Overwatch Wiki
This article is about the game. For similarly titled articles, see Overwatch (disambiguation)
Overwatch White

Blizzard Entertainment
Team 4[1]
Blizzard Entertainment
Square Enix (Japanese only)
Release date
May 24, 2016
Closure date
Oct 03, 2022
Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5

Overwatch was a multiplayer team-based first-person shooter developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment. It was released on May 24, 2016, for Windows, Xbox One, and Playstation 4,[2] and on October 15, 2019 for the Nintendo Switch.[3]

The game was available for both physical and digital purchase. There were two special editions, Origins Edition and Collector's Edition.[4]

All of the first game of the Overwatch's servers were closed down for good on October 3 as its sequel took over.


The world could always use more heroes.

Overwatch takes place on a near-future Earth, some time in the mid 2070s.[5] Some thirty years before, robots turned against humanity in what became known as the Omnic Crisis. This eventually led to the formation of an elite strike team, who finally brought an end to the war. This team was the beginning of Overwatch, an international task force which tried to maintain global stability for two decades, until corruption tore it apart. Though Overwatch was disbanded, new crises are looming, and the world still needs heroes.

Overwatch's story is revealed through supplementary material, such as cinematic shorts, comics, and news articles. Interactions between characters and certain details on maps also help flesh out the setting and its inhabitants. Eventually, Overwatch's lore is planned to be on par with Diablo, StarCraft, and Warcraft.[6]


Overwatch is an objective-based game, where two teams of six players compete. Servers are hosted by Blizzard. There are five modes of play: Quick Play, Competitive Play, vs AI, Weekly Brawl, and Custom Games, as well as a Practice Range and Tutorial. There is a leveling system which gives user portraits and loot boxes.

There are 40 heroes and 51 maps, with more in development. All heroes and maps will be added at no extra cost.[7]

Cross-play is available between PC and console versions. To play against PC players, console players need to connect to a Battle.net account. Complete cross-platform play is allowed in Quick Play, Arcade, and Custom matches, but not Competitive, given the advantages that a mouse/keyboard have over a controller. However, console players can use crossplay for Competitive.[8]


Main article: Overwatch beta

During development, Overwatch had a closed beta, which began on October 27, 2015.[9][10]

Two weeks before its release, an open beta was held from May 5 to 9.[11]




Titan was this massive collection of talent. Some of the most amazing developers that I've ever seen...from all over the world. It was largely not a homegrown team. It was the first time Blizzard pulled a lot of external talent in.
~ Jeremy Wood

Overwatch started development in Summer 2013, as development on Project Titan was winding down.[1]

Team 4's confidence was shaken by the project's cancellation, and many members of the team were transferred, leaving only a core group to brainstorm what Blizzard's next game would be.[12] Specifically, at the time of its cancelation, 140 people were working on Titan. After it was shut down, 80 were permanantly assigned to other projects at Blizzard, and 20 more were temporarily relocated to other teams for anywhere from six months to two years. The remaining staff were given six weeks to come up with a new direction for the project.[13] The developers came up with three separate game ideas, with the idea being that each idea would have two weeks in discussion.[14] The six weeks ended up being divided into one block of four weeks, the other a block of two weeks. The first four weeks were pitching ideas for an MMO in one of the pre-existing Blizzard universes[15] (this has since confirmed to be a StarCraft game),[16] the next two were on developing a new IP MMO.[15] The new IP would be named Crossworlds, set on a remote planet with numerous alien species that acted as the "crossroads of the universe." Like World of Warcraft, Crossworlds would be a class-based MMO. Geoff Goodman pitched the idea of doing 50 classes (as opposed to the original 6–9 idea), the difference being that each class would be hyper-specialized. The idea was deemed unfeasible, though the concept stuck with Jeff Kaplan, who began developing his own pitch.[17]

It was during the brainstorming of Crossworlds that the concept of Overwatch emerged, effectively as a side-project during the brainstorm session.[15] Looking at Titan, the developers decided that they had succeeded the most in its PvP mode.[18] Kaplan did a pitch for heroes rather than classes, where each hero would have their own backstory. When the idea was brought to Chris Metzen, he and everyone else agreed that they should focus on this idea.[17] Morhaime has described the pitch as "an evolution of a sort of Team Fortress-style game in a superhero universe."[19]

Despite the cancellation of Titan, Team 4 intended to return to the scope of Titan. A "crawl, walk, run" development plan was formed. Overwatch would be the "crawl," a dedicated PvE would be the "walk," and an MMO would be the "run."[20]

