Jeff Kaplan Reveals What Convinced Blizzard to Go With Cross-Compatibility for Overwatch 2

Jeff Kaplan Reveals What Convinced Blizzard to Go With Cross-Compatibility for Overwatch 2

Kaplan says not letting Overwatch "die on the vine" took some convincing.

Since the characters are such a strong draw, a big part of the Overwatch community surely won't want to miss the PvE story content coming with Overwatch 2. Players who are more focused on PvP may be just fine sticking with the original, since Blizzard promises the new competitive maps, modes, and heroes of Overwatch 2 will be playable in Overwatch. Game director Jeff Kaplan says this somewhat novel approach to sequelization required pushing people at Blizzard "out of their comfort zone."

Speaking with Kotaku Australia at BlizzCon last week, Kaplan shed some light on how what he calls the "shared multiplayer environment" between Overwatch 2 and its predecessor came to be. As you might expect, the idea was met with some resistance since it's not how sequels normally work.

"It's very challenging because the industry has done things the same way for so long," says Kaplan. "And so it's hard to get people, push them out of their comfort zone and say, 'hey I think we could do it a better way.'"

On stage at BlizzCon, Kaplan announced that Blizzard plans to bring forward players' progress and cosmetics forward from Overwatch to Overwatch 2 as well, meaning players of the new title won't be starting their skin collection from scratch. Kaplan says that the success of Overwatch's free updates helped earn approval for the forward-compatibility of unlocks and cross-compatibility in PvP.

"We said, we think this is right: if I'm a player of [Overwatch] this feels right and fair," Kaplan tells Kotaku Australia. "We were greatly rewarded for that and I think that made this decision easier for people. There was a level of trust they had in us as a development team[...] trust in us that we grew this amazing community, to do what's right by them and if we take care of them, they'll take care of us."

The alternative, leaving the original Overwatch to "just sort of die on the vine," would also entail risk for Blizzard that the average company working on a sequel might not face. The substantial investments in growing Overwatch League as a leading esport could be jeopardized by a split competitive playerbase. The past year has also been particularly tough for Blizzard in the wake of 2018's Diablo Immortal reveal and the recent Hong Kong Hearthstone fiasco. For Overwatch players and Blizzard's post-BlizzCon 2019 reputation, cross-compatibility seems like a win, even if it's a small one.

Overwatch 2 is in development for the PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Blizzard has not announced a release window for the sequel.

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Mathew Olson

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Mathew Olson is a writer formerly of Digg, where he blogged and reported about all things under the umbrella of internet culture (including games, of course). He lives in New York, grew up under rain clouds and the influence of numerous games studios in the Pacific Northwest, and will talk your ear off about Half-Life mods, Talking Heads or Twin Peaks if you let him.

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