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 theOverwatch characterstoo – start picking favourites.
When is the Overwatch open beta?
The actually open-open beta will run fromMay 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 theBattle.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 thepre-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
- 1280×780 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 ourOverwatch 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
- TheOverwatch progression systemof unlocking skins, sprays and other cosmetics.
- However,Competitive modehas 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’sBlizzard’s official poston 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.
Update:Blizzard have revealed everything that’s changed in the new version of the beta, and it’s effectively a whole new game. Take a look below.
The Overwatch beta is back today, brilliant news for the 1% of people that both want to play it and have access. For everyone else, it’s at least a step closer to release and will come with a big update to the game including a new mode, maps and rebalancing. Here’s everything we know about it, to be updated throughout the day.
Overwatch beta release
The beta is now available, though the new invite wave has not yet been completed. Blizzard will announce on Twitter and via other channels once it has.
We know it’s due to come back up at some point today, though not exactly when. Blizzard’s policy across their games has always been to slowly roll things out across their various regions, rather than slam it all up at once. Best guess says there’ll be a post containing details later today (their common release time for this sort of thing is 4pm GMT / 8am PST), which will say it’s going up in the Americas first, followed by the EU quickly thereafter. It’s also plausible that the post itself and the servers coming back online will be simultaneous. The Asia region isn’t coming back online until the 16th.
Overwatch beta progression system
Blizzard have revealed the new progression system that allows you to unlock purely cosmetic items in Overwatch. It uses a global levelling system that, every time you go up one, drops a loot crate containing four cosmetics. These are skins, voice over packs, new animations for plays of the game and other bits ‘n’ bobs.
Blizzard have a whole blog post dedicated to exactly how this works, and lead designer Jeff Kaplan breaks it down in the latest developer update video, which also has details on other new bits:
Overwatch beta changes
There’s a massive set of patch notes available from Blizzard, but here’s the highlights, which Kaplan also goes into above:
- New mode, Control, which is most similar to a best-of-three King of the Hill.
- Two new maps, one in a Chinese skyscraper and another in the mountains of Nepal.
- Custom private games have been implemented that allow you to modify a number of different elements within the game. This lets players play how they want, but should also allow for the outside development of a competitive mode.
- Taking damage no longer builds Ultimate abilities, but they do now passively charge for all heroes.
- Balance changes to lots of heroes making Mercy less of an auto-pick, balancing Bastion for more skill tiers and almost entirely redesigning Torbjörn.
The impact of all this is yet to be seen.
Overwatch beta key
There are no keys for the Overwatch beta, so don’t believe any scams, and it’s currently looking like there never will be any. If there are, we’ll get you a giveaway as soon as we can, because we know what you want.
How do you get access to the Overwatch beta? Well if you have even a rudimentary YouTube channel, Twitch stream or games blog, you might be able to blag access from the right people. Here’s the official contact page. For everyone else, you’d best be signed up for the beta via the Bnet profile settings. It’s a random pool that they draw invites from every so often. Blizzard have confirmed that they will be pulling from that pool again to start this test phase. If you had access before, don’t worry – it carries over.
There are also a series of more open beta weekends, which Blizzard uses for stress testing primarily. There aren’t any announced yet, but there will be at least one more before the end of the beta.
Overwatch beta gameplay
Want to know what it’s like? We can help you there too. Here’s our Overwatch preview from Blizzcon of the three latest heroes, as well as what we thought on the very first day of the beta. I can confirm that at no point after that did it suddenly become terrible, and things only look to be improving with the latest updates. Speaking of which…
Overwatch is a single-purchase game that will be supported through cosmetic-only microtransactions. It’s not free to play and they’ll never charge for maps or additional characters. There’s no exact release date, but the promised window is on or before June 21st. There’s three different purchase options, that break down like this:
- Overwatch – base game, no frills other than a pre-purchase skin. £29.99 / $39.99
- Overwatch: Origin’s Edition – base game, a bunch of cosmetics and bonus content for their other games. This is effectively the Digital Deluxe version. £44.99 / $59.99
- Overwatch: Collector’s Edition – all of the above, a statue, art book and soundtrack, plus a big box to put it all in. Not available digitally so price varies.
That’s the vital stats. Let us know below if there’s anything we forgot, or just use that comment section to celebrate your invite/complain about your lack of one. We’ll update with every slice of information we can as and when we get it.