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Blizzard reworks Overwatch 2's PvE mode into seasonal story missions

Blizzard introduces more changes to Overwatch 2 as the hero shooter continues to embrace its live service mold.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

May 16, 2023

3 Min Read
Promo art for Blizzard's Overwatch 2 featuring Tracer, Reinhardt, and other heroes.

The co-op PvE (player vs. environment) mode that was originally planned for Overwatch 2 has been canceled. In a new livestream outlining the future of the 2022 hero shooter, game director Aaron Keller and EP Jared Neuss said the mode has now been changed to fit with the game's live service model. 

Overwatch 2 was officially announced during BlizzCon in 2019, and PvE was a touted addition meant to distinguish itself from its 2016 predecessor. It would've provided greater narrative context for the world (something Overwatch 1 noticeably lacked), and promised a cooperative experience for players. 

Blizzard previously split off the PvE and PvP modes to ensure the latter could reach its October 4 release date, and promised that PvE would arrive at a later date.

With PvE's Hero Mode gone, co-op story missions will now serve as Overwatch 2's narrative experience. The upcoming Season 6 will launch a story arc intended to serve as a replacement (of sorts) for the lost mode that'll feature narrative cinematics and missions for players to participate in. 

In other words, it'll roughly be the Overwatch equivalent to something like Destiny 2, albeit without the occasional paid expansion. 

"This is the future of what we're trying to bring to Overwatch 2," Keller told GameSpot. "That's what I hope players can take away from this experience, the shift in the way we want to develop for this game and what we want to put out for our players."

Going forward, Neuss says that future seasons will have other flavors of PvE (canon or otherwise) for  the player base. He was frank in calling it a better fit for Blizzard, as this lets the studio put out updates on a frequent basis, "tell a story in an ongoing unfolding way, and not wait for this big singular moment."

Why did Overwatch 2's Hero Mode get cut?

Essentially, Keller explained that it eyes were bigger than its stomach. With PvE thrown into the mix, Blizzard would've been making two separate games, with Heroes serving as the primary connecting thread. 

Mid-development on Overwatch 2, the team realized that PvE was pulling resources from PvP, and "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."

Hero Missions were going to be a "gargantuan task," in part because each Hero would've had their own progression system, and content would have to run those specific systems. And as he reminded, "You have to run it as a live game, so content has to continually come out for that side of the game."

Neuss added that those story missions would've been "tougher" than the story missions made during Overwatch 1's annual Archives event. "They're significantly different... so developing those, what it takes to do that, the technology required, the people required, the iteration required is all different."

"As the team learned more about what it took to make this, as it learned more about the time, the iteration and the technology required," he admitted, "it just became clear that the schedule wasn't going to work."

As for some of those cut PvE ideas like the Hero talents, Keller indicated they may show up in PvP in an altered fashion. There are "different ways" that could happen, he said, but those would come out "seasonally and in a different form and with a different purpose than what we had before. So we would like to repurpose some of it."

You can read more about what Keller and Neuss had to say about Overwatch 2's seasonal future over on GameSpot.

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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