Blizzard’s goal was clear when Overwatch released to PC in 2016: give this competitive shooter the potential to be the next great eSport. That meant devs were going to focus on balance and making the game a fair, and fun, experience for all players.
One of the biggest disparities in Overwatch, however, has always been the difference between console and PC. The PC game was a faster and more intense beast. Players had a significant advantage with a mouse and keyboard compared to those who played with a controller. While other competitive shooters were finding ways to add crossplay, making it so anyone with the game could play them, Overwatch always held out as an exclusive experience.
That is changing. Overwatch devs announced on Wednesday that they were going to be tearing the crossplay barrier down. PC players can play with anyone on a console and console players can play with PC players, a huge shift against how they have handled Overwatch up to this point.
It’s time to group up. Cross-Play is coming to Overwatch!
Game Director Aaron Keller details Overwatch’s new feature.
— Overwatch (@PlayOverwatch) June 9, 2021
On the surface, this is just Overwatch doing something that other shooters have already done. Apex Legends and Fortnite, for example, have thriving competitive environments despite being crossplay titles. Now that Overwatch is joining them, it makes the game more accessible for everyone, but there is more to it than that.
Overwatch was one of the final crossplay holdouts. If anyone had a good reason to not go to crossplay, it was Overwatch, because it has been designed to be an eSport since it launched. By adding crossplay, developers now have to put time and effort into how it will perform on consoles and make sure the balance for that is fair, or else they will develop the game and make it very clear that one platform is going to struggle compared to others. It’s a massive shift in how they’ve always viewed their game. It’s also the final nail in the exclusivity coffin.
Video games used to be an exclusive experience. Someone bought a console because it was what their friends have, but now, a group of four can have a Switch, PlayStation, Xbox, PC, and still play games together. Five years ago, when Overwatch released, that sentence would have made no sense. Video games have changed and Overwatch shifting to crossplay is a sign of that change.