During Xbox and Bethesda's recent showcase, Overwatch 2 developers at Blizzard released the Early Access date for the game's PvP gamemode that has been decoupled from its PvE mode. The player-vs-player gameplay will hit consoles and PCs on October 4, 2022.
In addition to the PvP announcement, Blizzard revealed that Overwatch 2 will be a free-to-play title. Furthermore, the developers unveiled the newest addition to the Overwatch cast, the fearsome tank known as the Junker Queen, overlord of Junktown. Blizzard also disclosed the offering of a Founder's Pack for the game, providing existing Overwatch players with exclusive content, including an account icon and two epic quality skins.
Overwatch 2: What will free-to-play mean for the game?
In the usual manner, the response to the announcement of Overwatch 2 being free-to-play has been mixed. Blizzard has branded the business model as 'free-to-play live experience,' but this term seems to be read as a live service model. Typically, such gaming models start with free to join and play but feature microtransactions to support the server maintenance and development costs. This has proven to be a questionable move, as the original Overwatch also featured microtransactions, allowing players to purchase randomized loot boxes to acquire in-game cosmetics.
Blizzard has stated in their news release that they believe Overwatch 2 should be a social experience, so they should open the game up to as many players as possible. This is likely why the title will also feature cross-platform play and cross-progression tracking. However, this still begs the question as to how many options will be available for players to spend money to acquire in-game cosmetics. In a previous interview, former Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan remarked that the dev team was exploring other monetization options to "move (the game) away from loot boxes."
Kaplan also remarked in the same interview that he appreciated the design of Battle Passes in other multiplayer titles but said that it wasn't confirmed whether the upcoming free-to-play shooter would implement them. However, considering other options, Battle Passes still seem like one of the most likely features to be implemented in the upcoming free-to-play title.
Another possibility may point to in-game currencies or direct purchases. It may be possible that players will have the ability to snag skins for their favorite heroes through up-front microtransactions. However, a currency-based system may allow for players to earn unlockable customizations while still possessing the option to purchase additional currency via real-world money.
This would be somewhat similar to the original Overwatch, which would reward players with coins when they received duplicate items in loot boxes in the game. If Kaplan is correct and if the title is moving away from loot boxes, the developers may opt for a currency model in order to please players who don't want to use microtransactions for all their customizations. For the time being, players will have to wait and see. Further developments from Blizzard should present themselves well before the October 4 release date.