During the latest earnings call, Blizzard confirmed that neither Overwatch 2, nor Diablo 4, will be launching in 2021. And while that announcement stole the headlines, another one slipped through mostly unnoticed: that Overwatch might become free-to-play.
Blizzard explained that they wanted to bring their Call of Duty strategy to all their other games, including Overwatch. In the Call of Duty franchise, alongside the paid COD: Black Ops Cold War, Activision supports the free-to-play COD: Warzone, a battle royale game, and Call of Dury Mobile, which is also free-to-play for iOS and Android.
Blizzard has already looked towards the mobile market with Diablo: Immortal, an upcoming free-to-play mobile version of the ARPG classic. When it comes to Overwatch, this could make Overwatch 2 — whenever it comes out — the version of the game that costs money, while Overwatch 1 goes free-to-play.
What does a free to play Overwatch game look like?
What a free-to-play Overwatch looks like can only be speculated at this point. It's possible that the extra content from Overwatch 2, like the PvP mode, be considered expansion for Overwatch 1. Microtransactions could also become more prevalent in the free-to-play version, either making loot boxes paid or swapping them for cosmetics that cost money.
A free-to-play model would also attract more players, as free games are generally more attractive to regular gamers, which could reduce the queue times between OW1 and OW2. But that comes with a negative side. Free-to-play games suffer from the common problem of hacker infestations, as seen in COD: Warzone and other battle royales, VALORANT, CS:GO, and more.
Whether Overwatch 1 becomes free-to-play is still in the air with the upcoming BlizzConline, Feb. 19-20, likely to be a source of further information.