Blizzard is making Overwatch 2 available on Steam after more than two decades of keeping its games exclusive to its own game platform, Battle.net.
Team-based shooter Overwatch 2 will launch on the Steam platform August 11. The free-to-play, hero-based game – which shares a comic-book look with Fortnite – is massively popular, with an estimated monthly player base over 25m.
“While Battle.net remains a priority for us now and into the future, we’ve heard players want the choice of Steam for a selection of our games, starting with Overwatch 2 on August 10th,” said Blizzard President Mike Ybarra in a press release. “We’re happy to work with Valve to make that happen.”
Two factors feeding into the decision not mentioned in the press release could be declining earnings for Overwatch 2 and the need for cross-platform bridge building at parent company Activision Blizzard in the midst of its struggle to merge with Microsoft.
The latter is just about in the bag after the deal – the biggest in video game history – survived a challenge from US competition regulator the FTC this week.
Blizzard reported declining “player investment” in Overwatch 2 in its most recent financial reporting. Players can pay for in-game items and battle passes. The release on Steam coincides with an update (Overwatch 2: Invasion) which will see new paid PvE missions and which the company hopes will kickstart revenue.
Blizzard’s Battle.net was launched in 1996, a few days before the original Diablo came out. As an in-house gaming platform it was unprecedented, pre-dating Valve’s Steam by many years.
Steam was launched in 2003, originally also exclusive to in-house titles such as Half-Life and Portal, but opened to non-Valve games in 2005.
While Battle.net was subsequently copied by many studios, it has stuck to an exclusive strategy and relies on Blizzard’s own games – for example World of Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo – along with Activision titles like Call Of Duty.
Hence the significance of breaking with exclusivity and providing Overwatch on Steam.
“Gamers and developers are both going to benefit from Overwatch 2 coming to Steam,” Valve’s president Gabe Newell said in a press release. “Gamers will have another platform where they can play a beloved game that utilizes the capabilities of Steam, and developers will benefit from the effects of having the talented team at Blizzard helping us evolve our supported features and functionality for Overwatch 2.”
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