew it and loved it was put on ice for years for a mode I didn't care for. They stopped releasing new heroes and maps, leading to my friend group dissipating. They heavily monetized a game that could previously be enjoyed for free (after paying the cost of the game, of course). They changed the basic foundations of the multiplayer mode.
And for what?
YEARS of no new heroes or maps just for them to go "no no. We actually had it right back then. A cadence of releasing content to our live service game is a good idea." It's like a sick joke.
Few games have ever hooked me as hard as Overwatch did in the months after it released. And as the years have gone on, more and more of what I actually enjoyed about the game continues to be stripped away.
I would love to be able to quit, but it's not that easy. I'm terrified that if I quit, the friendships I've built will slowly disappear again. Sure, we could absolutely try finding a new game, but what if we can't find anything? What if we literally can't find anything as fun or as chill as Overwatch has been for us over the years?
It feels like my friends and I are on a crumbling ship of Theseus. The ship is falling apart while we're on it, but we're having fun because we're friends. We see pieces of the ship missing or hastily patched with lesser quality wood, and it's just enough to remind us of the good times. They keep us hopeful that maybe the ship will somehow make it to shore. We know it won't, but all we can do is just ride it out until the ship takes us down with it.