There was a point in time when nobody believed Overwatch 2 was even happening anymore.
The Overwatch community had to give a double-take when Blizzard announced that there was a confirmed date for the Overwatch 2 PvP beta. It seemed that just a few moments earlier, Overwatch 2 was turning into a fairytale of sorts, something Blizzard told gamers to keep them from cancelling the company and all of its titles.
Overwatch 2 was first announced in 2019. At the time, developers explained that their focus was shifting from Overwatch updates to the development of Overwatch 2. And at the time, players were immediately sceptical. Why did there need to be a second Overwatch? Was Blizzard just trying to make some money instead of continuing to update the existing game?
Overwatch 2 was delayed… and delayed
But the Overwatch community couldn’t help it — they were intrigued. Overwatch is a game rich in lore, with dynamic heroes and a compelling storyline that continues to grow with each update. There were comics, videos, art… Players started wondering about a campaign mode that would dive deeper into the Overwatch universe.
Soon, however, players learned what Overwatch 2 was all about — and it didn’t seem to make sense. There would be a new PvP mode, Push. And it would now be 5v5. But why couldn’t that just be added to Overwatch? There would be a new hero and hero reworks. But why couldn’t that just be added to Overwatch?
After multiple delays, developers explained the game further at BlizzConline, hosting a panel that went over some details of a campaign-like mode complete with hero skill trees. They also explained the gameplay improvements, from more realistic shooting to more detailed maps. While still sceptical, fans couldn’t help but want Overwatch 2 to succeed.
The abandonment of Overwatch 1
Meanwhile, Overwatch was completely abandoned. There had barely been any new content since 2019. Echo was the only new hero in years. The updates were just rehashed holiday events. The game was perceived as stale by many outspoken Blizzard fans. Overwatch 2 seemed to them like an excuse to stop putting effort into Overwatch. With Overwatch 2 delayed and Overwatch 1 receiving almost nothing of substance, fans were left wondering what the team was up to.
Turns out, Blizzard headquarters was deep in turmoil. In 2021, Blizzard was sued by the state of California for several severe workplace issues. With the plummeting stock prices and dwindling public support, it seemed like Activision Blizzard was on a slippery slope. However, at the beginning of 2022, in a flurry of acquisitions in the gaming industry, Microsoft bought Activision Blizzard.
With Microsoft holding the reins, there was hope again for the videogame company. Microsoft had a proven track record in gaming. It had competed in the console market with Sony for decades, giving it an edge in steering Activision Blizzard back to the right keel.
They had a hard pickle to get the game out of though.
Is Overwatch dying? Can it retain its viewership numbers?
From 2018 to 2022, Overwatch suffered a deep decline in viewership on Twitch. With no new content and an unbalanced roster not addressed by developers, it wasn’t the most enjoyable game to play or watch. By the beginning of 2022, Overwatch had 12,000 average viewers. While nowhere near “dying” — as the gaming community likes to throw out — Overwatch was not the popular game it once was.
The Overwatch League wasn’t doing any better over on YouTube. The average viewership for the 2021 season was a little under 85K. Again, not dying. But that’s a 35% average viewership drop compared to Season 1 with a peak viewership drop of almost 62%. Whether this was due to repetitive gameplay, big-name players retiring from exhaustion, or the switch to YouTube, one thing was for certain — Something needed to be done, and fast.
The comeback: the release of Overwatch 2
And just like that, the Overwatch 2 beta was given a date.
Suddenly, Overwatch fans emerged from the woodworks, tweeting their excitement for the beta slated for April of 2022. They’d finally get to play Sojourn! They’d finally get to see how 5v5 worked! They’d finally get to try Push! You know, all of the things that Overwatch fans once ranted could just be Overwatch 1 DLC. But still, the excitement was growing.
Read about Abios coverage for Overwatch.
When streamers started playing Overwatch 2, the excitement was palpable. Overwatch was alive. Social media was full of meta discussions, rework debates, concerns, and praise. Top players — even ones that retired — were streaming the beta. Fans were desperate for a beta key.
Blizzard announced that more players could get access to Overwatch 2 via Twitch Drops. Overwatch went from 12,000 viewers to over 1.5 million. The game was thriving. Overwatch 2 had saved Overwatch. It had revived the community. Would it make Overwatch League exciting again? Would it bring back that feeling from so many years ago — how it felt to play Overwatch with friends back when the game was fun?
That’s hard to say. Since the Twitch Drop madness, the Overwatch category on Twitch to 19K viewers (22K if you count the Overwatch 2 category as well). That’s not horrible. But Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has 40K and that game is a decade old. League of Legends has 181K.
So what happens next?
So will Overwatch return to its former glory? The number may rise again when Overwatch 2 comes out. Additionally, it may see some more viewership when the Overwatch League starts. Time will tell if it will retain and expand on its former glory with the help of Microsoft. Or if it will hit another all-time high at the release of Overwatch 2 and later fizzle out. It all boils down to how much people love the game and if its previous issues are amended.
One thing is for certain, we will keep tabs on the development and are looking to see how the situation unfolds.