From Prometheus to Overwatch

Heroes Pitch

The initial heroes slide

The development team was given an assignment for each member to pitch their own hero. By the first morning, 48 hero concepts existed.[17]

The team looked to Hearthstone for inspiration on making a smaller, self-contained game.[21] Blizzard pitched the game to Activision with the codename Prometheus, presenting concepts for numerous heroes brainstormed by the team using repurposed artwork from Titan. There was some reluctance from the executives, given that no-one had asked for or expected Blizzard to make an FPS, and Activision already had Call of Duty as a successful FPS franchise. However, in the presentation pitch, Bobby Kotick (CEO of Activision-Blizzard) was impressed by the varied character roster. Activision ended up giving Blizzard the go-ahead to make the game.[18]

While some character concepts from Titan found their way into Overwatch, Overwatch was built from scratch.[15][22] From the beginning, Team 4 worked closely with the cinematic department on character design.[21] The Temple of Anubis was the game's first milestone, in the phase of development Jeff Kaplan has called "finding the fun." The initial goal was to have one complete map, complete with level design and environmental art. Pharah, Widowmaker, Tracer, and Reaper were the first heroes play-tested. This was in March, 2014.[23] There were some difficulties in transferring Project Titan's game engine to Overwatch.[19]



When work on Overwatch began, it was decided that the game had to take place in a new setting, and one would be inviting for players.[15] Chris Metzen had specifically sought to create a superhero universe for years prior to the game.[24] There was a desire to set the game on Earth, as up to this point, Blizzard's primary universes had been in fantasy and sci-fi settings far removed from the modern day/setting. The developers looked at how other games were treating Earth for inspiration. One sub-genre that was avoided was post-apocalypse—according to Jeff Kaplan, "there wasn't a lot of breathing space" in the genre in order to "make a statement." Similarly, realistic settings were avoided,[25] as the developers wanted to move away from FPS settings of the past decade, which were predominantly modern military or near future.[26] The decision was made to go back to the "world worth fighting for" concept that had been present in Titan, which would have also taken place on Earth and expressed this theme.[25] When designing the game, Blizzard wanted the world presented to be as fantastical as possible while still being relatable to modern-day Earth.[21] They wanted the setting of Overwatch to be a mix of the "dark and gritty," while also being "a world of color and sound and light." It was intended to be a setting that players would want to keep coming back to and be invested in,[27]


When it came to designing the setting of Overwatch, the developers came up with a set of rules:

  1. The 80/20 Rule: 80% should be relatable to the real-world/present day, 20% would be futuristic. The developers wanted the player to be able to identify with the setting.
  2. To Hover or Not to Hover: While Titan didn't haver hovering vehicles, they were trialed in Overwatch. However, this followed the 80/20 rule.
  3. Leading-Person Syndrome: Never have one object stand out when it's not supposed to. For instance, there's no reason to have a hovering dumpster, because a normal one would do the job just as well.
  4. Keep It Simple: The technology must be believable. If a person cannot understand what it does, the developers don't want to make it.
  5. Functional is Fun: The tech must feel usable.[16]

Although it was known that Overwatch would focus on multiplayer, it was also decided to embark in worldbuilding. The first reason was that this would follow in the footsteps of the Diablo, StarCraft, and Warcraft settings, all of which had detailed universes. The second reason was to not impose limits on the nature of the universe. By engaging in worldbuilding, there would be material for other projects to draw off (the game's animated shorts are a result of this). Likewise, if a separate Overwatch game was made, the developers could draw off pre-existing material.[23]

It was decided that the setting shouldn't be binary, as, among other reasons, Warcraft had been defined by the Alliance-Horde dichotomy.[24] Effort was made to distinguish it from Warcraft, which has a more ominous atmosphere (in the words of the developers, "oppressiveness causes fatigue").[28]

By the time work began on the game proper, a detailed history and lore for the setting had been created (this included the titular Overwatch organization).[29] However, events such as the Omnic Crisis were made up as the lore was developed rather than being pre-planned. It was decided to have the game's setting post-both the Omnic Crisis and the golden age that followed, in order to leave it open ended, and allow creation of new heroes that weren't part of Overwatch, but were inspired by it.[24] Unlike the Warcraft and StarCraft universes, the team wanted the world building to be done in a minimalistic way, kept at the same level as the characters, rather than world building being done for its own sake.[24]

