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Want a hassle-free Overwatch 2? Make sure you’ve played Overwatch 1

Don’t get locked out of some of Overwatch’s coolest characters on Oct. 4

Overwatch - a promo shot from 2016 showing the full cast Image: Blizzard Entertainment
Ryan Gilliam (he/him) has worked at Polygon for nearly seven years. He primarily spends his time writing guides for massively popular games like Diablo 4 & Destiny 2.

Overwatch 2 introduces a major hurdle for new players — one that it’s actually billing as a tutorial feature. When Overwatch 2 replaces the original Overwatch servers on Tuesday, Oct. 4, Blizzard will lock brand-new players out of the original game’s roster.

If Overwatch 2 is a player’s first Overwatch, they’ll have access to a subset of the game’s 35-character roster. That means if newbies want to play as Doomfist, Wrecking Ball, Echo, and the rest, they’ll need to unlock them by playing dozens of matches. But, for new players looking forward to Overwatch 2 there is a way to circumvent this problem: Play the original Overwatch by this weekend. As long as you’re not a “new” player — even if that’s just one match in the old game, it seems — you’ll instantly gain access to the series’ original roster on Tuesday.

Playing the original Overwatch for the first time this weekend is a little easier said than done, however. So let’s quickly walk through when the original game will go offline forever, how you can jump in to play before it’s too late, and why this situation is such a big deal for new players.

When does Overwatch go offline and Overwatch 2 launch?

The original Overwatch will go offline at 9 a.m. PDT/noon EDT on Oct. 3. Servers will be down for 27 hours before Overwatch 2 launches at 12 p.m. PDT/3 p.m. EDT on Oct. 4.

How can I play Overwatch 1 before it goes offline?

The cast of Overwatch 2 engage in battle Image: Blizzard Entertainment

Overwatch 2 will be free to play, but you have to pay your way into the original Overwatch. Unfortunately, you can no longer buy vanilla Overwatch from the store. Instead you’ll need to buy the Overwatch 2 Watchpoint Pack ($39.99), which comes with a small collection of goodies:

  • 2 Legendary hero skins for Soldier: 76 and Cassidy
  • 2,000 Coins (enough to buy the new premium battle pass)
  • An exclusive player icon
  • Overwatch Legendary Edition (which comes with a bunch of skins)

This last entry, the original Overwatch, is what we’re interested in for this guide.

If you get this pack, you can install Overwatch and play a match or two, and that will automatically flag your account as a veteran before Overwatch 2 comes out on Tuesday. Then, when you log in to the new game, you’ll already have all the characters unlocked, including Junker Queen, Sojourn, and Kiriko (assuming you buy the premium battle pass).

The problem with this solution is you must choose between missing out on access to 19 characters or 40 bucks, which is pretty steep for a game that’s otherwise free. This is especially frustrating if the entire reason you skipped the first Overwatch to begin with was because you didn’t want to spend money on it.

However, there is one other way to get you into Overwatch before Oct. 4: GameStop. Well, not GameStop specifically, but pre-owned copies of the game. You can get a used copy of the original Overwatch on the PS4 or Xbox One for about $10. If you have a local store you can grab it from — or even a friend who will let you borrow their soon-to-be defunct disc — you can save some serious cash and still flag your account as a veteran.

Note: It’s currently unclear if buying the Watchpoint Pack after Overwatch 2’s launch will instantly unlock all the characters or not. We’ve reached out to Blizzard for clarification.

Why is this account lock for new players so frustrating?

Kiriko throws Healing Ofuda at Genji in Overwatch 2 Image: Blizzard Entertainment

Blizzard says that the restriction on new player accounts is designed to make Overwatch feel less overwhelming for new players, which is fair. However, the problem is less that Blizzard is locking these characters and more that players have no way to opt out, or display mastery that proves they’re worthy of wielding more complex heroes early on.

If someone who is new to shooters jumps into Overwatch 2 because it’s free and fun, then it absolutely makes sense that Blizzard would want to help ease that person in. However, if the new player is coming from a game like League of Legends, which has 150-plus characters to learn and understand, they probably won’t need the same level of help. It’s like someone telling an adult that they need training wheels — just like the toddlers do — to learn how to ride a bicycle, even if they’ve been driving a motorcycle for a decade.

Players of all skill levels, whether they want to or not, will need to play “about 100 matches” to unlock every hero from the original roster. And in a game all about cool-looking characters that can do flashy things, and combining abilities together, that restriction sucks.

So, if you can, get in there and become a veteran Overwatch player this weekend before Blizzard locks you out of some of the coolest characters in the game. If you’re not ready for Wrecking Ball or Echo, that’s OK! You don’t need to play them until you’re ready. But at least this way, you’ll be able to dip your toes into more complex waters on your terms, rather than Blizzard’s.

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