An early screen from Blizzard's hero FPS, Overwatch.
An early screen from Blizzard’s hero FPS, Overwatch.

NOV. 7, 2014 • The same week that Electronic Arts cancelled Dawngate, its MOBA with a difference, Blizzard Ent. said it has a hero-based online FPS in the works that will reach open beta in 2015. The project is called Overwatch, and at a panel presentation at its BlizzCon convention in Anaheim, Calif., the company said that elements of the shooter originated in Titan, the MMO Blizzard cancelled last September. The developer disclosed 12 hero characters available for users to play. The game sets up competitive matches between two teams of six players and the combat environments shown so far by Blizzard provide significant z-axis options for playable characters. Whether Overwatch will be free-to-play, or how it will be monetized, was not disclosed.

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Impact: Between the success of the MOBA format on the one side, and the inroads Bungie Inc. has made with its shared world shooter Destiny on the other side, it makes sense that Blizzard is working up a hero shooter that fits somewhere in-between. The art design and character mechanics revealed so far strike us much like Blizzard’s usual fun and stylized design sense, mixed with Namco’s SoulCalibur, and Gearbox’s Borderlands. Like World of Warcraft, Blizzard wants Overwatch to be easy for consumers to pick up but challenging to master over time. The developer has needed a new IP for long time and never got StarCraft: Ghost or Titan out of production. No figure on how much Blizzard invested in Titan has been made public, although we would estimate the amount was substantial. So there definitely is an argument for salvaging as much as possible from that project to repurpose into something new. This would also explain how Overwatch will reach its 2015 open beta so swiftly. A FPS variation on MOBAs has the potential to pull in a strong cross-section of PC and console gamers. Obviously, what victory conditions are in play, how many new maps can be added over time, as well as whether there will be league seasons and/or more casual pick-up matches will dictate what the appeal will be to individual consumers. Similarly, how Blizzard chooses to monetize Overwatch will make a difference. Given that core gamers will likely be targeted, the Guild Wars model of buy now and play forever would fit easily with user expectations. After all of its successful franchises, anything that Blizzard puts out is a big deal. But it’s been a long time since World of Warcraft was released and the studio needs to prove it can still produce something compelling.

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