With no penalty for dropping from a match it’s become more evident than ever that Overwatch 2 has a leavers problem. It needs fixed, and now.
On the verge of a massive new patch for Overwatch 2 there's plenty to talk about when it comes to the game's current issues. The recent Activision earnings report stated that overall player numbers for the game is in decline. While this could be chalked up to the natural state of a game getting older, it feels like there are specific reasons as well. One of the biggest looms large over the game: Overwatch 2 has an issue with leavers and it's affecting the overall quality of games.
Leavers will always be a problem in online competitive games. However, the switch to free-to-play combined with a lack of consequences for doing so has turned Overwatch 2 into a gamer Skinner Box. If a player gets a negative stimulus they simply hit the eject button. No harm, no foul.
Is it too late to fix the problem? Well, answering that would require Blizzard to do anything at all about the problem.
Overwatch: Leavers paradise?
Overwatch has always had an issue with leavers. It's drop in and play, casual nature--especially in Quick Play--somewhat incentivises leaving. Having a bad time? Is your Rein tank just charging off the map? Got a Wrecking Ball that's just spinning in circles? You can just leave! Get out of there!
I'd be remiss if I said that I hadn't also hit the ejector seat button once in a while. In fact, it's become even easier to do so as of late and not feel any guilt about it. The truth is, it's more rare to complete a game of Overwatch 2 these days with zero players dropping. My gaming group plays Overwatch almost daily, and depending on how the games go, we almost always see someone leave.
Why? Myriad reasons, really. First, there's absolutely no penalty for leaving an Overwatch 2 Quick Play match. Tired of that Reddit Lucio? Just bail. This becomes even more evident in games that snowball in favor of one squad over the other. Routinely, if that first team fight goes badly you'll suddenly see half the opposing team bounce off.
It's frustrating, but at the same time I cannot fault anyone. If Blizzard isn't going to enforce any kind of penalty for leavers then why respect the system or anyone else's time?
And, hey: We've all had a good laugh at the Reaper who held on to his Death Blossom the entire match, hit 'Q', died immediately, and then left the game. It's funny... As long as it wasn't your Reaper.
But the overall health of Overwatch 2 is at stake right now. Never has the need for the game to provide a good experience been higher as we approach the Invasion patch on August 10.
The coming Invasion
To be blunt, the Invasion patch is a true make or break moment for Overwatch 2. The biggest content update since the game's relaunch last year, it's also been one of the game's most contentious. Originally promised as the fully fleshed out single-player mode promised long ago, it's instead a truncated PR disaster. Blizzard needs a win and needs to win back lapsed players.
A patch with a brand new mode, story hooks, and more should be cause for celebration. Instead, I'm worried that anyone who decides to answer the Overwatch call once more are going to ask what happened to their game. Overwatch 2 leavers threaten the overall longevity of the game.
And, yes, if you want punishment for Overwatch leavers then there is always Competitive Mode. That is, when you can even get a Competitive Mode game. And if you're in the mood for dealing with the sweatiness that comes along with playing the mode. Not everyone does. Part of the magic of Overwatch as a franchise has been its casual nature.
And nothing hurts the casual audience more than not being able to finish a full game. In a world where the endorsement system for rating player's behavior is a laughing stock, it's more important than ever for Blizzard to do something about leavers.
If not now then they run the risk of leaving the worst impression possible of the game and further dooming it to this potentially inevitable downward slide. And I don't want that. I love Overwatch and want others to do so as well. But it's hard to love a game that isn't being properly moderated.
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