When Blizzard announced that Overwatch would be a paid release, people were a bit confused. Everyone expected the game to be free-to-play like Heroes of the Storm or Hearthstone, with players paying to unlock heroes or more costumes. At Blizzcon 2015, Blizzard seemed to dodge the issue of if the company was going to charge for further heroes or expansions, saying that they hadn't thought that far yet. Fans greeted those answers with suspicion.
Earlier this week, in a developer update, Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan firmly stated that players won't be paying for future heroes or maps.
"We're really excited about the 21 heroes in the game. We have ideas for additional maps and heroes that we'd like to add to the game," said Kaplan. "We thought about this and decided that the best way to add them to the game is to patch them in as free content and not as DLC. Hopefully, that alleviates some concerns that people have."
In an interview with Eurogamer posted today, Kaplan went more into the decision to keep Overwatch's future heroes free for players. For the Overwatch team, they weren't dodging the question, they simply hadn't thought about how they were going to add future heroes to the game yet.
"We were really happy with the business model because we feel like it's really good value for people, not only the base edition but the fact that we have this Origins Edition too," Kaplan told Eurogamer. "All the heroes were going to be included and as gamers, we thought it was a very straightforward, easy to understand business model. You focus less on the business model and more on the game itself. And we were really not expecting [to be asked] what's going to happen after the game is launched. It takes so much work to ship a game."
"We just hadn't made up our mind about how exactly things were going to work," Kaplan continued. "Obviously we had lots of discussions about the direction in which we wanted things to go, but there's a difference between having some conversations amongst Blizzard about what we want to do and literally going out there and making a statement or a commitment that we're not sure if everyone is really cool with. So there we are at Blizzcon and people were just hammering us and you kind of realize that wow, there's a lot of distrust out in the community, because I think a lot of players have felt like they've been burned in the past."
"We haven't locked in exactly whether there'll be additional monetisation after launch or not," he added. "It's funny, we have people asking us about whether we'll sell skins, and then what happens if there's a sequel or an expansion. It's almost shocking, you know. We haven't even launched this game yet and people are already asking about sequels."
Players are like this because that's how we've been taught to react. Publishers and developers have told us that development is expensive and you need to get all the blood you can from the stone. When a game comes out these days, we expect extra DLC in the form of skins, weapons, and further story content. We expect season passes and day one DLC.
We expect microtransactions galore in our games and to be honest, Blizzard was a part of setting that expectation with World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm. That a major developer isn't going to try to nickle and dime us is rather foreign to the gaming community. In the back of my mind, I still think they'll sell skins for the heroes, because that's how business operates these days.
There's always images floating around on the internet about what our favorite classic games would be like if they were sold today. Every image is a dystopian nightmare of cut DLC content and integral characters sold seperately. But that's the reality we live with. DLC and microtransactions aren't always bad - I admit, there are some solid executions - but you only have to look at the community response to Overwatch to see a desperate, shell-shocked fanbase. When a developer doesn't want to suck our wallets dry, we get confused and defensive. Is that really the community that developers and publishers want to foster?