Overwatch was never going to stay the way it is now for long. The original 21 - now 23 - heroes won’t keep everyone occupied, and Blizzard have always been upfront that it would grow - and for free too. With Overwatch’s lore told the way it is, through vague hints and out-of-game stories, teases come easy and often from the big blue. Be it a dossier buried in some notes on a map, a name slipped into a blog post or a long-known character finally being added as playable, there are always hints as to who’s next - and we’ve gathered them all here.
For the one who is next, check our dedicated article on Overwatch Sombra.
First, a note on release timing. Characters are released one at a time, so don't ever expect to see multiple at once unless something strange goes on.
Now, onto the new Overwatch heroes. Remember that some of this is guesswork, rumour-milling and hint-mongering at the best of times, so not all of these will resolve into heroes, if at all - where things are unlikely, we’ll let you know. We're not expecting to ever see something as mad and long-lasting as the Sombra ARG again, but never say never.
Doomfist - Unknown
Teased way back in the original reveal cinematic for Overwatch, Doomfist is the adopted name of several characters, all using super-powered gauntlets to go about their heroics or villainy. Described by Blizzard's former story-man Chris Metzen as a generational character, Doomfist is similar to the Green Lantern or the Flash in that the term refers to a set of people who all wielded the same power one after the other, rather than a single individual who maintained. The first and second Doomfists were known as the Savior and the Scourge respectively, while the third - who it's suggested will be the character eventually added to the game - is the Successor.
The above screenshot is taken from Numbani, a map where the payload is one of Doomfist's gauntlets being taken to the museum after having been delivered from Overwatch HQ. This is for an exhibit about which we don't know much, beyond it was celebrating / chronicling the actions of the previous two Doomfists and the current one. Given their monikers, it would seem that the first Doomfist was less villainous than the other two. The third is, at least according to the World of Overwatch panel from BlizzCon 2015, threatening Numbani itself.
Beyond that, we don't know much about Doomfist or when they will become playable. They're as close to a singular big bad as Overwatch has right now, though there's no confirmation of involvement with the Talon organisation that operates in opposition to Overwatch. According to interviews with the team, it was never intended that Doomfist would be put into the spotlight, but the developers took a liking for them after the cinematic was made, hence Doomfist's prominence on the Numbani map.
There's also been a community push for Doomfist to be voiced by Terry Crews for, well, some reason. Notably, he visited Blizzard campus at the end of 2016, just as you'd expect them to be gearing up for new character development. Keep the It's Happening gifs to a minimum, but it may be Happening.
Once the second season of animated shorts have fleshed out a few origin stories, it's very likely Doomfist will become the focus of a more current-day Overwatch storyline. Until then, we're unlikely to see an in-game version of what, at least for these rumours, is quite a well-fleshed-out character.
Athena - Support AI
Athena isn’t actually a new character, she’s been in the game since the very first days of the beta. Taking the same role as the Administrator in Team Fortress 2, Athena is Overwatch’s announcer - letting you know when you’re about to get into battle, win, lose or kill entire teams.
In the lore she’s the AI that helps to run Overwatch as an organisation, assisting specifically Winston in the creation of his scientific marvels and in restarting Overwatch in the Recall cinematic. She almost gets hacked by Reaper, but manages to reboot before he can finish.
The reason people believe she’ll become a character is twofold. First, already being a massive part of the game’s backstory and fitting into a support role. She’d be a very natural addition to the cast and one that people want - effort and passion Blizzard won’t want to waste.
The second reason comes down to more concrete evidence. A monitor is present on the Watchpoint: Gibraltar map that previously displayed a message to Winston, but was later changed to be her logo, seen above. The idea is that she has now moved out of the mainframe and into a real body.
It’s also been theorised that the various full cast shots released for the game over the years, before the first roster of 21 heroes was locked in, already showed her off. A cyclops omnic was in one shot, in the foreground just enough that it would suggest Blizzard were confident they would make it in. It also featured a very similar logo on its forehead to the Athena one seen in-game.
