Blizzard's Overwatch is in beta right now and with Blizzcon 2015 starting today, we expected we'd probably hear more about the hero-based arena shooter. One thing that's been in the dark since Overwatch was announced was the business model. Most players expected that Overwatch would be free-to-play like Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm, but now we know that's not the case.
Battle.net now has entries for Overwatch and Overwatch: Origins Edition, coming in at $39.99 and $59.99 respectively. The store item tells us that Overwatch is expected for release on or before June 21, 2015, but Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan revealed onstage that Spring 2016 is the planned launch window. For Blizzard, allowing players to buy into everything Overwatch is a big part of the game.
"Overwatch is about switching heroes," explained Kaplan at Blizzcon. "With that in mind, when you buy Overwatch, you will get all 21 heroes. You'll also get all of the maps and content so far."
Origins Edition is a special limited edition of the game, coming with five hero skins featuring Pharah, Reaper, Tracer, Bastion, and Soldier 76 in their original Overwatch strike force forms. You also gain access to Tracer in Heroes of the Storm, a Baby Winston pet in World of Warcraft, a Hearthstone card back, Mercy's Wings in Diablo III, and Starcraft II in-game portraits featuring Overwatch characters. Pre-purchasing Origins Edition nets you the Noire skin for Widowmaker as well.
On the Blizzcon stage, Blizzard also announced three new heroes for the game, D.Va, Mei, and Genji, all of whom are of Asian descent. There's also a new Hollywood map for the game.
The inclusion of skins mean Blizzard does have an additional way to make money from the game if they so desire, selling additional looks for each of the characters. They've already flexed that muscle with the Widowmaker skin for pre-purchase and the Origins Edition skins. I expect we'll probably see more skins in the future and potentially paid expansions with further maps and game modes.
It's interesting how far we've come when we're surprised that a game isn't free-to-play and we're inevitably waiting for the other shoe to drop. The truth is gamers are used to major publishers trying to wring every dollar out of our wallet. That Blizzard isn't intially going in the route becomes surprising given that status quo.