Blizzard's arguments against permanent Overwatch PVE modes fall flat

Overwatch’s latest seasonal event is now live, bringing with it a brand new PvE (player vs. environment) experience called ‘Retribution’ in which players get to experience yet another pivotal moment in Overwatch history while battling hordes of NPC foes. Similar to last year’s ‘Uprising’ event, the Retribution PvE scenario will only be available during the event’s runtime (the event is scheduled to end on April 30). During a recent press Q&A event, Overwatch’s game director Jeff Kaplan offered up an explanation as to why the game’s PvE events are being kept as temporary additions, and to be entirely honest, I think it might have been better if Kaplan had said nothing at all.

Making Content That Matters

Here’s a transcript of Kaplan’s explanation, courtesy of GameSpot:

"Right now the plan is to not have available after . We are constantly revisiting those types of decisions with some stuff that we've done--capture the flag is a good example. In our previous event for Year of the Dog, where we introduced a brand-new map for it, we figured it was evergreen and kept it into the system. So right now the plan is to only have it available for the event for about three weeks….

….I think it's important to talk about why . I don't think players always understand why we don't want players to have access to it all year, and maybe this is just developer insecurity, but let me give you the reason why we don't these events to be available all the time.

I honestly believe there's a big difference between creating PvE highly-replayable content that you're expecting somebody to get hundreds of thousands of hours of gameplay out of versus something that you think can be sustained for a couple weeks. I think what would happen if we put Uprising and Retribution just permanently in the game is that players would find that they needed more out of it. Like a progression system on top of it, or scoring, or items, or players asking when the next mission is. They would want more content ."

I had to re-read the above quotes several times because I was too angry to fully comprehend what Kaplan was saying after my first time reading it. There are several issues I have with the argument Kaplan is trying to put forth and I want to address each of them individually.

First, I get why Kaplan would be concerned about keeping the Uprising and Retribution scenarios as permanent additions to Overwatch. There is a strong possibility that fans would start demanding more PvE scenarios and it’s unlikely that those same fans would be satisfied with only getting one new scenario per year. However, the fact that Kaplan uses that fear as a blanket excuse for making all of Overwatch’s current PvE offerings temporary really irks me.

I understand Blizzard wants each of the game’s seasonal events to feel unique and special, but telling players who may be more interested in PvE content (like me) that we should only bother playing Overwatch during a few short weeks out of the entire year isn’t the way to go.

I also get that Blizzard wants the core of the Overwatch experience to be a 6v6 team-based competitive shooter, and yet that hasn’t stopped it from bringing in new permanent PvP modes like 3v3 Elimination and Free for All Deathmatch. So, as Kaplan himself even admits with the Capture the Flag comment above, Blizzard has no issue implementing new PvP modes, even ones which go against Overwatch’s core philosophy, but making PvE scenarios permanent is where it draws the line.

Even worse, Blizzard doesn’t even have any hard data to back up its fears, it just makes all these assumptions about what it thinks PvE fans might want and then uses those assumptions as justification to screw over those very same players.

Also, why does Kaplan assume that PvE players would want extras like, as he says “a progression system on top of it, or scoring, or items?” Both Uprising and Retribution already have a star-based scoring system, and I doubt players mind earning the same experience points and loot boxes from PvE as they do from PvP.

Heck, Blizzard already went through the trouble of making two separate versions for each PvE scenario, a story-based version with pre-set heroes and an ‘All Heroes’ version. If Kaplan and his team wanted to meet players halfway while also retaining the “unique” nature of each event, just give us the All Heroes versions and reserve the story versions for their respective event periods.

Playing Favorites

To be perfectly blunt, I really don’t play Overwatch that often even when PvE events like Retribution are live, so I admit I don’t have a lot of skin in the game. However, it still angers me when I see developers like Blizzard putting forth such flimsy excuses as to why they refuse to cater to both the PvP and PvE crowds.

As I said before, I get that Overwatch was designed to be a competitive game first and foremost. However, if you’re going to take the time and effort to craft high-quality PvE scenarios, don’t lock us out of them for most of the year just because you’re afraid of what might happen if you chose to make them permanent.

I can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that offering permanent PvE options for Overwatch players would lead to more positives than negatives. I just wish Blizzard showed the same amount of confidence towards the game’s PvE scenarios as it does towards the more experimental PvP content.