Somewhere between a true sequel and a glorified update, Overwatch 2 has had a hard time pinning down a firm sense of identity. Blizzard has a lot of changes in store for new and returning players to the series, so there is a new “first-time user experience” (FTUE) meant to ease newcomers into the sometimes overwhelming hero shooter experience. But the extensive hoops Blizzard is making players jump through to reach the “full experience” of Overwatch 2 sounds more like a grind-heavy barrier to entry rather than a helpful way to acclimate. What is a FTUE? Who qualifies? What does this actually mean for newcomers?
A fresh start — In a developer blog posted on September 27, 2022, the Overwatch 2 team reported that they have “seen consistent feedback from new players feeling overwhelmed by numerous game modes and heroes.” To combat this and make the onboarding of players easier, new players will begin with “a limited set of game modes, heroes, and some other restrictions.”
Blizzard details these limitations, saying that the first phase of the new first-time user experience “rapidly” unlocks game modes and in-game chat. The restriction on characters is said to keep players from feeling overwhelmed, but Blizzard says all heroes will be unlocked over the course of roughly 100 matches. Of course, those who buy the new battle pass will be given immediate access to new heroes like Kiriko as they are introduced.
For those looking to play Competitive in Overwatch 2, the path to unlocking the game mode has new requirements: “New players are now challenged to win 50 Quick Play matches before Competitive unlocks.”
The first Overwatch was remarkable for its low barrier to entry for those unfamiliar with team-based shooters; You could quite literally hop into Quick Play following the tutorial and start having fun experimenting with different characters. By effectively making a first-person shooter MOBA, Blizzard got people into the game with the promise of trying out any of its well-designed heroes. Over the years, Overwatch has prioritized the esports community, catering updates to competitive play and simultaneously leaving casual players feeling left behind.
Overwatch 2 is on the edge of repeating this problem.
New game, same problems — The new first-time user experience restrictions are being put in place in order to solve toxicity problems with in-game chat and to allow the game to better ease new players in, according to Blizzard. But the onboarding process is so drawn-out that for players who just want to jump in and try out that one cool character they saw in a trailer, the game will prevent them from doing that.
With the knowledge that unlocking heroes will take roughly 100 matches, it is not hard to imagine players burning out before they reach the full promise of Overwatch 2. A typical Quick Play match lasts around 8 minutes. 100 matches could take 13 hours for the average player, that's a hefty time investment to be onboarded into a game. If you have ever rolled your eyes at somebody who swears a JRPG is great once you get 20 hours in, then Overwatch 2 might not be for you.
This goes for the Competitive unlock restrictions as well, which don’t ask players to play 50 Quick Play matches but WIN 50 matches.
That could easily tally up to over 100 matches depending on how lucky you get with matchmaking (and your own individual skill level). Team-based shooters heavily rely on team communication, and with the first-time user experience also restricting access to in-game chat, communication becomes limited. Competitive play should be a place to let players learn how competitive Overwatch 2 play works and work their way up within it. That’s the whole point of player ranks. This new system gatekeeps the mode entirely to those who are already skilled — or at least experience.
This new first-time user experience makes us wonder, on some level, who is Overwatch 2 truly for if you can’t experience the best it has to offer right away?
Overwatch 2 is coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series consoles, Nintendo Switch, and PC on October 4, 2022.