As opening day for Overwatch League season 5 fast approaches, Blizzard is finally sharing more news on the progress of Overwatch 2. In a developer update, the Overwatch 2 team said closed alpha testing will begin today, with a closed beta to follow in April. The closed alpha will be open to a select group of people, including Overwatch League pros, while the closed beta will feature an expanded group of participants who can request access to the beta by signing up at PlayOverwatch.com, though you might want to wait a bit since the site is experiencing problems.
Interestingly, neither the closed alpha nor beta will feature any PvE elements and will instead focus entirely on PvP. According to the Overwatch blog, “We are changing our release strategy by decoupling Overwatch 2’s PvP and PvE experiences from one another to get new PvP content into your hands sooner, while we continue to work on PvE.” This might mean that when Overwatch 2 finally does release, it might be in chunks with PvP coming out first. Halo Infinite had a similar piecemeal release strategy with certain gameplay modes not released at launch.
Compounded by lawsuits, merger news, layoffs, inability to attract talent, and multiple delays, news on Overwatch 2 has been worryingly scarce. Blizzard has showcased some elements of the game to the public, like its new game mode Push and the new 5v5 format. But outside of some new concept art, there hasn’t been much shared about a game the public will see for the first time when the new Overwatch League season starts in May. Overwatch 2 game director Aaron Keller acknowledged the lack of communication saying this announcement of the closed alpha and beta testing will initiate, “more continual updates on all things Overwatch 2.”
Along with the information that the closed beta will include the new Push mode, hero reworks, and the 5v5 format, Blizzard has confirmed that Sojourn, the game’s 33rd character and first Black female hero, will finally be playable. Overwatch has long been criticized for not including a Black female hero. For a game that explicitly celebrates the diversity and multi-nationality of its characters and features four sentient robots, a talking gorilla scientist, and a murderous hamster piloting a machine gun-equipped hamster ball, not having a Black female hero does seem like an oversight. Before his departure from Blizzard in 2021, Jeff Kaplan, former Overwatch 2 game director, said that Sojourn would not be released until Overwatch 2. It seems, at long last, that day has finally arrived.