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Overwatch 2 is changing to a 5v5 game

Blizzard is rethinking how Overwatch PvP will play

Image: Blizzard Entertainment
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Big changes are coming for Overwatch 2, starting with a substantial alteration to the hero shooter’s player-versus-player mode. For Overwatch 2, Blizzard will switch PvP from two teams of six — the current player count in Overwatch — to two teams of five. That’s right, the game that’s been a 6v6 battle for the past five years will change to 5v5.

Overwatch game director Aaron Keller announced the change during a livestream on Thursday. Keller said that the new team composition for Overwatch 2 will consist of two damage heroes, two support heroes, and one tank. Keller explained that “tanks can be problematic” and “noisy,” and that Blizzard has “always tried to make our combat easy to read and very understandable and ... sometimes it’s just hard to track what 11 other players are doing on the battlefield. Removing two of those simplifies everything and it allows players to understand everything that’s happening around them and make better choices because of it.”

Keller noted that Overwatch PvP has changed drastically over the years, going from “no limits” hero selection to limiting players to just one instance of a hero per team to instituting role queue. Blizzard has also tested multiple team compositions and sizes (4v4, 7v7), and that they hope 5v5 will make Overwatch 2 easier to understand for players and viewers.

The change from 6v6 to 5v5 will mean big changes for tank characters, Keller noted, making them more aggressive and “more hybrid-y on the damage side.” Lead hero designer Geoff Goodman detailed some of those changes which (currently) include an alternate fire mode for Winston that fires a condensed blast of lightning for a longer-range blast attack; dual Fire Strikes and a cancellable Charge for Reinhardt; and dual (shared) bubble charges for Zarya’s Particle Barrier and Projected Barrier.

“We’re not taking every tank and just making them super aggro,” Goodman added. “In some cases we’re pushing some of the more aggro tanks and making them a little tankier. In a lot of cases they have more health … D.Va has a lot more Matrix juice in the can. We didn’t just give her more missiles and let her go kill everybody, she can actually protect her team a little more.”

Even the game’s maps are evolving to adapt to the single-tank-per-team change; Blizzard is giving players more cover objects on the battlefield, developers said.

The new 5v5 team sizes will extended to Overwatch 2’s Competitive, Quick Play, and new Push PvP modes, based on gameplay shown on new maps set in New York and Toronto.

Overwatch 2 does not yet have a release date, but Activision Blizzard has said not to expect the game in 2021.