Why Overwatch Beat Battleborn

I mean there are a few reasons, but this is at least one of them.

With Battleborn now going through a 40% sale on Steam, and only about 4,000 steady players, it's safe to say that Overwatch won the fight that Battleborn sort of started. Both their release dates were close to each other, so for most people it was going to be a case of figuring out which one they shell out the cash for.

So what made Overwatch so appealing?

Better marketing, basically. While gameplay's important for lasting value, solid marketing is what gets you that initial grab.

Here's that first trailer again for the game.

It immediately introduces you to the backstory of the universe. It gives you a reason to participate in this world spanning conflict, and introduces you to some of the superheroic characters that you'll be playing as. It ends with a bit of a call-out to the potential player, as Tracer tells the blue-sweater kid "the world could always use more heroes".

I don't expect most companies to keep up with Blizzard's production values when it comes to trailers, but the core principals of 'showcase character, setting, and story' can apply without the high budget.

Here's Battleborn's first trailer.

There's no real exposition going on, unless that exposition is 'there will be a few badass hero characters fighting swarms of faceless bots'. The story is non-existent, other than the zoom-out at the end reminding you this is a sci-fi game and will probably involve other planets.

The character designs look like they don't mix together. Granted, this is the point of Battleborn's setting, where beings from dead stars are gathering together to protect the last one.

Sort of wish they mentioned that in the trailer though.

Where Gearbox Went Wrong

What bugs me most is that Gearbox has a very solid sense of humor, and generally good writing. The trailers don't show that strength of theirs, instead falling back on the 'you'll be a badass' message that was a part of Borderlands, but not the main attraction.

Overwatch would go on to keep giving you trailers that showcase setting, story, and characters. Though they only really showed off Reaper, Widowmaker, Tracer, and Winston, it got me to start wondering about the other characters. So I looked them up on the website and found out I'd be digging Mercy and later-released Mei, Overwatch's most annoying hero. They promised there would be more to come, that these characters would drive and evolve the story.

Battleborn would keep giving trailers with relatively little in the way of story or character. Lots of music and slow-motion shots of characters you don't know yet though. I was interested in the Space Elf. But knew nothing about her other than... Space Elf. Their trailers are showcases of interesting design, but not interesting characters. They promised I would shoot things. Or cut things. And I might occasionally deal with a Space Vampire supervillain. Which is tragic, because from what I've seen of these characters, they're actually loaded with personality.

Can Battleborn Recover?

I don't really think so. Unless it goes free-to-play I don't see it making a comeback. Maybe take a page from League of Legends and Smite by creating a hero rotation for free-to-play players. Let people earn points or spend cash to buy more heroes. Leave in an option to unlock everything at once for $40.

It's a shame. I kinda want to try Battleborn, especially now that it's on sale. But the marketing failed to showcase their heroes in a genre that practically lives off of players connecting to their roster. You gotta get potential players to fall in love with characters they haven't played with yet when it comes to the MOBA genre.

Any thoughts on Battleborn? I'm curious if anyone was drawn in by their characters? Or were they what pushed you away?

Published May. 31st 2016
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