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What’s Going on With the ‘Overwatch 2’ Battle Pass?

Nerf Hog? Nerf the Battle Pass first.

Junker Queen, Pharah, and Ramattra greek god skins in the overwatch 2 season 2 battle pass

Since its release in May 2016, Overwatch has hooked (no pun intended) millions of players with its lovable characters, unique maps, and fast-paced, team-oriented gameplay. Blizzard’s first-person-shooter is one of the most popular and frequently streamed titles out there, so there was plenty of buzz when the game was transformed with the release of Overwatch 2 back in October.

Though fundamentally the same game, there were a number of notable changes in the jump from Overwatch to Overwatch 2: It became a five-man game instead of a six-man one, end-of-game voting cards went away, and a reworked matchmaking system was introduced to help accommodate a shifting player base. The biggest (and most controversial) change, though, was the shift in Overwatch‘s monetization strategy: Instead a one-time $60 purchase, Overwatch 2 was released as a free-to-play game accompanied by the introduction of a paid Battle Pass.

What is a Battle Pass?

In fairness to Blizzard, Overwatch 2 is hardly the first game to introduce a paid pass as its primary monetization system. Plenty of other popular titles—Fortnite, Apex: Legends, Call of Duty, Rocket League, and even direct Overwatch competitors like Valorant—all use some form of battle pass. In essence, the pass functions as an alternative method for studios to sell their games. Instead of paying one initial price (the original Overwatch cost $60, and enabled access to all features), a game is made free to play, and players are enticed to pay for extra characters, skins, and other content, which can only be accessed via the Battle Pass.

When the original Overwatch came out, it was a $60 download with a free in-game loot box system: As players spent more time in-game, they would earn XP from matches which they could use for loot boxes. In those loot boxes could be anything from a few coins to a massive, sought-after skin—all for free. Whether you got lucky on the first go or saved up all your loot box coins, there was pretty much always a way to get your most wanted skins, emotes, and other cosmetics for free.

At the beginning of Overwatch 2, on the other hand, all players start at Battle Pass level 1 and can either pay to unlock the Battle Pass and all its benefits, or work their way up Pass levels by playing the game. Essentially, buying a Battle Pass is paying for all of a season’s aesthetic trappings in one go, and skipping the need to spend hours trying to work up to the level that has your favorite skin or the new character you’re hoping to unlock. You can still play the game 100% for free, but in order to access new characters like Ramattra or skins like Zeus Junker Queen, you need to pay for the Battle Pass.

Why are Overwatch players frustrated with Battle Pass?

That brings us to the current Overwatch 2 Battle Pass and the frustrations being voiced by players—everything from complaints that the Battle Pass isn’t worth the price, to concerns that it fundamentally tilts the game in favor of paid players, or that it’s isolating players who carried over from Overwatch.

For players who downloaded Overwatch 2 without any previous experience playing Overwatch, the presence of a Battle Pass may not seem like that big of a deal—after all, tons of games use a Battle Pass structure. But if you’re someone (like myself) who played and loved Overwatch in its original incarnation, things get sticky—because if you know how much of it used to be available for free, the Overwatch 2 Battle Pass begins to feel like a rip-off.

Skins that normally would’ve been available via in-game currency (which can be earned through putting in hours) are now locked behind the paid Battle Pass. New characters (who used to be immediately available to everyone) are now at a high Battle Pass level, meaning that players who have the money to unlock them are at an in-game advantage until free players rack up the required hours (around 30 days of play for a casual player) to reach the Battle Pass level and unlock the character.

Simply put, longtime Overwatch players are frustrated by how Overwatch 2 caters to newer players and banks on their unfamiliarity with the original system—if you’re new to the game, you’re more likely to be keen on buying the Battle Pass, since you don’t know it’s full of things you would’ve been able to get for free.

Overwatch 2 season 2 Battle Pass

Though some grace was given to the season 1 Battle Pass (after all, it was the first Battle Pass of the entire game, and kinks were to be expected) the content (or lack thereof) within the season 2 Battle Pass encapsulates players’ frustrations with the game’s pricing and approach to creating Battle Pass content. The season 2 campaign—which included a new Greek God-themed set of skins and arcade game mode—received significant criticism from players who felt that the cost of the Battle Pass wasn’t justified by the skins, emotes, and other cosmetics in it.

While on the one hand, instant access to Ramattra does gives Battle Pass buyers an in-game advantage, Ramattra himself is still technically a free-to-player character: You’re simply paying to save time earning him, which some may value as a way to develop experience with the character. YouTuber Stylosa has an excellent series of videos that encapsulate player sentiment about the season 2 Battle Pass and notes that outside of unlocking Ramattra early (itself a questionable perk of the Pass that causes other issues), players are essentially paying $10 for a handful of skins—skins that would have been free-to-earn under the original Overwatch monetization model.

What does the future of Overwatch 2‘s Battle Pass look like?

Admittedly, player issues with the Battle Pass system is just one complaint on a long list of issues players have with Overwatch 2 in its current state – though it’s pretty safe to say that the Battle Pass won’t be going away any time soon. The Overwatch player base has always been a vocal and opinionated one, but the controversy surrounding the Battle Pass could (ideally) lead to executives and developers taking a step back down the line and reconsider the value that employing a paid Battle Pass adds to the game as a whole.

(featured image: Blizzard)

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Lauren Coates is a film and Chicago-based student with a weakness for junk food, a passion for film & television, and a constant yearning to be at Disney World. You can find her on Twitter @laurenjcoates and read more of her work on Culturess.