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Overwatch 2 is abandoning its predecessor’s premium price and loot box model for a free-to-play system. This means that the base version of the player-vs.-player experience will be free, but Blizzard will charge for certain items and a premium battle pass.
The latter has caused some anxiety in the Overwatch community, especially once players learned that heroes will appear on the battle pass. Before, new heroes simply released for everyone at the same time. Now, unlocking them will become the norm when Overwatch 2 launches on October 4.
Blizzard has clarified how this will work. If you purchase the premium version of the battle pass, you’ll unlock new heroes immediately. If you’re just progressing through the free path, you can unlock heroes once you reach tier 55.
Once a season ends, you can still just outright buy heroes that you missed from the in-game shop. You can also unlock them for free by completing special challenges.
While this isn’t as rough as some players feared — you can still unlock heroes for free — it will feel like a downgrade for many who are used to just automatically getting new characters. The free-to-play transition was bound to bring some changes. You may have hoped that you’d only have to worry about paying for cosmetics, but you will need to throw some cash at the game if you want to access new heroes as quickly and as easily as possible.
So, why do it? Why are heroes on the battle pass?
“Well, heroes are the single most engaging content that we have in the game,” Overwatch general manager Walter Kong told GamesBeat. “As we designed this model, it seemed to be a very strong fit to put those heroes into our new engagement systems. And there is this goal to be able to not just deliver a great experience on launch in October, but to be able to continue to continuously deliver content and experiences for years and years to come.”
In the game’s first season, everyone will get the new tank hero Junker Queen and the new damage-dealer Sojourn just by logging in. If you own the original Overwatch, you’ll also unlock the new healer, Kiriko, by logging into the game before the end of Season 2. If you don’t own the original Overwatch, you will have to unlock Kiriko through the battle pass. That will apply to all future heroes, which should come out about once every two seasons (although both seasons one and two will include new characters).
Blizzard notes on a blog post that new heroes won’t become playable in competitive modes for “a few weeks” after their debuting season. This is meant to give the studio time to adjust and balance characters before players can use them in those high-stakes environments.
“Because of this shift in design approach to heroes, we believe that launching new Overwatch 2 heroes
through the Battle Pass system is fair to our players, respects the competitive nature of the game, and
aligns with our goal of supporting Overwatch 2 as a live service moving forward,” notes Blizzard in the blog post.
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