The Best Overwatch Feature Is Something People Might Just Overlook

Overwatch's best feature might not be related to gameplay--it might be the use of free updates instead of DLC.

In the spirit of transparency, I have a small confession to make: I love Overwatch (although that's probably not an unfamiliar sentiment to hear over the Internet). It offers what is far and away the finest multiplayer gameplay I've ever experienced. I love the different heroes -- except Mei -- and their varied visual designs. I love the maps, the weapons, even tiny details like the different call-outs for every character's ult.

But even after pouring 40+ hours into Overwatch thus far, I keep coming back to one realization: my favorite feature of Overwatch, and the one that I would argue is objectively the best, both for the game and the industry as a whole, has absolutely nothing to do with the gameplay.

No, you know what I love most about Overwatch?

There's no DLC, no season pass asking for another $30 (or more) on top of a $60 game. Now, to be clear: I definitely believe that DLC, when incorporated wisely, has a place in the video game industry. And, to be fair, I have absolutely nothing against thanking developers for years of hard work by paying money for the game, or for any DLC I might be interested in. It's just that the season pass and DLC models have almost certainly been abused over the past few years or so.

Consider it like this: I would argue that the single best part of Mass Effect 3 is the "Citadel" DLC, which does a superb job of serving as a thank you to the fans of the series. Or for a more recent example, consider the "Blood and Wine" DLC for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which from everything I've heard is quite good.

But for each of these positive examples you get something like the DLC strategy for EA's Star Wars Battlefront reboot, which offered a $50 season pass with the $60 game, and saw nothing wrong with it. I love Star Wars, I even own Battlefront, but because of that high price I never touched the season pass, and I don't regret it for a second.

Now, I didn't follow Overwatch very closely prior to the open beta in May. At that point I began to hear the buzz surrounding the game and decided to try it for myself, not really expecting to be wowed with what I saw. Instead, my few hours in the beta left an impression on me, and I was intrigued enough to buy it when it came out. I've never looked back since, and it's safe to say that it would be my Game of the Year for 2016 if I had to choose today.

But I was legitimately surprised when I didn't hear anything about a season pass, and completely stunned to hear that Blizzard has promised to provide all future heroes and maps for free.

Of course, as of right now it remains to be seen if Blizzard will deliver on that promise. (I think they will, and see no reason to believe otherwise.) But assuming that they do, I think it's very refreshing to buy a game once instead of twice or more, like with Battlefront. I think that if nothing else, Blizzard's strategy helps to establish good will with consumers, which certainly seems -- to me, at least -- like a desirable outcome.

DLC is, by its very nature, optional add-on content; but it seems reasonable to suggest that if someone likes a game, they will be interested in the extra content. In my opinion, that's why it should be handled responsibly, at a price that's both accessible to players and profitable to the fine men and women who create it. But for an online-focused game like Overwatch, new heroes and maps are arguably required for all players. To see Blizzard, then, promise to offer this content for free is a refreshing gesture that reminds me of a time when someone could buy all of a game at once, and enjoy it for a very long time.

And the more people who can enjoy a legitimately fantastic game like Overwatch, the better.

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Published Jun. 20th 2016

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