Days after revealing that Overwatch 2's long-touted PvE mode was being reworked, Blizzard Entertainment has now broken down the why of it all.
In a new blog post, game director Aaron Keller explained why the hero shooter is introducing a semi-replacement in the form of Story Missions. Starting with the incoming sixth season, they're billed as a linear story pushing the narrative of Overwatch 1 and 2 forward, which was one of the initial draws of PvE (aka Hero Missions).
After describing the new Story Missions as "leaps and bounds" above the game's prior PvE content, he gave extra context that provides a deeper insight into the franchise's larger evolution.
The original Overwatch was made from the bones of a canceled FPS/MMO project from Blizzard simply known as Project Titan. Per Keller, Blizzard always planned to return to that initial hybrid scope, and one where the PvE would serve as the middle point between the base FPS and MMO endpoint.
A PvE portion of the game went into development not long after Overwatch 1's launch, which he described as an "exciting but gargantuan vision." It's known that part of the PvE plan was for Heroes (of which there are currently 37) to have expansive skill trees and abilities, and new enemy units.
But by Keller's own admission, the Hero Mission development was troubled early on. "We were trying to do too many things at once," he confessed. "We were never able to bring together all of the elements needed to ship a polished, cohesive experience."
As he said earlier in the week, working on those Hero Missions was pulling resources from the PvP experience, and negatively affecting both halves. "Our players had high expectations for it, but we no longer felt like we could deliver it. We needed to make an incredibly difficult decision."
Where does Overwatch 2 go from here?
A common question asked in light of PvE's axed vision has been "Why now?," and Keller has an answer for that, too. The news could really only come once Blizzard refined its Overwatch 2 plans, which were after the game's October 2022 launch.
Keller acknowledged the studio tried "to make all of our ambitions fit together in a plan that we believed in," and that includes getting Hero Missions out the door. In the end, they elected to cut their vision and update their plans for the game.
Closing out the blog, Keller stated that he made the call to benefit Overwatch 2 and its community at large. And because he had trouble breaking off from that original vision, he made a public apology "to our players and to our team."
"Overwatch was born from the ashes of Project Titan. This is another moment of change. And the future of Overwatch will be born out of it.
Right now, the only details about Story Missions is that they'll be seasonal events that "delve into the next chapter of the Overwatch universe." Beyond that, Blizzard intends to continue the series as it's been doing for years now: with more in-game content and expanded media like comics, animated shorts, and books.
Season 6 of Overwatch 2 will launch later this year.