11-8-15 Update: In an interview with PC Gamer earlier today, Kaplan stated that Overwatch will not sell future heroes and maps through microtransactions, and that Blizzard is “‘clearly not’ going to adopt a Heroes of the Storm-style business model” for the game. The rest of the interview can be found here.
Blizzcon is finally upon us, and with it come tantalizing details on Blizzard franchises both new and old. Overwatch, Blizzard’s latest IP, received some special treatment after the Hearthstone panel finished earlier this morning.
Blizzard designer Jeff “Tigole” Kaplan lead off the Overwatch panel with a one-year video retrospective of the game’s development since its announcement last year, which ended with the reveal of three new additions to Overwatch’s quirky superhuman cast: D.Va, a Korean pro Starcraft player-turned-mecha pilot who can transition in and out of her robot suit during combat; Genji, a cybernetic Japanese ninja who employs shuriken, agility, and impeccable swordsmanship to vanquish his foes; and Mei, a gentle Chinese climatologist who nonetheless freezes her foes and creates barriers and platforms with an endothermic ice beam. This portion of the panel also revealed a new stage, Hollywood, which seems to have retained much of its vibrant charm so many years into the future.
Kaplan then delved deeper into Overwatch‘s release details. He announced that the game will be released for PS4 and Xbox One alongside a PC release, which was all but confirmed yesterday by Gamestop. Kaplan continued by stating that all 21 planned characters will be included with the final release of the game, then surprised many with Overwatch’s final pricing: console editions will be set at $60 US, and $40 US for the PC release. This shocked many fans who predicted that the game would be free-to-play.
A special edition of the game, Overwatch Origins, will also be available for purchase. Origins unlocks alternate skins for several characters that reference their in-game pasts, in addition to unlocking cross-promotional cosmetic content in World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, and Starcraft II. Finally, Kaplan announced that pre-ordering the game on Battle.net now will net players an alternate skin for Widowmaker, the game’s sniper character.
Fans, however, are skeptical about how Kaplan worded his explanation of Overwatch’s post-release content. He stated that the game’s initial release will grant players all current 21 characters for free, which, to some, is cause for concern over potential paywalls and microtransactions for future stages and characters. Industry analysts, on the other hand, commend Activision Blizzard for their decision to launch with an initial pricetag.
In a later panel headed by Kaplan, the, PC, Xbox, and PS4 versions of Overwatch were revealed to not support cross-platform play. The game will be fully integrated into Xbox Live and Playstation Network, with no plans for a Mac port. There are currently no plans for player-created mod support, but Blizzard is willing to explore the option in the future. Kaplan did not state whether future characters would be locked behind microtransactions.
Overwatch is set to launch worldwide in Spring 2016, with a tentative release date of June 21.