This post was updated Feb. 21 at 9:59 a.m.
Cheers love, the cavalry’s here – again.
At its annual BlizzCon 2019 convention, Blizzard Entertainment announced a widely anticipated sequel to its popular online first-person shooter game Overwatch, titled Overwatch 2. Despite general enthusiasm, some audiences were confused and questioned what Overwatch 2 would offer over its predecessor, as the trailers were unclear as to whether it was an expansion or entirely separate from the first game. Sequels like Overwatch 2 may be initially unclear in what they provide to players, but they allow game developers to build upon the stories of their existing multiplayer games without fracturing their player bases.
Overwatch is a team-based multiplayer game in which players can select from a wide cast of heroes, each of whom has their own backstory in the Overwatch universe. In addition to voice lines within the game itself, the lore of the heroes has been expanded through comics and short stories written by Blizzard’s writing team. As such, players have been clamoring for Blizzard to further develop Overwatch’s underlying story, especially in-game. Unfortunately, a game that is solely player versus player does not provide much opportunity to tell a complex story.
Subsequently, Overwatch 2 fills the void of lore, including co-op missions in which four players fight against Null Sector, an extremist group of intelligent robots called omniums. The missions serve to further progress the story of Overwatch, which takes place in a near future in which omniums attempt to live alongside humans as equals. Violent conflicts from certain groups such as Null Sector, however, prompted the creation of Overwatch, an organization made to fight off such threats.
The co-op missions are player versus environment, meaning they are much more akin to a single-player game, where the player is guided through a very specific story and experience. Additionally, Overwatch 2 continues the multiplayer modes of the original and includes updated game modes and character designs.
The inclusion of a multiplayer mode left audiences thinking: What about players of the first Overwatch? Such questions eventually revealed the complexities of Overwatch 2 as a consumer product. The only truly exclusive aspects of the game are the co-op and story-based missions. Meanwhile, the game’s player-versus-player modes will be compatible with the original Overwatch, meaning players from both games can play together.
In other words, Overwatch 2 is less of a true sequel and more of an expansion pack to Overwatch. Blizzard will likely get the best of both worlds by designing Overwatch 2 in such a way, being able to integrate new content into an already-established game.
Naturally, some players were upset by Blizzard’s ambiguous marketing for Overwatch 2 – the game is early in development and still lacks a release date. Such sequels, however, give game developers more creative freedom in expanding their franchises. Another popular online video game, Fortnite, developed by Epic Games, introduced a brand new map for players to fight on, marketed as Fortnite Chapter 2. The original map of the battle royale game had been the same since the game’s release, meaning Chapter 2 would allow for new strategies and experiences in the same game.
Both Epic Games’ and Blizzard Entertainment’s new products have one strategy in common: they do not split their existing player bases. Creating a sequel to multiplayer games is a complicated task. While a single-player game can have a sequel that can stand independently from its predecessor, multiplayer games have dedicated player bases that keeps them running – introducing a full-fledged sequel would isolate players who do not want to pay for the new game. As such, titles like Overwatch 2 are quite clever despite their simplicity in that they provide avenues for new content while maintaining the multiplayer experience.
By creating Overwatch 2, Blizzard is simply providing players with more options, while building on the strengths of the first game. Though convoluted marketing caused some initial confusion regarding the content of Overwatch 2, the core idea behind the game is what any audience would want from a sequel: a product that can stand on its own, while keeping the original intact.
In the meantime, players will have to spam their voice lines to get their share of Overwatch lore.