Overwatch is a team-based multiplayer first-person shooter video game developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment. It was released in May 2016 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Essentially a hero-based shooter, Overwatch assigns players into two teams of six, with each player selecting one of 24 pre-defined hero characters with unique movement, attributes, and abilities whose roles are divided into four categories: Offense, Defense, Tank, and Support. Players on a team work together to secure and defend control points on a map and/or escort a payload across the map in a limited amount of time. Players gain cosmetic rewards that do not affect gameplay, such as character skins and victory poses, as they continue to play in matches. The game was initially launched with casual play, with a competitive ranked mode, various ‘arcade’ game modes, and a player-customizable server browser subsequently included following its release. Additionally, Blizzard has developed and added new characters, maps, and game modes post-release, while stating that all Overwatch updates will remain free, with the only additional cost to players being microtransactions to earn additional cosmetic rewards.
Overwatch is Blizzard’s fourth major franchise and came about following the 2014 cancellation of the ambitious massively multiplayer online role-playing game Titan. A portion of the Titan team came up with the concept of Overwatch, based on the success of team-based first-person shooters like Team Fortress 2 and the growing popularity of multiplayer online battle arenas, creating a hero-based shooter that emphasized teamwork. Some elements of Overwatch borrow assets and concepts from the canceled Titan project. After establishing the narrative of an optimistic near-future Earth setting after a global crisis, the developers aimed to create a diverse cast of heroes that spanned genders and ethnicities as part of this setting. Significant time was spent adjusting the balance of the characters, making sure that new players would still be able to have fun while skilled players would present each other with a challenge.
Overwatch was unveiled at BlizzCon 2014 in a fully playable state and was in a closed beta from late 2015 through early 2016. An open beta in May 2016 drew in more than 9.7 million players. The release of the game was promoted with short animated videos to introduce the game’s narrative and each of the characters. Upon official release, Overwatch received universal acclaim from critics, who praised the game for its accessibility, diverse appeal of its hero characters, bright cartoonish art style, and enjoyable gameplay. Considered one of the best games released in 2016, the game received numerous accolades, including being awarded Game of the Year at The Game Awards, D.I.C.E. Awards, and Game Developers Choice Awards, as well as from numerous publications. Since its release, Overwatch has become recognized as an eSport, where in addition to sponsoring tournaments, Blizzard has announced plans to help support professional league play starting in 2017.