The Overwatch development team has been extremely open about what’s happening with the game going forward and what Overwatch updates will happen in the future. As a partner to keeping you updated on what's happening in the game right now, we’ve gathered everything Blizzard have said about what happens next.
While we’re at it, here’s all the info we have on new Overwatch heroes.
We’ve split this into sections based on rough estimates of when different features are planned for release. In cases where we don’t know, we’ve estimated based on perceived workload, but make it very clear that it is our estimation, not Blizzard’s. On that note, at least for the forseeable future, it looks like we can expect one major patch at the end of each month, though that varies depending on big factors like BlizzCon and holidays.
It’s worth noting that none of this is guaranteed. Game director Jeff Kaplan and the Overwatch team have been more open than most development teams about what they’re working on, specifically under the caveat that plans do change, delays can happen, better ideas pop up, and life gets in the way. There are lots of things Blizzard would like to do here, particularly planned for further down the line - that doesn’t mean they’ll get around to it, or it will be in a predictable form when it launches. That said, since launch they've implemented many of the features they've promised.
Overwatch - what's coming soon in 2017
A Zarya comic
Overwatch lead writer Michael Chu confirmed that Blizzard are working on a Zarya comic on the forums. "No ARG plans at the moment," he said, "but I just wanted to mention that the upcoming Zarya comic is not a rumor!"
Two more Hanzo legendary skins
Currently in production. We saw the first of the three during the anniversary.
More custom game options
With the introduction of the Overwatch server browser, people want more. Passwords are on the hope list, along with team switching. They don't want to, but Blizzard may need to turn off XP-gain in custom games. Kaplan also said he thought modular, changable ultimate abilities would be cool in the future.
Events coming back
Events - and their various items and brawls - are likely to return each year. You can almost certainly expect things like Lucioball and Junkenstein's Revenge to return in the Arcade too. Blizzard want to get them into custom games but it's difficult, technically.
Subtitles for all voice lines
Thanks to Uprising, Blizzard now have the tech to do this, and it's something the team is "very passionate" about providing.
Play of the Game improvements
Kaplan specifically mentioned making Plays of the Game “more cinematic” in his interview with Eurogamer, and that he hoped they’d get to it during summer. Doing this should allow the system to become more robust as more things will look cool. With the introduction of Ana, this has become a very commonly requested feature due to her ultimate. Kaplan also spoke about this on the forums in September 2016.
The much requested feature of being able to save and share your Play of the Game and highlights will be in by the end of summer.
In a massive post, Kaplan laid out the whole current matchmaking system, as well as saying they’re constantly improving it. This most likely won’t even be called out in notes every time it happens, just know that things are being tweaked to give better matches pretty much all the time. Season 3 of competitive play also refactored skill ratings once again. Scott Mercer also expanded massively on the problems in matchmaking and the solutions being looked at.
Handling leavers is also "high on the list" of things to improve according to Scott. Also of note is his large post about matchmaking and competitive play in general, in which he mentions several improvements already made to the system. Here's the latest, from April, explaining MMR streak changes. Kaplan also talked about Blizzard's thoughts on Smurfing (fine) and Boosting (bad).
In a similar theme, Kaplan said they'd like to make it so you could filter custom games by your SR range, meaning it would be actually useful for competitively minded practice.
Similar to matchmaking, social improvements are being developed and implemented constantly, though normally will be called out in patch notes. This was covered in Kaplan’s big future post. Elsewhere he also talked about hiding the chat box and the possibility of having an appear offline option. He's also spoken about improving the reporting and banning system, as well as just removing poor sports from competitive play. Similarly, toxicity is going to be targeted severely.
Punishment system improvements
In a post on the forums, community manager Lylirra laid out new, harsher punishments. She also explained that "additional improvements" were on the way including scaling competitive season bans, notification of punishments handed to players you reported and worse penalties for people who abuse the new reporting standards.
Kaplan said in his AMA that Blizzard were "working on it."
Always in the works but naturally low priority. AI Pharah is apparently very hard.
Bug fixing, anti-hack and anti-cheat
Not a lot of info on these beyond that it’s happening, but again, they’re constant efforts. Naturally, Blizzard can't really go into detail on the specifics of anti-cheat measures. They did post in early February about ongoing action, however.
Kaplan’s said that new heroes won’t be released in batches, but that several are “very far along” in the production process. Ana, Sombra, and Orisa are now out - for who is coming next check our dedicated new Overwatch heroes post. Community bets are still on Doomfist, particularly after the patch 1.13 leaks. Old concepts are never dumpstered, according to Kaplan, so if you enjoy designs you've seen in concept art they might still make it. He also mentioned that constant hero releases are not required or something he thinks would be a good idea.