Notably, Overwatch was the first time Blizzard had created an IP that could be considered 'modern.' While Overwatch would take place in the near-future, this was a far cry from the company's previous fantasy/sci-fi settings.[16]

When designing maps, the developers often visit the real-world locations where applicable. The locations are often infused with 'fantasy' elements (in the sense of combining the location with the 'fantasy' of it as it exists in the real world).[30]


In the wake of Titan, Bill Petras declared that it was important the game had a target for its visual direction.[16] Inspiration was taken from World of Warcraft in regards to the game's color variation. A number of zones in WoW rely on color (among other things) to convey mood, and are thus distinguishable. Overwatch follows this philosophy.[25]

The cast was designed to reflect the "real" earth, where people aren't all one race, athletes aren't always lean and youthful, and people aren't just stereotypes based on their ethnicity.[31]

The art style of Overwatch shifted from Project Titan. The classes of Titan "felt like toys" according to developers. Overwatch was designed to be more grounded; Tracer served as the base example for this, as her design had a more weathered feeling than her Titan predecessor. The developers wanted the world to have an "edge."[32] The team aimed for the game's art style to remain "Blizzardy", approachable with exaggerated proportions and an emphasis on color, while still pushing its visuals forward.[33]


During development, the developers experimented with team sizes, trying large teams like 8v8 and 12v12, as well as small teams like 3v3 and 4v4.[27] 7v7 was also trialed.[34] Both the large and small layouts had problems, so 6v6 was decided to be the sweet spot in order to make every player feel important (as it would be tough in larger games), but not to the extent that blame could be easily assigned (as it would be easy to do so with smaller teams).[27]

There were concerns that players not being able to see their own hero would run counter to Overwatch's theme as a character-based game. A large amount of time was spent with the voice actors to cultivate the characters' personalities to offset this.[35]

When designing the game's maps, the editors of Team Fortress 2 and Call of Duty were looked at, to get a sense of map design, and how it could be applied.[36]

Jeff Kaplan intended to have Overwatch launch with a PvE mode,[37] but this was absent from the final release. PvE did make an appearance of some kind via Overwatch Archives however.

Progression Systems

Overwatch went through two progression systems while in development before settling on the current system. It was decided that the progression system should not be a focus of the game.

The first system featured a talent system that let players customize their heroes mechanically, where leveling up a hero would unlock new abilities for them. However, with Overwatch's need for fast reaction speeds and the ability to switch heroes mid-match, having so many iterations of a single hero was deemed too confusing. Additionally, a player's power increasing as more time was invested seemed like a poor fit with the competitive nature of the game.

The second system was more in line with the current system, rewarding players with cosmetics. Each hero had a level, and the more a player leveled up, the more cosmetic options would be unlocked for that hero. The unintended result of this system was that players were discouraged from switching between heroes because they wanted to level up, which negatively affected team composition.[38]

Subsequent Development

A map editor may be released in the future. However, as of September 2016, there are no plans to do so, as the game is built on a new engine for Blizzard.[39]

In April 2017, Blizzard was open to porting the game to the Nintendo Switch. However, two hurdles existed, namely the Switch's weaker specs, and that Blizzard already has to balance and develop three versions of the game.[40] In August 2018, when asked about the possibility of porting the game to the Switch, Blizzard producer Pete Stilwell stated "anything is within the realm of possibility." However, he reiterated that at the time the comments were made, Diablo III was Blizzard's only focus on the console.[41] A Mac release hasn't been ruled out, but as of May 2017, there are no plans to port the game to it.[42] In August 2019, an Overwatch-themed Switch was listed on Amazon, but the product listing was quickly removed.[43] The Switch version was officially revealed the following month.[3]

A number of fans have requested a battle royale mode for the game. On the subject, Kaplan stated that such a mode would be "awesome," but pointed that it would be difficult to add the mode to a hero shooter, where abilities are intrinsic to heroes, while battle royale games are based around scavenging, with every player on a level playing field. Likewise, the game's heroes don't have the ranged weaponry prevalent in battle royale games.[44]


Overwatch received "universal acclaim" reviews and was tagged as "must-play" game on Metacritic getting a metascore of 91/100 on both PC[45] & Xbox One,[46] and 90/100 on PS4.[47] While its Switch version received "mixed or average" reviews holding a metascore of 73/100.[48]

By April 2022, the game had sold 50 million copies, making it one of the bestselling games of all time.[49]


