Last week, Blizzard President J. Allen Brack hinted at the possibility of other Overwatch-themed games in an earnings call to investors. ESTNN takes a look at what those games could look like.
On the Activision Blizzard earnings call last week, J. Allen Brack, the newly installed President of Blizzard, hinted that there might be something more coming to Overwatch. Something new. Something different. Check it out:
“Over the rest of the year we’ll continue to add new heroes, new maps and new experiences. And last quarter I talked about how we have very large ambitions for the Overwatch universe and how it can develop over time. For us it’s going to be a balance of working on the existing game as well as the team focusing on other work that they have.” – J. Allen Brack, President of Blizzard on the Activision earnings call on May 2, 2019. (Emphasis ESTNN)
Interesting, no? While certainly vague, Brack’s comments seem to point to something new coming to the Overwatch franchise. He specifically mentions the “existing game,” “large ambitions,” and “other work,” all of which seem to point to something big down the road for the Overwatch franchise.
So, what could this mean? Let’s break it down in terms of Most Likely, Less Likely, and Probably-Not-But-That-Would-Be-Awesome. Hammer down!
Most Likely: Overwatch: Mobile
Why It's Likely: Activision Blizzard sees mobile gaming and microtransactions as a huge profit maker.
Why it’s Not: “Do you guys not have phones?”
Activision and Blizzard have been pushing mobile gaming quite hard in the recent months. Everyone remembers in infamous “Do you guys not have phones?” Diablo Immortal announcement. If you take a deeper look into Activision Blizzard’s earnings calls (which we've done for you – thank us later), mobile is a gigantic part of the company’s plans going forward. Here’s a slide from the Q1 2019 call with the relevant information marked:
We already know that Activision Blizzard plans to release Call of Duty: Mobile sometime after an open beta this summer. It would make sense that their plans for the Overwatch franchise include some sort of mobile element. It wouldn’t be ESTNN’s pick for what we want out of an Overwatch spinoff, but we’ve got to look at how Activision Blizzard is positioning themselves in the mobile market. The company's acquisition of Candy Crush maker King in 2016 has lead to mobile sales and monetization becoming a huge part of Activision Blizzard's strategy ever since. In fact, King is one of Activision Blizzard's largest money makers. According to a report by ESTNN, the prevalence of smartphones and the low cost of data "have lead to significant growth for mobile games."
Mobile Gaming is only getting larger
In fact, China's mobile gaming market has exploded from $5.62 Billion USD in 2015 to $165.5 Billion USD in 2018. Many believe that this number will rise to $300 Billion USD by 2023. That's insane growth for a platform, and these figures only take into account China. Add in the rest of the world, and that type of expansion is impossible to ignore for a company that has already targeted the mobile market.
But is there a demand for Overwatch: Mobile? With the success of Fortnite, PUBG, and other franchises that have made the leap to the mobile platform, the interest is definitely there. While an Overwatch: Mobile release would leave many fans scratching their heads, it would certainly become popular with the younger crowd. Plus, you know, microtransactions.
Less Likely: Overwatch: Archives
Why It's Likely: Overwatch’s Archives events already have all the pieces in play for an Overwatch single-player game
Why It’s Not: Overwatch, at its core, is a multiplayer game, and its draw is in its competitive elements. Additionally, Blizzard doesn’t seem to be keen on making single-player games.
When we first played the Overwatch Storm Rising event, everyone here at ESTNN echoed the same sentiment: "Too short, more please." The Archive events are a great way to expand Overwatch’s pretty expansive lore, and an entire game dedicated to entering Overwatch’s world and living the story would be a phenomenal step for the franchise.
A game like this could take many different roads, but we envision a first-person, story-driven game that takes the player into the world during Overwatch’s Omnic Rebellion. This would be a great way to flesh out the Overwatch lore, something players have been fed piecemeal ever since the game's release. On the other hand, Blizzard has shown time and time again that they would rather make multiplayer titles. In addition to that tendency, Activision would have trouble monetizing a single-player Overwatch game. We’ve seen so far two quarterly earnings calls where “monetizing the fan-base” has been a serious point for Activision.
Even with those roadblocks, however, Blizzard seems to have much of the groundwork already in place through the aforementioned Archives events. Every Overwatch player we’ve talked too has had the same criticism for those events: they’re too short and too repetitive. If Blizzard were to go this route (and it's already clear there’s a demand for it), it might not even need to be single player. Teaming up with friends or strangers to take on a cooperative campaign is a strong draw, as we’ve seen with Archives.
Probably-Not-But-That-Would-Be-Awesome: World of Overwatch
Why It's Likely: Overwatch is what’s left of the Titan MMO, Blizzard’s long-term development casualty that eventually turned into the competitive hero shooter that we all know and love.
Why It’s Not: World of Warcraft is hemorrhaging subscribers left and right, a fact mentioned several times in the earnings calls. Blizzard seems to have lost its touch (and the plot) in World of Warcraft and expanding into an Overwatch MMO seems extremely unlikely for a company that has its eyes set on profits.
Just imagine what a developer like Blizzard could do with an Overwatch MMO. By all reports, Overwatch was born out of the ashes of Titan, Blizzard’s canceled MMO that was to be the follow up to World of Warcraft. Quests, leveling, dungeons and raids all set inside of Overwatch’s universe would be an amazing but difficult-to-pull-off move that could sink Activision Blizzard as a whole. Simply put, MMO’s are expensive. They’re expensive to design, run, and introduce new content into. Every patch would need to bring new quests, dialogue, items, and abilities, not just a new map or hero here and there. Additionally, if it was going to happen any time soon, it would have had to have been in development for years at this point.
If only, If only.
While unlikely, bringing the Overwatch universe truly to life would require something like this. Overwatch would become more than a game, but a world that people lived in for extended periods of time. While players are already in love with Tracer, Reinhardt, Soldier 76 and co., they could fall in love with their own heroes.
Let’s be honest though, there is no way this will ever happen, as cool as it would be.
ESTNN isn’t sure what Brack’s comments mean, but it does seem like we’ll see an expansion of the Overwatch IP in the near future. And it will probably be on your phone.
Earnings Call Slide VIA: Activision Blizzard