As if there wasn’t enough controversy swirling around Overwatch 2 and its questionable Battle Pass already, a new update from Blizzard regarding the First Time User Experience (FTUE) has sparked quite a bit of debate among the player base and members of the press alike. Here’s the short version: new Overwatch 2 accounts will not have access to the full roster of heroes when they first get started. Instead, all game modes and characters will gradually unlock as they play, and they should get access to everything in around 100 games or so.
In addition to that, Overwatch 2’s ranked Competitive mode will also be locked until an account has reached 50 wins in Quick Play matches. Previously, players were able to access every mode and character right off the bat when they bought the first Overwatch, and Competitive mode was made available once you hit a certain player level.
On paper, this sounds like an awful lot of restrictions and hoops to have to jump through as a new player, but it might not be as bad as it sounds. In practice, this means that new players should unlock a new hero after every three matches or so, helping to ease them into the practice of swapping between different characters for counter-picks against their opponents. Not only that, when you take Overwatch’s history with smurfs and boosters into consideration, these changes might also be a huge positive for the player base overall.
Competitive play in Overwatch has long been plagued by boosters and smurf accounts, where players with a higher MMR or elo rating would simply purchase another copy of the game, start a new account, and get matched up with actual new, inexperienced players and essentially stomp all over them.
This is a problem on two fronts; players matched against a team with a booster or smurf would have an awful time because they’re facing off against someone who doesn’t belong in their rank. On the other hand, players with a booster or smurf on their team would win that match, but they wouldn’t necessarily know if they’re doing anything right or wrong. They’d win the match thanks to the smurf, think they’re doing well in a particular role, then proceed to perform poorly in future matches as they hadn’t actually learned anything from the last round.
Image Source: Blizzard Entertainment
The barrier to entry in the original Overwatch for smurfs was $40, and while it might seem silly to buy a game all over again just to smurf, the fact of the matter is that if someone wanted to do that, they could do so with little hassle. With Overwatch 2 going free-to-play, that $40 barrier to entry is now gone, which means that Blizzard needs to put other measures in place to prevent Competitive matches from getting overrun by boosters and smurfs.
Yes, the time commitment required to unlock Competitive mode and every single hero in the roster is massive, but ultimately, if this helps to preserve the integrity of the game in ranked matches, then I’m all for it.
It’s also important to keep in mind that Overwatch 2’s character roster is a lot larger than what it used to be when the original game launched back in 2016. We now have 32 heroes, compared to the original 21 we had in 2016, which is a huge jump. Being limited to a small selection of heroes may also end up being a positive for new players, as this is a chance to get acquainted with the different roles in the game.
As mentioned previously, the roster for new players will gradually grow, with new heroes for them to play around with, so it’s not like the experience is going to remain stagnant for the first 100 matches. The FTUE seems geared towards easing newbies into the ebb and flow of the game, as well as what it takes to do well in higher stakes ranked matches, and should theoretically lead to a better experience for both newbies and veterans alike.
New players will have plenty of time to get to know the game, while longtime fans can rest assured that newbies entering Competitive for the first time will have a decent knowledge of how everything works. And again, if it helps to make Competitive matches feel fairer and more enjoyable, then that’s a win in my book.
At the end of the day, the FTUE is something that new players should be able to chew through within the first couple weeks of playing Overwatch 2. After that, they’ll be on the same playing field as everyone else, and we’ll eventually look back on this and wonder why we ever made such a huge fuss about it in the first place.