Overwatch 2’s announcement at BlizzCon 2019 was entirely expected and heavily leaked prior to the event, even the new PvE and story focus was known, but Blizzard still had one curve ball to throw. Overwatch 2, a paid sequel, is backward compatible with the original game… but how? And what does that mean?
Essentially, the sequel is additive. It is built to expand all of the content of the original, doing so with a new story mode and PvE Hero Missions that are meant to be highly replayable. However, for the PvP side, Overwatch and Overwatch 2 will be kept in lockstep.
During the opening ceremony, Jeff from the Overwatch team introduced the sequel and this unique link back to the original game, saying:
So for all original players of Overwatch, players of the current Overwatch game, you will get to play on all of the same maps as Overwatch 2 players, including all of the brand new maps that are coming to Overwatch 2, and you will get to play as all of the same heroes as Overwatch 2 players. It will be a shared multiplayer environment where no one gets left behind.
This means that the new Toronto map and Sojourn character will also be in Overwatch and not just the sequel.
It’s a fascinating move by Blizzard, if a confusing one. Why would you buy the sequel if you can keep playing the original? It means that Overwatch 2 could be considered a standalone expansion, or akin to games like Halo: Reach or Uncharted: The Lost Legacy that featured the multiplayer components of their predecessors. However, it also honours the spirit of the original game’s announcement, where Blizzard promised that all maps and heroes would be added to the game for free.
There’s still questions on how the two games will link up. Overwatch 2 features sweeping design overhauls for all of the existing characters – check those out on the Overwatch site – alongside game engine improvements, all of which will presumably have to be rolled back to the original as well. There’s also the new Push mode in PvP that will have to be added to avoid matchmaking aches and pains.
An Overwatch 2 panel will be held shortly to hopefully clear that element up.
It’s not just backward compatibility, but forward compatibility as well. All your cosmetics and unlocks will carry forward to the sequel, too.
As Jeff explained:
The other thing that I think a lot of us are thinking about is all of those cool accomplishments and cosmetics that we’ve been unlocked over the years. You know, how hard did you work for your Witch Mercy skin, for example? We want to make sure that all Overwatch cosmetics come forward with you to Overwatch 2, so all your progress matters. Nothing’s getting left behind, no one’s getting left behind.
And he capped it off with a pretty succinct reason that matches up with that original message:
We worked so hard to build this community of over 50 million players, the last thing we would ever do is split the amazing community that you are.
So there you go. Cross-play between games, backward and forward compatibility, cats lying with dogs, Overwatch fighting alongside Darkwatch and Talon. Above all else, though, something that’s pretty great for consumers.