Overwatch isn’t just a game at this point. It’s also so much more than a brand. It was nothing short of a cultural phenomenon when it originally launched back in 2016. It was the 2016 equivalent of Fortnite, where everyone and their moms knew what an Overwatch was, despite having never touched a video game in their lives.
The reason for Overwatch’s undeniable influence isn’t that it’s a really good hero shooter (and it is); it’s that it’s so full of these colorful characters with great personalities that just stick with you forever.
It’s not just the characters either. It’s also the production value that you’d expect of a game with the Blizzard name slapped on it. Everything from the solid, extraordinary main theme to the game’s Pachimari mascots and ridiculously well-made cinematic shorts help to contribute to the Overwatch brand, and have made it as popular as it is today.
In fact, one could argue that it’s the peripheral things that are helping to keep Overwatch afloat, as the actual video game itself has certainly gone through several messy periods over the years since its release. If you think about it, Overwatch has had a ton of problematic meta and balancing changes –shoutout to the days of the Junkrat meta, GOATS, Pharmercy, and the original launch day blight herself: Mei.
Even so, it’s somehow managed to remain relevant and popular all this while, to the point where it’s also become the first game to spawn an entire esports league around it.
However, over the past year or so, it started to feel as though Overwatch, as a video game, had begun to run its course. I definitely felt the burnout myself. As someone who used to play the game regularly for several hours a day without fail, there was no denying that Overwatch had started to feel a bit stale. Whether it was a meta issue, the cosmetic lootbox grind, or just the repeating seasonal events starting to feel a little samey, there was just something about the Overwatch gameplay that wasn’t capturing my attention in quite the same way any longer.
Which is why it’s a true testament to just how well Blizzard has taken care of Overwatch’s characters and the game’s world-building, when they can simply drop a new character-focused cinematic short or, say, an Overwatch 2 announcement in the form of a cinematic trailer to get everyone back on the hype bandwagon again. Yours truly included.
This past weekend, as Overwatch 2 got unveiled via the Zero Hour cinematic, I found myself completely glued to the screen yet again as I soaked in every little detail of the Overwatch universe that was being fed to me. Despite the fact that I haven’t played Overwatch in over a year at this point, it was still incredibly exciting to watch the crew get together to fight off a Null Sector invasion in Paris.
The first game’s story setup began with the dismantling of Overwatch and Winston’s efforts to bring everyone back together again, and let me tell ya, it was nothing short of awe-inspiring to actually see his efforts come to fruition in the cinematic. In just eight minutes, Blizzard was once again able to capitalize on my ingrained love for these characters by drawing on familiar lines and iconography associated with specific characters.
It’s the little things like the glimpse of the Jesus-like ray of light signifying Mercy’s arrival on the scene, or the glorious shot of Brigitte and Reinhardt combining the shields to hold off the Null Sector threat. The way these characters interact with each other just feels familiar, and it’s difficult not to feel some sort of nostalgia and pride when everything comes together in such a satisfying way after you’ve spent so much time getting to know them.
Overwatch is so much more than just a video game. It’s Blizzard’s biggest new IP with the potential to keep growing. It already has its own line of Nendoroids, Funko POP figures, expensive statues, and even apparel and accessories, and it’s all thanks to the amount of care that has gone into crafting this intricate universe and amazing cast of characters. I’m actually surprised we don’t already have mass market action figures for the game yet.
I think it’s also worth mentioning and very telling that the Zero Hour cinematic trailer is currently sitting at 6.5 million views on YouTube, while Diablo IV’s own announcement trailer is lagging behind at 4.5 million.
In the hours after Overwatch 2 got announced, I promptly updated the Blizzard launcher on my PC and installed the latest Overwatch patch. I’ve no idea when this sequel is set to launch, but you can bet I’ll be spending many, many hours reacquainting myself with this wonderful universe in the meantime.