Probably one of the most hyped games of 2016, Overwatch has finally hit the market to a chorus of cheers from fans all over the world. Sitting at a 92 on Metacritic, it’s clear that it has been successful, but how does Blizzard do it time and time again? Let’s find out together.
Blizzard, since their early 90s days of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, have been world builders and master smiths of lore and character. Warcraft was their first smash hit, splintering the world of slow, emotionless RTS games. Yes, Age of Empires and Civilization are seminal games, but the love of world, character and lore in Warcraft and all subsequent titles renewed the PC gaming industry and brought a new layer of love to what was becoming an old, drawn out genre and industry.
In the years since, Azeroth has grown tenfold, expanding into World of Warcraft and beyond in the form of Hearthstone and a plethora of Warcraft books. The love for this world oozes from the game, from mighty dragons to crafty goblins, Warcraft and World of Warcraft are only as big as their world, and this is only one example. This love and attention to detail would continue to seep throughout the gaming world over the next decade, and this is constantly reflected in the top rated games of each year.
As far as Blizzard go, Diablo and Starcraft follow this formula; the rich lore accumulates in a world that can suck in time and attention like a black hole, and Overwatch is no exception to this. For a game with no single player aspect and very little in game reference to history and story, Overwatch is incredibly rich with character and history. This comes down to the love that Blizzard have for their projects and the humanity that they inject into their games.
The love for Overwatch is palpable, no matter which form you enjoy it in. From seeing the first gameplay video, to starting up the open beta and then finally investing time into the retail release, the love that Blizzard has for its games and fans was immediately apparent to me. It comes down to a belief that Blizzard has in their products. They invest time, money and love in Overwatch and all of their other titles because they know that this personality and belief inspires belonging in their fan base. People connect with their games, they read the comics and watch the cinematics because they feel the voice behind the characters they play and they appreciate the individuality of every aspect of the game.
This is belief from Blizzard evolving into a player base that can belong, which transfers into a marketable behaviour of gamers ravenously ingesting every aspect of their game and their world. This love goes far past just lore and world, and subsequently trickles down to aspects of their game. Every nook and cranny of every map is useful and unique, and the game rewards you for playing by letting you discover the thousands of minute differences a different part of the map can make. This can also be seen in characters who as previously mentioned ooze personality, yet this is achieved with very minimal voice acting. The weapons of the characters are an extension of their person and make you aware of the type of character they are. The costumes do the same, extenuating aspects of their character, from Winston’s space suit and Tesla gun, to Reaper’s dark cloak and dual shotguns, fans knew from the moment of their cinematic reveal what type of characters these would be. This extends to animation, character interaction and if you take the time to explore the history of Overwatch, the subtle hints in game that reference the past of characters and make you smile.
This brings me to the main point: the game. The game is what gaming is all about, and while belief and belonging are important and a loving game developer makes the game that much more enjoyable, if it isn’t a fun game to begin with, if it isn’t a good idea, then it’s all for nothing. Luckily, Overwatch is anything but boring. With 21 characters to choose from over 12 maps across 3 game modes, Overwatch launched with a hefty and variable line-up with a promise of more to come for free. Each character is incredibly unique and offers something completely different. This surprises most first time players as gamers today are jaded with clichéd character roles and types and don’t expect the kind of depth that you would find in every Overwatch character. 10 hours on one character doesn’t deem you an expert and even at 100 hours you’d still be improving and discovering new ways to play just one character. That’s one out of 21. That’s a lot of hours.
Overwatch has spread by gameplay and word of mouth into one of the biggest success stories of the last year and this is all down to just how good and rewarding it feels to play the game. Levelling up is easy, character learning curves are low but their skill ceiling is so high. Even those characters for beginners can be played in entirely different ways with each unique team comp and different map, making each game a refreshing and new experience. When teaming up with friends, this experience gets put to a whole new light. No longer are you just doing the best you can to hold up your disorganised team, instead you’re working together to pick the right combination to co-ordinate a defeat of the enemy. Having a team of 6 friends is a side of the game which unfortunately won’t be seen by the majority of Overwatch players, but it is easily one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had in the last decade.
As Warcraft and many other games have done and continue to do, Overwatch will continue to shape and change the Industry. Top rated games such as the art piece that is The Last of Us or the incredibly deep and revolutionary Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time took cues from those that came before them, and have given cues to those that have come after, just as Overwatch has done and will continue to do. As for the game itself, Overwatch will continue to thrive well into the future. If games that inspired it are anything to go off, namely Team Fortress 2, Overwatch will easily continue for years to come, and with new content on the way and continued Blizzard support, it may become one of the biggest names in gaming. I for one can’t wait.
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