After what probably feels like a full decade of waiting, Overwatch will finally be publicly playable in early May for a scant week before final release on the 24th. Open beta will bring with it a lot more players, a near-final version of the game, and will finally allow the massive community to all go hands on. Here’s everything you need to know about it, plus Blizzard's latest cinematic teaser featuring a giant gorilla asking you to join his squad of illegal international vigilantes.
Update May 8, 2016: Blizzard have extended the open beta by a day, now ending at 10am Pacific on Tuesday the 10th.
You’ll want our list of the Overwatch characters too - start picking favourites.
When is the Overwatch open beta?
The actually open-open beta will run from May 4 at 4:00pm PDT. Here's where that is elsewhere:
- Central Europe: 1:00am, May 5
- UK: 00:00, May 5
- Eastern US: 7pm
- Central US: 6pm
- Mountain US: 5pm
An early access period will start two days earlier at the same times - May 2nd, 4pm PDT and equivalents - accessible to those who have pre-ordered the game. Anyone who does will also receive an invite to give to a friend, giving them early access too. The early access period will smoothly transition into the main open section, while all of it will come down on Tuesday, May 10 at 10:00am PDT, or:
- Central Europe: 7pm
- UK: 6pm
- Eastern US: 1pm
- Central US: Midday
- Mountain US: 11am
How do I get early access to the Overwatch open beta?
There are a couple of options for this on PC. Firstly, you can pre-purchase the game through the Battle.net store. Either version is fine, with the base Overwatch being a little cheaper while the Origins Edition comes some extra cosmetics for the game and other Blizzard titles. You do not need to purchase the Origins Edition to get early access to the open beta.
Alternatively, you can pre-order from your favourite retail store. There will be different rules, options and timings for each, so head down there and ask them what the deal is. If you’re after that extra-swanky Collector’s Edition box with the Soldier: 76 statue but also want early access, this is how you’ll have to do it. It might also be slightly cheaper, depending on retailer, than the Battle.net option.
Double-alternatively, as stated, you can wait for one of your mates to pre-order and then grab their extra code. In all cases, two codes will be e-mailed to the participant before the Open Beta starts, which can be used in Battle.net to gain access. The last date for pre-ordering to make sure you get access is April 29 - sorry if you missed it.
If you want to test it out on console, you have to pre-order through either the Playstation or Xbox store and your account is automatically flagged. On every platform, any pre-order gets you access to the Noire Widowmaker skin, as detailed on the pre-order page.
However, to be clear, you don’t need to pre-order for the May 5-9 period. That will be free access across every platform for anyone interested, either using the Battle.net launcher on PC or through the appropriate store on console.
What are the Overwatch open beta system requirements?
Here's what Blizzard are advising, first the minimums, which they said should get 30fps on low settings:
- Operating system: Windows 7/Windows 8/Windows 10 64-bit
- Processor: Intel Core i3 or AMD Phenom X3 8650
- Video: Nvidia GeForce GTX 460, ATI Radeon HD 4850, or Intel HD Graphics 4400
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Storage: 30 GB available hard drive space
- Broadband internet connection
- 1280x780 minimum display resolution
For what it's worth, I had a fun time with the earliest versions of the beta on a 550ti, 6 gigs of RAM and other fairly ancient bits of tech. I far preferred it after upgrading to my current, humble-brag worthy machine and it's now a lot prettier. Basically, as is their norm, if you can run other Blizzard games you should be able to play this, and if you've the power to ramp it up you'll have a very lovely time. Note that there is currently no version of Overwatch for Mac, nor one planned, as Kaplan explained in our interview.
Here's what they recommend for medium settings and 60fps:
- Processor: Intel Core i5 or AMD Phenom II X3 or better
- Video: Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 or ATI Radeon HD 7950 or better
- Memory: 6 GB RAM
Sweet, I’m set up. What’s in the Overwatch open beta?
The Beta will contain every part of the game that is finished by the time it goes live, which will likely be the near-finished version of the game given it’s just two weeks before launch. Here’s what that’s confirmed to mean:
- 21 heroes, which we’ve detailed in our Overwatch character list.
- 12 maps split across four game modes:
- Payload - Dorado, Route 66, Watchpoint: Gibraltar
- Point Capture - Hanamura, Temple of Anubis, Volskaya Industries
- Hybrid (capture a point, then payload) - Hollywood, King’s Row, Numbani
- Control (King of the Hill) - Ilios, Lijiang Tower, Nepal
- The Overwatch progression system of unlocking skins, sprays and other cosmetics.
- However, Competitive mode has been disabled and won't be back until after launch.
All of this will be present in both the early access period and the main event. Chances are there will also be a mighty patch to kick the beta off, so expect changes from what you may have seen or played in the access weekends and closed beta. At the very least, there'll be more lovely, lovely cosmetics.
Will my progression carry over to the launch version of Overwatch?
No, and neither will anyone else’s. While there haven't been any resets during the beta, Blizzard have said on multiple occasions that nothing will carry over - we’re all going back to level 1, default skins on launch day.
Hooray for equality. Anything else?
Here’s Blizzard’s official post on the matter. It probably covers any other specific questions you have. We’ll have more info as the date gets closer and more things are finalised.
On page 2, all the details on the still-ongoing Overwatch closed beta.