  • Eight of Overwatch's heroes, Tracer, Zarya, Genji, Lúcio, D.Va, Ana, Junkrat and Hanzo are playable in Heroes of the Storm.
  • No single player campaign is planned.[50] However, there will be a PvE campaign-like mode in Overwatch 2.
  • An Overwatch TV series is under consideration by Activision Blizzard Studios.[51] In February 2020, Nick van Dyk, co-president of Activision-Blizzard Studios, mentioned that he had "developed and sold an animated series based [on] Blizzard's Overwatch franchise."[52]
  • Overwatch's game engine is named Prometheus, which is likely a reference to the Greek titan with the same name.
  • Overwatch is #51 on IGN's Top 100 Video Games of All Time.
  • Blizzard staff members have expressed interest in an Overwatch character appearing in Super Smash Brothers.[53]
  • Job listings at Blizzard indicate the existence of an Overwatch mobile game.[54]


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  2. 2016-05-23, The Future Is Now – Overwatch Is Live!, Play Overwatch.
  3. 3.0 3.1 2019-09-04, Overwatch is officially coming to the Switch on October 15, 2019. Blizzard Watch, accessed on 2019-09-05
  4. Page listing editions of Overwatch, Play Overwatch.
  5. "The game takes place around 60 years in the future. The Omnic Crisis was about 25 years before that. (Give or take a few years.)" Michael Chu, Overwatch Forums.
  6. 2015-03-06, PAX East 2015 Blizzard Panel | Blizzplanet (1/2). YouTube, accessed on 2015-03-20
  7. 2015-12-07, Developer Update | Popular Community Topics, Youtube.
  8. 2021-06-22, Crossplay Is Now Live In Overwatch! Ashe Event Also Launching Today. Game Informer, accessed on 2021-06-27
  9. 2015-10-15, Overwatch Beta Coming Soon, Play Overwatch.
  10. 2015-10-27, Overwatch Closed Beta Now Live, Play Overwatch.
  11. 2016-05-01, Play Overwatch® FREE May 5–9 During the Open Beta, Play Overwatch.
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  13. 2017-02-22, DICE 2017: BLIZZARD DETAILS THE ROAD FROM TITAN TO OVERWATCH. IGN, accessed on 2017-02-23
  14. 2017-05-11, BlizzCon 2017: How Overwatch rose from Titan’s failure. Blizzard Watch, accessed on 2017-11-05
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  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 2017-11-05, OVERWATCH ARCHIVES PANEL. Blizzpro, accessed on 2017-11-19
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  19. 19.0 19.1 2019-06-19, Ex-Blizzard boss Mike Morhaime on why the studio bins 50% of its projects. Eurogamer, accessed on 2019-07-03
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  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 2015-05-27, BlizzCon 2014 – Overwatch Origins Panel Transcript, p3. Blizzplanet, accessed on 2015-05-29
  22. Possible concept art from Titan. The "Jumper" has what looks like Tracer's chronal accelerator. (How it was found.). Imgur and Reddit.
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  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 2014-11-24, BlizzCon 2014 – Overwatch Unveiled Panel Transcript, p2. Blizzplanet, accessed on 2015-03-06
  28. 2017-02-22, DICE Summit 2017: Jeff Kaplan Overwatch Opening Keynote. Blizzplanet, accessed on 2017-03-05
  29. 2022-04-14, OVERWATCH 2’S NEW HERO SOJOURN WAS A LONG TIME COMING. The Verge, accessed on 2022-04-20
  30. 2019-11-07, BlizzCon 2019 Overwatch 2 Panel Transcript. Blizzplanet, accessed on 2020-04-10
  31. 2016-09-17, Overwatch: A World Fans Built. IGN, accessed on 2016-09-18
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  34. 2021-05-21, Overwatch 2 Developer PVP Livestream. YouTube, accessed on 2021-05-27
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  41. 2018-08-17, Overwatch On Switch Is Feasible, But StarCraft 2 Isn't. GameSpot, accessed on 2018-08-17
  42. 2017-05-17, Blizzard's Jeff Kaplan Answers Overwatch Questions From Twitter | Tech Support | WIRED. YouTube, accessed on 2017-05-18
  43. 2019-08-26, Amazon listing may have just leaked Overwatch for Nintendo Switch. Polygon, accessed on 2019-08-28
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  53. 2019-09-22, Blizzard Producers would love Overwatch hero in Super Smash Bros. Blizzplanet, accessed on 2019-09-25
  54. 2021-11-16, Overwatch Mobile may be released on 2023 leaked by Blizzard job offering. Esportsgen, accessed on 2022-05-14

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