We asked Blizzard directly about Athena during an interview, but they had nothing to say about where she was going - yet, anyway.
Liao And Another - Unknown, one possibly a tank
The most recently hinted at hero and the one with the least amount of info out there, Liao was a founding member of Overwatch along with Soldier: 76, Ana Amari and Reaper, among others. We have nothing but a name, sourced from an in-universe post about the organisation itself, and nothing beyond that is even hinted at. In Ana's lore trailer, we did see this image of the full old Overwatch crew:
It's possible that Liao could be either of the unrecognised characters on the outer edges. Based on the Asian-sounding name, I'd go for the fella myself, leaving the armoured woman as another new character. Given she looks like a complete and total badass, I'd bet on her being the tank, something hinted at by the numbers of each class in-game, plus some comments from Blizzard.
Alejandra - Unknown
This is much more of a guess, but one the community has built up a lot of evidence for. Alejandra and her mother feature in the Soldier: 76 animated short Hero. With the focus that is put on the character - even more so than Soldier himself, despite the latter actually featuring in the game already - many felt it was a hint towards a future hero. Some even pointed to Alejandra and Sombra being the same character, due to both having a connection to the Dorado map. While that doesn't seem to be true (though who knows with Sombra's unreliable tales of her own past), Alejandra's significance hasn't been downgraded in the minds of some.
The main issue here is timelines, though Overwatch's is rather confused as it is. Alejandra's age is never verified, or when the cinematic short takes place, but the youngest current character is D.Va at 19 - it seems unlikely Blizzard would want to go much younger than that. Of course, having a future version of a character isn't exactly out of the realms of believability either. Her mother, on the other hand, would dodge that, though is given significantly less characterisation in Hero.
If Alejandra is an upcoming hero, she's probably a ways off - others have been built up much more, and there are less-finished storylines that still need to play out. Her voice actress, Brigitte Kali, said on Twitter during the Sombra hype that she "couldn't say much" about future plans with Blizzard. At the time people thought that confirmed suspicions as to who Alejandra grew up into, but Sombra's voice actress is Carolina Ravassa. If she wasn't just teasing, it does mean we'll see more of her, eventually.
Others - Various
Then there are the characters that could become fully-fleshed heroes, but there isn't strong evidence that they will. These are mostly minor characters from maps, comics or animated shorts. Rather than listing every single character in the Overwatch expanded universe, we've cut it down to ones that have a significant enough impact on the world or focus put on them that it's believable they might make the jump eventually.
- Timmy & Brian - these are the two kids from the original cinematic trailer. They would probably need to grow up quite a bit first, though both have proved popular with the fanbase and are currently in-game as sprays.
- Rosa - a child character in Symmetra's comic who has her face burned badly by the Vishkar Corporation's violent machinations. She gets just enough screentime to possibly be a future hint.
- Sound Quake - Mentioned by Timmy in the first cinematic trailer as using chest missiles, Sound Quake was a villain earlier in the game's storyline, fighting against the original Overwatch team.
- Sven - the villain in Torbjörn's comic, who survives their fight. With Overwatch's need for villains, and him and Torb clearly having history, it's a distinct possibility we'll see more of Sven in the future.
- Brigitte - Reinhardt's assistant and armour-builder, as well as friend, she's one of the more fully developed comic-only characters, making it seem likely she'll pop up again.
- Hakim - the unseen bad guy of Ana's second comic who had been hunting her down. Based on Reaper's dialogue, it's a high-ranking member of the Talon organisation who are in rather desperate need of some more people in-game.
- Gabrielle Adawe - The secretary-general of the UN during the start of the Omnic Crisis who set up Overwatch and is mentioned in one of the pre-release in-universe articles. Given most of the old Overwatch team has made it to the game, and the rest are heavily hinted, Gabrielle could also make it.
That’s everyone Blizzard seem to have under the hood for now - more details on them, as well as the squads of heroes coming afterwards, in the near future.