Is Overwatch Slowly Dying?
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All games die. The player base dwindles, the servers get shut down, and it becomes nothing more than a fond memory. Overwatch is certainly not something that will be pronounced “dead” anytime soon, and that is to Blizzard’s credit. The company took the FPS genre by storm and brought an interest in class-based shooters to the masses. But the claim “Overwatch is dying,” seems to end up on forum posts and Youtube videos a lot and, while I disagree, I can see what symptoms might be giving rise to the hyperbolic nature.

Overwatch has been dying since it launched because, well, nothing is immortal. But the changes in the game’s culture were swift and, looking back, it’s easy to see why Overwatch began to die for me. One of the first things that I noticed when the game came out was how laid-back and super friendly everyone seemed to be. I even broke out my dusty old headset just to talk to people and coordinate tactics. Silly things happened. People laughed. Then, the competitive mode came out. The culture seemed to immediately shift.

Blizzard has certainly tried to do something about the toxic nature of its community, and its different initiatives have had different levels of success. But players are far from scared and will continue to act out as “off meta” character picks slightly diminish their chances at a victory. The mentality appears in unranked play, too. This is all despite the fact that it is just a game and so few people have a chance at becoming pros.

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That’s what makes it even stranger that Overwatch seems to change and grow, based on the opinions of pro players and those with professional aspirations. The “meta,” which is basically the majority agreement on the optimal way to “play,” is determined by the testing and strategies of professional players. The goal of an “optimal way to play” even sounds like an oxymoron, but it dominates a lot of the conversation among hardcore players and these are vocal people. When characters come out, they aren’t talking about their personalities so much as how they might affect the balance of the game. And when balance patches come out, often to fine tune things that mostly matter at higher levels of play, the community cries out because, well, you can’t please everyone. It’s a never ending argument that can get exhausting.

Most news around the game seems focused on the game’s very own professional circuit, Overwatch League. Even here, we have to address a fair amount of controversy. Why? Players say toxic things. Again, it’s exhausting.

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Meanwhile, the stuff that a lot of us really loved about the game has slowed down. The game doesn’t have a storymode, but it does have deep lore. That is one of its strong suits. Every character radiates so much personality, and there is so much love and detail put into their design. I love finding out how they all got involved in the combat. I like knowing their backgrounds. I like knowing the relationships between the characters. Some people like drawing them naked together and the more fuel you can give them, the happier they are.

But the comics aren’t all that common, and we’ve only recently gotten an animation for McCree. Speaking of which, his new video feels more like a reveal of a new character than an exploration of his. Obviously, these videos take time and effort, but the initial wave of them did so much to embue characters with feeling, and that is how some of us pick favorites. It’s not all a numbers game.

So, no, Overwatch isn’t on the front page of every website daily anymore. Hell, I don’t even have to cover Fortnite constantly, because even that has begun to fade. Gamers may be looking to the future but Overwatch is still kicking and, if you haven’t played in a while, it may be worth giving it another look. There have been additions to the roster that can change the way teams play against one another, even if the game, overall, hasn’t changed that much. There aren’t numbers available about concurrent Overwatch players but I have to imagine that people are going to start moving away from the title more and more unless Blizzard does something to recharge the game.

Benjamin Maltbie
Benjamin Maltbie

Contributing Writer
Date: 11/27/2018

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