An alleged leak of “Overwatch 2” has taken the internet by storm, but is there any truth to it?
In June 6th, 2019 Kotaku‘s unspecified sources claimed that Blizzard Entertainment were working on an Overwatch sequel with “a large PvE element.” The sources also claimed a StarCraft project had been cancelled, and Diablo IV was in the works. At least the latter may have some truth to it, due to a magazine advert possibly leaking its existence.
On October 27th, esports correspondence Rod Breslau (via ESPN) reported that Overwatch 2 was in the works. The source is an alleged member of the Blizzcon 2019 staff, and a BlizzCon training document that has not reached public eyes. The game will feature “a new logo, new game modes, maps, heroes and PvE features,” set to be announced at the convention during November 1st to November 2nd.
The PvE mode is reportedly a “four-player story experience set in Rio de Janerio.” The game sounds like it will focus on story elements, and new game modes dubbed Assault, Control, Escort, Hybrid, and Push (the last being set in a map based on Toronto). The game is allegedly set to be playable at this year’s BlizzCon.
Breslau later corrected himself on Twitter, stating “it is very likely the next iteration of Overwatch will not be ‘Overwatch 2’, but instead a variant of ‘Overwatch: Chapter 2’.”
A final piece of interest comes from June 18th, a series of message board posts claiming to be a disgruntled former Blizzard employee (you can see it in full here). Firstly, the post provides no proof of legitimacy, and the claims of the existence of Overwatch 2, Diablo 4, and a StarCraft project being cancelled were all predated by the Kotaku piece.
However, the piece also makes claims about Overwatch 2 being PvE focused, and with a four-player co-operative mode (or as the post states, “Left 4 Dead with robots”). The greater focus on narrative is also supported by claims that “the memes about Overwatch being entirely backstory was strongly taken to heart.” Both of these factors predate Breslau’s article by four months.
In addition, several images have appeared on social media, allegedly showing the game. This is in addition to the featured image on Breslau’s article (the last image in the gallery below), which may be scanned in from a page of the alleged training document.
Based on the above, what are the pros and cons at the rumor’s legitimacy?
Breslau states that Blizzard did not respond to a request for comment, while back in June they gave a more vague open-ended answer. “We always have people working on different ideas behind the scenes,” a Blizzard representative told Kotaku, “including on multiple projects right now – but the reason we tend not to discuss them publicly is because anything can happen over the course of development.”
While a lack statement should not be considered hard proof, it is strange not to issue a similar statement (whether the project is real or not) to prevent consumers and shareholders becoming excited, then disappointed (or vice-versa).
Furthermore, Breslau’s history of esports coverage lends to the authenticity of his claims. He is less likely to be deceived by fake evidence, and has more to lose if he publishes a fake story- knowingly or otherwise.
In the above gallery, the second and fourth images both depict Overwatch character Lúcio. The character’s default costume does depict him with some kind of device over one ear, it does not resemble the object in the images. Aside from the device being on his other ear, both images show Lúcio wearing similar clothes.
The screenshots seem very believable, however it would not be the first time fans were able to do amazing things with the game’s models or their own creations; as Blizzard knows all to well when it started to issue DMCA take downs of Overwatch porn made with Source Film Maker.
Could someone have created a fake Lúcio design based off Breslau’s image, and then combined them with other fake screenshots? The heavy blur may make such a theory palletable, along with Lúcio’s titanic neon antenna. While it may create a distinctive “silhouette” to help distinguish who just walked into your cross-hairs, it also creates a giant arrow to the character’s head. Not an ideal thing in a first person shooter.
However, this “work in progress” screenshot may be due to Lúcio’s dreadlocks not being animated yet. It could be seen that the dreadlocks were kept stiff until later in that scene’s production, where the more intensive effects (such as cloth and hair physics) could be rendered in.
A sequel to one of Blizzard’s most well-known titles would be of interest to shareholders and fans, and buy back some good will after a frankly disastrous month. Since Blizzard’s suspension of pro-Hearthstone player Blitzchung for his support of the Hong Kong protests, and their overall handing of the entire situation, fans have been protesting the company.
This is not to suggest the company would up and start development of a game just to reduce bad PR. However, there is some logic in announcing something that is already in the works earlier than their initial plans.
Even if the timing is too soon, there is precedent. Activision Blizzard created Destiny 2 a mere three years after Destiny, and the Call of Duty franchise has a penchant to release almost yearly. Quick sequels to multiplayer first person shooters is expected of Activision Blizzard.
Being a mere three years old, it would make more sense for these new features to be an update to the existing game- akin to the Mann vs. Machine update for Team Fortress 2. Overwatch also already has seasonal PvE modes, including their seasonal events.
Then again, Breslau did correct himself saying an update was “very likely.” His lack of certainty (and willingness to publish an article stating it was a sequel) may mean even the documentation he obtained did not make a clear distinction.
This would also tie into the anonymous post’s claim that Overwatch 2 would not be using an updated engine, and leaves believable room that the game was considered as a stand alone sequel at some point in development. Whether it is a sequel or update, other factors may have encouraged them to do it.
The anonymous post also claims that Overwatch is “dying”. Tournament viewership has been going down, and an alleged conference call did have the claim that all of Blizzard‘s IPs had flat or decreasing player numbers. In conjunction with allegations of fans not being satisfied with the game’s events, a rebranding could be exactly what the game needs.
A sequel would certainly push the idea of a fresh start harder than a “relaunch”, though so could marketing the game as “Chapter 2”. Moving away from a PvP focus would match up with the anonymous post’s claims that Blizzard attempting to push for an esports mega-hit did not pan out. Once bitten, twice shy. The focus on story-telling would also match with some earlier comments made by developers wishing to do an Overwatch movie, and their desire to expand upon the game’s story.
Another element forcing Activision Blizzard’s hand is the laying off of numerous employees over the last two years. First in late December 2018– even paying the employees to leave- and then nearly 800 laid off in February 2019. Pomerantz LLP is also investigating them on behalf of investors, claiming the company had committed securities fraud and other unlawful practices. “Wild ideas” start to look more and more like a life-line, by sequel or by update.
In conclusion, the evidence in support of it is not too far-fetched, and every counter-point presented here has a plausible answer. Even if the idea of a pure sequel is unpalatable, there is enough evidence to suggest this could be a major update marketed akin to a full-blown sequel or relaunch.
While Overwatch may not be doing as well as it has been, it is certainly not dying. Then again, a vocal fan community creating art does not always add up to success. The game’s announcements of new heroes and modes never really got a lot of attention- good or bad. Is it better to be talked about than be unnoticed? If you are a shareholder, you at least know no news is bad news. Stagnation cannot be profit.
Even if the sequel or update is in the works, there were allegations that the terrible fan reaction to Diablo Immortal resulted in Diablo IV‘s announcement getting pulled. By that logic and with the ongoing Blitzchung controversy, Blizzard’s big hitters could be taking a quiet pause until the roar of controversy has passed. Though taking that logic further, it is amazing BlizzCon 2019 is still going ahead.
However the credibility of Rod Breslau, Overwatch‘s stagnation, how close it is to its supposed announcement, and Blizzard’s desperation might just mean there is truth to all of this. That, or this is an out-of-season April Fool’s joke.
But what do you think? Sound off in the comments below!