Overwatch 2 earns record profits from alienating its player base
When Overwatch 2 first launched, one of the biggest criticisms from long-time fans was the new approach to monetization. It was harsher, or let’s face it, much much greedier. Scrooge McDuck level greedy compared to the free skins offered in the original. While controversial, it seems the move paid off for Blizzard though. Their earnings release confirms Overwatch 2 record profits have come with the new approach to monetization, was the cost worth it though?
Overwatch 2 made big changes to the financial model for the series. In some ways it modernized it, going free to play. While that would always come with more aggressive monetization.
Overwatch arguably went much further than most other games. It’s a criticism that’s been noticed. Blizzard reversed the move (at least a bit) with the recent Season 3 update. The recent earnings report from Blizzard though definitely shows that the changes paid off for Blizzard, at least in the short term. They might have alienated a lot of their player base and a made a first impression on new players as a microtransaction festival, but for a short period of time, they made record profits.
Overwatch 2 Record Profits from New Monetization
Overwatch 2 made the change from a paid game to free-to-play. That came with getting rid of lootboxes and the ability to get skins without spending real-world cash. Instead, there was a Battle Pass introduced. There was also a premium currency that you’ll have to buy with real money. These were the only ways to get skins that previously came for free.
A lot of criticism with the monetization wasn’t over paid skins as a whole. Most free-to-play games have this. The number of skins in Fortnite is staggering, but there’s a key difference with a lot of these games. The cost of skins in general was lower outside of Overwatch, and most alternative Premium Battle Passes are more generous.
Games like Fortnite award enough premium currency in their Premium Battle Pass to fund the next one and a bit more. Meaning if you make a one-time purchase or save enough free currency to get one Battle Pass, you can always get the next one provided you play a normal amount. Meaning you’ll always have free cosmetics. A one-time purchase gives you the premium progression experience permanently. Overwatch 2 didn’t do this, the grind to get a Premium Battle Pass through rewards was much higher than elsewhere. For your average player, it was a flat real-money fee each time. That’s on top of the extra for each skin. The prices were outrageous. Some fans dubbed it the greediest Battle Pass ever, and they were right.
It’s a problem Blizzard has kind of addressed recently, but not exactly in full. With the old skin prices and Battle Pass, it’s not too surprising that Overwatch 2 record profits have been achieved!
Overwatch 2 Record Profit – Game Makes over $100 Million
In the last three months of 2022 (coinciding with Overwatch 2’s highest period of popularity), record numbers were recorded for Overwatch 2. They brought in over $100 million in net bookings. This is the highest quarterly figure for the franchise ever. Coming as the game switches to free-to-play, it definitely validates the idea that making a game free actually makes a lot more money.
The period also saw record player numbers for Overwatch 2. Again, being free likely made a major difference in this. Overwatch 2 record profits definitely contributed to a stronger quarter for Activision Blizzard. This quarter also coincided with Modern Warfare II, the most successful CoD launch ever. Along and a strong quarter for titles like Diablo, which has had its own share of greed problems lately.
With the Microsoft-Activision deal still progressing despite some hold-ups from regulators, the company is looking to be in a stronger position. There’s a catch though, Overwatch 2 record profits are definitely not sustainable.
Can Overwatch 2 Recover from the Greed?
A game bringing in record amounts is good news for devs, but what about the future? The monetization model has already been scaled back. In an upcoming update, Blizzard will be restoring a way to purchase skins with earnt currency, not just bought. They’ll also be adding more entirely free skins that are earnt through challenges and providing premium currency with the next Battle Pass. This kind of already shows that Overwatch 2 record profits came at a big price.
Free-to-play games are a long-term investment. Players will spend more in the long run on a free game that engages them. How many occasional spenders did Overwatch scare off with its greedy launch?
Player numbers and sentiment against the game online turned pretty quickly after launch. Blizzard’s monetization approach was greedier than most other major free-to-play games.
Turning back towards a softer monetization model from Blizzard clearly shows that the greedy approach has had an impact. We don’t have exact player numbers past the launch quarter reported just yet. However, with Overwatch 2 record profits on the table, it’s unlikely the company would change course without a good reason. They’re now choosing to sacrifice profits to restore some player confidence in the game. That means that player numbers must have fallen to a degree where that’s a worthy trade right now. Overwatch 2’s experiment with annoying casuals and milking the whales might not have been sustainable beyond the initial quarters.
We’ll have to see if the current changes are enough for Blizzard. Overwatch 2 record profits for one quarter looks good, but if the numbers collapse immediately after then this could have been dangerously short-sighted tactics. The current changes go a long way towards fixing things though, hopefully, it’s just the start of a real turnaround for Overwatch 2.
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