Should Overwatch be a Free to Play game?
If the hit online shooter from Blizzard went free-to-play from the start, would that be the wisest decision made by Blizzard?
When Overwatch was revealed at BlizzCon last year, fans were excited on how the game would become. As months have passed along with several game trailers showcasing the game, it was then revealed that Overwatch must be purchased in order for players to play. Some have hoped that it would follow the footsteps of Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm where it focused on having a free-to-play business model. There are few that started complaining on the USD 60 price tag as the game lacks any single player content; the same dilemma experienced by Star Wars Battlefront, other hardcore players even compared Overwatch to Team Fortress 2 and Blizzard should have followed Valve’s footsteps. But did Blizzard actually made a big mistake?
Free-to-play games have its strengths and weaknesses, one of the most obvious advantage is getting more players to try out Overwatch. The game already confirmed that it has 15 million players on its database, but if it did becomes free-to-play, the amount could be doubled or even tripled.
Though it opens to a wider audience, this also means that the game is vulnerable to more hackers and cheaters which Blizzard is currently dealing with the retail version. Cheats such as wallhacks and aimbots will be rampant in the game causing unfair matches for those who are playing it fair, and might cause them to quit playing the game entirely. Blizzard might have a hard time pinpointing the cheaters due to the large number of players in the game.
Another concern when turned into a free-to-play game is the change on the entire content. With over 20 heroes available in the game, there would be chances that some or maybe the entire roster will not be available for newcomers. Similar to the model of Heroes of The Storm, players are required to purchase the heroes through in-game currency or real money, then certain heroes will be available for free for a limited time via weekly hero rotation.
Since Overwatch relies on team composition and each heroes has an advantage to certain heroes, this could cause for the game to be unbalanced and limited right at the start, this would also mean that players are required to grind for in-game currency in order to unlock more characters. Loot Boxes provide random cosmetic items and can be acquired via level progression or real money purchases, however this option is already available on the retail game and purchasing is optional.
The model may work with Team Fortress 2 as it caters fewer character classes and relies more on its items which both act as a cosmetic and stat enhancement which can be purchase or sold via real money. Overwatch only has cosmetic items which cannot be sold to other players, and there is no value in selling these cosmetics as they can also be purchased with in-game currency. However Blizzard can eliminate the in-game currency and force players to purchase them if they opt not to acquire them via loot boxes, but this can reduce the fun factor of the game as players are required to spend more on the game rather than focus on the core gameplay.
Though the idea of turning Overwatch into a free-to-play game can be beneficial in terms of increased player population, it could also affect the longevity of the game as it will be rampant with cheaters and it will be heavily rely on the freemium business model that will make an impact on the gameplay. The game is already worth its money once you purchase it, as future updates and heroes will be free, this is one good investment that any players will not regret.