When Overwatch 2 launches on October 4th, fans might have to get on the grind wheel to unlock the newest heroes. A tweet from Jon Spector, Overwatch’s commercial lead, indicates new heroes will be gated behind battle pass progression, saying that “new Overwatch 2 heroes will be available on the free track of the Battle Pass.”
Spector’s tweet appears to reference a description of Overwatch 2’s Watchpoint Pack, a purchasable content bundle that grants buyers all kinds of goodies, including skins, in-game currency, and access to the season 1 premium battle pass.
The description, posted on the Competitive Overwatch subreddit, states that premium battle pass users get access to Overwatch 2’s newest hero Kiriko. (In a one-two punch of unintentional information leaks, the latest support hero was teased in earlier Overwatch 2 promos, but details were never confirmed before her name leaked not only here but also by accident from a streamer.)
The Watchpoint Pack’s description was later changed, removing the reference to Kiriko and how she could be obtained through the premium battle pass. Though the sentence is gone, Spector’s tweet seems to confirm that new heroes will indeed be locked behind battle pass progression — but on the free track and not the paid one.
Since Overwatch’s launch in 2016, new heroes were free and immediately available. As sequels are wont to do, Overwatch 2 is implementing a lot of changes to the game — specifically, switching from a boxed retail model to a free-to-play model. As Spector’s tweet circulated, fans pointed out that gating heroes behind battle pass progression is a standard feature for other free-to-play games like Apex Legends and Valorant.
However, fans on the other side of the aisle pointed out that, unlike Apex or Valorant, in Overwatch, players are free to switch heroes midmatch and often do so to pick characters that counter the opposition’s heroes and composition. As Overwatch is now, new heroes are often considerably more powerful (i.e., busted) and therefore dominate all levels of play, especially at the highest competitive tiers. It’s a bit like rock, paper, scissors. When the support hero Brigitte was added, she was the rock to Tracer’s scissors. In the Overwatch League and on the competitive ladder, if your team did not field Brigitte, your team had a poor chance of winning. Therefore, not being able to play a new hero because you haven’t unlocked them presents a considerable disadvantage to competitive players.
Dante “Danteh” Cruz, a player on the Overwatch League team Houston Outlaws, commented on Spector’s tweet, saying that while he understands such a feature is common in free-to-play games, with the way new heroes dominate the higher tiers of competitive Overwatch, “you’re just at a huge disadvantage if you don’t play them.”
Though the concerns of Cruz and others about competitive viability are valid, they represent a fraction of the player base. Matches in quick play are gonna see folks play attack Torbjörn, Wrecking Ball, and Symmetra, unconcerned for the woes of those in the Platinum to Grandmaster ranks.
There’s been no official communication from Blizzard confirming or denying how new heroes will work in Overwatch 2. As Spector’s tweets remain up, it seems at the least like a soft confirmation that hero unlocks will in some way be tied to the battle pass. There will be more information in the lead-up to Overwatch 2’s launch on consoles and PC on October 4th.