Games that are multiplayer-only are dangerous affairs. It takes a lot to keep those kind of competitive titles alive when they're reliant on a strong community to make them tick. Well, one way that Blizzard wants to keep Overwatch alive is by not charging for heroes or maps.
PC Gamer is reporting that Blizzard's latest video makes it known that heroes and maps added to Overwatch will be free.
According to game director Jeff Kaphlan, he stated...
[…] we don’t have an exact timeline of when new heroes will be added to the game, how soon after launch, or how many... We just know that when we patch a new hero into the game, we want it to be free and not as DLC.
That's an interesting new twist. It also makes a ton of sense. The game will live or die based on its community and the likelihood is that a lot of people think that there will be a fairly robust cash shop full of skins and other trinkets to help fill out the game's long-term financial plan.
The theory about the game's content is somewhat verified with the two different versions of the game. The base $40 game contains all the basic content of the game with the main characters and map, where-as the $60 package contains additional hero skins and other goodies.
For a long while a lot of gamers assumed Overwatch would be free-to-play and would have heroes and skins locked behind the cash shop. It appears that maybe the base content will be free and cosmetics will be paid.
It's a smart tactic that has paid off for a few other games, including Blizzard's own Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone. A lot of MOBAs and free-to-play games these days have been using the method of adding maps and characters and making bank on cosmetics. It generally seems to work well for games like League of Legends and Smite as well.
In the case of Overwatch, if the game manages to garner a strong enough following it's not unlikely that Blizzard could make some strong bank on selling skins for characters and weapons.
One thing is for sure is that at least Blizzard knows that maps and characters being locked in the cash shop will fracture the community. It's happened plenty of times before with a lot of first-person shooters where the community quickly died off after a quarter of people bought some of the DLC, another quarter of people didn't buy the DLC, another quarter of people bought the second batch of DLC but not the first, and the last group bought everything. What ends up happening is that you've got various groups who can no longer play with each other when some people have the maps and some don't.
Overwatch's closed beta is at an end for a short time but the beta will return in January ahead of the game's spring release.