The Omnic Crisis (also known as the First Omnic Crisis) was a decade-long period of war between the self-aware robots known as omnics and humanity. The Crisis and its aftermath are of major significance within the lore of Overwatch.
The seeds for the Omnic Crisis were laid about 60 years ago by the Omnica Corporation, who constructed omniums; massive, automated factories governed by self-improving software algorithms. They were meant to achieve economic equality. However, these factories were decommissioned when the company was shut down for fraud.
Thirty years ago, several omniums across the world mysteriously reactivated and began building armies of military-grade omnics, which were deployed without warning or mercy against the nations of the world.
The SST Laboratories "Bastion" Siege Automaton model B73 was the standard unit produced by the Omniums. Other classes of omnic were produced as well to fight in the crisis like the OR14 "Idina" line.
Russia was the first country to be affected. They responded by producing giant human-piloted mechs called Svyatogors to combat the omnics. As the crisis spread to the rest of the world, other nations were forced to develop their own solutions. The United States created the Soldier Enhancement Program, and J08 produced Crusader Armor in Germany.
However, the self-improving algorithms at the heart of the omniums allowed them to adapt to and counter each individual nation's measures; no country alone could effectively fight back against the omnics.
The creation of Overwatch
When the countries' individual self-defense programs proved to be failing, the United Nations developed a small, experimental task force called Overwatch. Over the course of the Crisis, the Overwatch team targeted and dismantled omniums, quarantined God Programs, and destroyed and disassembled nearly all Bastion units.
The End of the Crisis
By concentrating on the omnic command and control infrastructure, Overwatch was able to render most of the omnic forces inert and secure victory for humanity.
The end of the war did not mean the destruction of every omnic. Communities of fully-sentient omnics still exist across the globe.
No omnic or omnium has provided an explanation or justification for commencing war against humanity either during or after the Omnic Crisis; the motivations behind it remain a mystery.
Global Effects and Aftermath
In addition to the rise of Overwatch, omnics around the world became second class citizens with few rights and little respect. Omnic rights movements gained little traction until after Overwatch fell.
Australia made an effort to remain on good terms with omnics, going so far as to gift the Outback's omnium to the omnics. This did not end well, as human Outback citizens formed the Australian Liberation Front and blew up the omnium, irradiating the region and scattering scrap for kilometers.
In the special event "Uprising," Kings Row is displayed as under siege by the Omnics. They were known as the "Extremists" and took many hostages into the factory. At that point, Commander Morrison enlisted their newest recruit, Lena Oxton (Tracer), to join a strike team. This team consisted of Reinhardt, Torbjörn and Mercy - all of whom had taken down the air defenses made by the Extremists, broke into the factory with a bomb that Torbjörn created and subsequently freed the hostages.
The omnics destroyed most of Mexico's power grid and infrastructure. Mexicans nicknamed the crisis 'La Medianoche' due to the figurative and literal darkness that resulted. Today, war hero and former president Guillermo Portero hopes to reverse the damage with his company LumériCo. Many children were left orphaned after the attack, one of them being Sombra.
Russian forces managed to shut down the Siberian omnium without much help from Overwatch, and the Russian people are very proud of it. The nation experienced economic growth thanks to mechanized labor's revitalization. However, the omnium restarted years later, and Russia was forced to restart their Svyatogor factories and train new soldiers to combat the Second Omnic Crisis.
South Korea was attacked by a colossal omnic that rose from the sea 10 years after the Omnic Crisis. The military founded MEKA to combat it. Every battle MEKA had ended in a stalemate, with the omnics being driven back but not defeated. The omnics would adapt to MEKA's strategies, and they eventually had to put human pilots into their mechs for combat. MEKA continues to fight the omnics today.
- In Blizzcon 2014 Overwatch Unveiled Panel, Chris Metzen stated that the story of Overwatch takes place "something like 60 years into the future". In the Are You With Us? short, Winston provides the information that the Omnic Crisis took place "30 years ago" (from the current present). According to these details, one can deduce that the Omnic Crisis started around 2044-2046.