So a lot of gamers were not terribly happy that Overwatch 2 director Aaron Keller and executive producer Jared Neuss announced that most of the game’s PvE modes promised during the game’s development will not be happening after all. But at least you could rest assured that these were late changes to the development and not something that the leadership knew about for a long while, right?
Well no. Keller and Neuss did an interview with Gamespot clarifying that in fact Blizzard’s strategy for development shifted about a year and a half ago – well ahead of launch.
Keller tries to reframe the content cut as limited to hero mode, talents, and power progression, saying the new focus will be on story missions rather than the open-ended hero mode. “[W]e are definitely not doing the Hero Mode and the talents and that power progression system.” Gamespot then asks when in the development process did the team make this call, and Keller doesn’t directly answer the question; instead, he seems to be saying that it stems back to decisions made pre-launch about what to prioritize.
“It was about a year and a half ago that we made the decision to really shift strategy. That’s when we rapidly shifted the resources on our team to work on launching Overwatch 2, and that’s what came out last October. But at the same time, what we came away with from that first experience was a new value for developing Overwatch. It was a new value for running the team, namely to always be putting out fresh, exciting, fun, new experiences for our players. As we were running up to launching Overwatch 2, we realized that we could not build that other game. We couldn’t save up all of that content over the course of what was looking to be at least the next several years to finish it, and by doing that, pulling more and more resources away from the people that were all playing our game and all the people that would be playing Overwatch 2. So we made a decision later last year that we would focus all of our efforts on the live running game and all of our PvE efforts on this new story arc that we’re launching in Season 6. And then on top of that, to keep all of our PvE efforts, all of our co-op efforts, invested in our seasonal releases rather than that one big boxed release.”
We note here that this timeframe was not all that long after Jeff Kaplan departed the company.
Keller also discusses how what a “massive lift” finishing the hero mission PvE content would’ve been (which is, you know, what everyone said when the mode was first announced and demo’ed) and attempts to justify the existence of Overwatch 2 stripped of the bulk of its promised PvE; he implies the PvE was never the core difference, that it was actually “free-to-play and swapping to a 5v5 team format and all the new content.” Essentially, the duo waffle quite a bit when asked why the scope was so different from when the game was initially announced with these features included. They try to pitch the idea of the seasonal content delivering the same experience of PvE content for people who prefer that content style, while justifying the free-to-play business model as ensuring that people who don’t prefer PvP don’t have to buy into the game.
Read the full interview to see more of what the leadership has to say about the design shift, although if you were annoyed at the announcement you should not expect the interview to mollify you.