Overwatch 2 is now playable in a newly launched closed alpha test, Blizzard Entertainment announced Thursday. A playable beta test for Overwatch 2, aimed at a larger group of players, will launch on PC in “late April.”
Blizzard says it’s changing its release plan for Overwatch 2, “decoupling” the game’s PvP and PvE elements in an attempt to get the sequel’s competitive multiplayer content into players’ hands sooner while it continues to work on single-player and cooperative content.
Overwatch game director Aaron Keller announced the change in strategy for Overwatch 2 in an update Thursday. He revealed that the new alpha test will be playable by “Blizzard employees, Overwatch League pros, and a few other select groups,” while the forthcoming beta will launch in all regions for a bigger, but still closed, audience.
“This closed beta will include a larger group of testers who we will ask to provide gameplay feedback,” Keller said. “Our goal for this phase is to test our new features, content, and systems before we shift to stress-testing the servers with a wider player base in future Beta tests.”
Players can sign up to take part in the beta on the game’s website.
Keller described Overwatch 2’s first PvP beta as “the most significant release we’ve had since our launch.” It will include Overwatch’s first new hero in nearly two years, the damage hero Sojourn. Blizzard also promises new hero reworks, some of which have been revealed over the past year as the developer transitions Overwatch competitive multiplayer from a 6v6 structure to a 5v5 one. Orisa, Doomfist, Bastion, and Sombra will see reworks during the beta, Blizzard said.
The beta will also include the new game mode, Push, that debuted at BlizzCon 2019, and four new multiplayer maps: New York City (Midtown), Rome (Collosseo), Toronto (New Queen Street), and Monte Carlo (Circuit Royal). Here’s an updated look at those maps and some of Overwatch 2’s character redesigns.
In November, Blizzard Entertainment announced it was “planning for a later launch for Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV than originally envisaged,” hinting that the two titles, both announced in 2019, could slip to 2023. But now that Overwatch 2 is entering beta, it’s possible Overwatch fans could get their sequel — at least the multiplayer PvP component of it — this year instead. Blizzard, as is its wont, has not communicated any kind of release date for Overwatch 2.
When Overwatch 2 was originally announced, Blizzard focused heavily on the addition of PvE content, in the form of Hero and Story Missions, coming to the sequel. The developer said it was “building the cooperative, narrative-driven game experience that players have been asking for since the original—and that we’ve wanted to make for a long time.” Those missions would also give players a new type of progression and character customization, giving Overwatch’s heroes and villains new, supercharged abilities in co-op play. It’s not currently clear how Blizzard plans to roll out the PvP and PvE elements of Overwatch 2 separately.
In the months since Overwatch 2’s announcement, updates to the original Overwatch have been sparse. Blizzard has added just one new hero, Echo, in that time, and two deathmatch maps, Kanezaka and Malevento. Overwatch players have sustained themselves instead on Blizzard’s rollout of in-game challenges, seasonal events, and Experimental Mode patches that have led to smaller hero reworks.
Publisher Activision Blizzard said in November it was giving the Overwatch team “extra time to complete production and continue growing their creative resources to support the titles after launch,” acknowledging turmoil and turnover at Blizzard as contributing to the game’s longer-than-expected development.
Activision Blizzard is currently facing multiple lawsuits and federal investigations, as well as calls for its CEO, Bobby Kotick, to resign over serious allegations of sexual harassment and assault at the publisher and its studios, including Blizzard. Those allegations and Activision Blizzard’s handling of the accusations have led multiple corporate sponsors to distance themselves from Activision Blizzard and its Overwatch esports league in recent months.
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