In April, Kaplan announced that six maps were in development, split evenly between QM/Comp maps and non-standard ones like the Antartica Arena. We've already seen Horizon and three new arena maps - so expect two more standard maps, probably one payload and one control, before the end of 2017. In future, they won't be available in competitive in the first week of being on live servers.
So far we've received major event upgrade packs and the odd added cosmetic between them. Expect that to continue, but Kaplan also pointed out that each new hero was going to be developed over time, rather than always come with a full selection of what's been released before.
The Overwatch team have also tweeted that, in the future, all heroes will get new skins for special events, so your favourites won't be randomly left out.
More animated shorts
Obviously, Blizzard want to make more of their incredibly successful animated shorts. Timing is more of the question. We saw the Bastion animated short at Gamescom and Sombra at BlizzCon - the next is being worked on.
Longer-term Overwatch updates
There will, one day, probably, be an Overwatch map editor, but it's a long way off. The tools just aren't ready for public use yet, says Kaplan, along with loads of other issues.
Sound toggle hotkeys
Kaplan confirmed this feature but it was never implemented - whether they've forgotten or it was harder to implement than originally thought, we'll presumably find out eventually.
Genji and D.Va ult-block voice-lines
No ETA on it yet, but this was confirmed as happening, but requires more voice acting work (obviously).
Symmetra Shield Generator voice-lines
Also on the way are lines for reacting to and destroying shield generators placed by enemy Symmetras. It'll take a while, though, as all the voice actors need to come back into the office.
More competitive point rewards
Specifically, Kaplan said they'd like to add more things to buy with competitive play points beyond the golden weapons. He also said they don't want to allow the buying of normal skins through competitive points, keeping that and the gold/loot box economy seperate. More recently he said again they want to add stuff, but are worried about over-rewarding. He also gave a timeframe of beyond Season 4. In his AMA, he mentioned again about over-rewarding competitive play and attracting players who don't want to be there.
In-game tournament mode
Another on the long, long developer wishlist, but something you could expect in the far future.
Competitive 3v3 / 1v1
This is something both the community and Blizzard want to see implemented, but wasn't an immediate feature due to wanting to make sure the system worked first. It clearly did, and is quite popular, so we'll hopefully see it one day. Upcoming improvements to the mode were also confirmed in early 2017, and again in April with more custom game support. After the new 3v3 and 1v1 maps were added, Kaplan said they were still looking at turning it into a competitive mode but it required more testing.
Kaplan said on the forums that this is a lower priority than highlights improvements, and is therefore “not on the immediate horizon” but they do have a system working internally. He later pointed out that the same team is working on high-bandwidth servers, which has taken priority as it actually improves the level of play in-game. Replays still weren't on the horizon at the end of 2016 and again in March 2017.
Kaplan has said that despite improvements already made, more could be done with the spectator UI. No immediate timeframe on that, though Kaplan did post again saying that they want to make it possible to spectate friends' competitive games.
Last we heard about both this and the replay system, Kaplan was saying they were handled by the same team as the Season 2 competitive improvements, matchmaking improvements, high-bandwidth servers, and highlight saving, hence the delay.
As part of this, Kaplan said that a mini-map would eventually be in place for spectators to more easily understand how a game was developing, but specifically said they wouldn't be adding one for normal in-game situations. This was reiterated more recently.
Permanent progression in PTR
As part of an effort to get more players testing on PTR, Blizzard and the community both want a system whereby progression and loot boxes could be moved to the main client after being earned on PTR. Blizzard are finding that coming up with a solution is quite difficult but continue to work on it. Kaplan even responded to people saying they need to hire more people.
More recently, Kaplan said this was still being worked on, but it's one of the "significant development tasks that would directly take away from development time on the core game." Similar is true of having live and PTR accounts more closely mirror each other.
Mercy and Lucio in 1v1, more 1v1 modes
Progression system improvements
Specifically described as “more long term” in, again, Kaplan’s big future post, further improvements to progression and cosmetics are planned. This includes the possibility of a random pose/highlight intro function. Here’s Kaplan also saying they’d like a random cosmetic option.
Cosmetic selection in-game
Kaplan has posted that Blizzard want it to be possible to change skins in the game-beginning phase, but not at will, while mid-match.
Character backstories in-game
Lead story-man Michael Chu has said that Blizzard would like to make backstories and biographies, as well as other lore-entries, readable in-game. It's probably not the highest priority, and would require some new UI elements, hence its position in this section. Chu confirmed in mid-March it was still under development, and small versions were added in patch 1.10. Chu mentioned this was still upcoming in his AMA.
