Blizzard’s next big game is coming this spring.
Overwatch, a team-based shooter that we’ve enjoyed our time with, launches for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on May 24. This will bring colorful, fast-paced gunplay to gamers across all three platforms. But you don’t have to wait until the end of May to get into the action, because publisher Blizzard is planning a beta that starts May 5 and runs through May 9. You can get even earlier access by preordering the game, and you’ll get an invite to join the beta on May 3 instead. The company is positioning Overwatch as its next major franchise, which is intended to take advantage of the hardcore audience that spends tens of billions of dollars across consoles and PC. And while Overwatch is a $60 release, Blizzard could also easily shift this game into a consistent revenue generator by releasing extra cosmetic items for weapons and characters like we’ve seen with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Team Fortress 2, and more.
Blizzard is in a transition period from relying primarily on its megasuccessful World of Warcraft subscription-based online game for income to spreading out its revenues across multiple products. It still has World of Warcraft, but now it is also seeing good returns from digital card battler Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and multiplayer online arena battler Heroes of the Storm. Overwatch is part of this effort to diversify. Unlike its other recent releases, this shooter is not free-to-play — but the company says it wants to ensure that everyone has access to all 21 characters. And an upfront price does not mean the publisher can’t sell microtransactions or switch to free-to-play at some point down the line.
This is also a new kind of release for the modern Blizzard. The company typically does not send out its games on PC and console at the same time. Diablo III, it’s only other recent Xbox One and PlayStation 4 game, debuted on those systems long after hitting PC. But releasing a shooter at full price almost demands a multiplatform strategy simply because of the spending levels of console gamers. This will maximize the game’s revenue, and that will help the company coast into supporting Overwatch with new content for the long term.