Hero language options
This one is likely a long way off, but David Clyde, a programmer, confirmed on the forums that Blizzard would like to do XCOM 2-style nationality-based language select for hero voice lines, for an extra touch of realism. It isn't supported by the code currently, but he wants to "make it work in the future."
Three-round burst gun
Kaplan said that he'd love to put a burst-fire gun in the game at some stage, similar to the M16 from Modern Warfare 2.
Gun game mode
Kaplan said they're big fans of this sort of mode at Blizzard, and would love to try it. As you can imagine, in a game where nobody is ever supposed to change gun, it would require quite some engineering to get right.
Kaplan mentioned on the forums that the team isn't a big fan of the way the forums work currently, especially the way voting is presented and the ability to 'bump' your own thread. Obviously, when this gets fixed is more down to the Blizzard webteam than the Overwatch developers.
Competitive queue confirmation
While not definitely on the way, Kaplan posted in a thread about this in January, noting a couple of possible solutions.
Reporting on console
Kaplan gave a specific timeline of summer or sooner for the ability to report players on consoles. In July he noted it was still being worked on and was a high priority. In the new punishment announcement post it was said that this would include all improvements made to the PC system in the meantime.
In a similar theme, there's plans for better connection information on console too.
This is probably a long, long way out but Kaplan's enthusiasm likely means it could happen one day.
Mystery hero fixes
There's some "clean up" coming to this custom game mode at some point and Blizzard are thinking about changing the way ultimate charge operates within it. Kaplan expanded on this idea a couple of months later.
Colour Blind improvements
Kaplan's AMA revealed they want to do more with colour blind options, but that it's difficult to prioritise.
While full transperancy is unlikely according to Kaplan's AMA, they're looking for ways to improve their internal tracking so some things could be made public.
Bill Warnecke, lead software engineer on Overwatch, posted in response to a thread on Reddit that this seemed doable, and would hopefully be in a future patch.
Features not coming to Overwatch
This section is for things that the team have explicitly said they don’t want to do, can’t do or isn’t worth the time investment.
Some players have been asking for a surrender option so losing teams can throw in the towel if they wish. However, game director Jeff Kaplan says this isn't likely to happen. "We do not currently agree that the game needs a surrender option, especially with our quick match lengths," he said.
For either currency or loot boxes, Kaplan says the team “aren’t super keen” on doing these, at least as far as they’re implemented in Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone. They don’t want players creating poor team comps because they want to finish, for example, their offensive class daily when their team desperately needs a tank or support.
They tried this and it didn’t work across the board, then felt weird on specific characters.
Increased FOV or 'proper' 21:9 support
Kaplan made it clear in this post that they'll never increase the FOV above 103, even for resolution reasons. This makes proper 21:9 support impossible.
Multi-hero in competitive
Kaplan confirmed that the one-hero limit would remain in competitive, as feedback and results had been good.
Deathmatch mode in regular games
In response to a question about the addition of a kills-based mode, Kaplan confirmed that it's not something they want to put in the game as part of regular play. They could see it as a Brawl or other side-event, however.
Scoreboard icons reflect skin use
This isn't being implemented to make sure the scoreboard is quick and easy to read as far as members of each team are concerned.
After some confusion on the topic, Kaplan made it clear that they are "not even remotely thinking about retiring heroes right now or anytime in the foreseeable future."
Vertical Tracer blink
Kaplan said they experimented with this but it created imbalance and totally changed how Tracer played.
A forum user brought up the idea of increased health, altered spawn times, or ult charge changes for teams that have had leavers in competitive play. Kaplan said they'd thought about it, but didn't want to change core gameplay values, and also pointed out problems with catch-up mechanics in general.
Kaplan revealed Overwatch used to have a fewest deaths medal but it created some toxic gameplay patterns to try to get golds - like not leaving the spawn room.
Emote invulnerability and cancelling
Arcade rewards based on games played rather than won
Kaplan said this would create deviant behaviours.
Easter or Valentines event in 2017
Buffing Sombra's EMP / Hack
Geoff Goodman wrote a fairly long post in the forums about how buffing Sombra's Hack or EMP likely wouldn't be happening, as it's already such a strong part of her kit.
In his Reddit AMA, Kaplan said that a bloom reduction graphical setting was unlikely as it is a part of the artstyle.
Bill Warnecke explained how difficult this was to get working while maintaining quality of graphics and gameplay.
The ability to block players and make it so you didn't have to play with them again was originally in the game. However, it ended up only harming the people that used it, as explained by Bill Warnecke.
Quick play / Competitive map blacklisting
Kaplan explained that the custom games feature fulfills this function.
That's the future laid out for you! Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below.