Overwatch 2's cross-play system is what every other multiplayer shooter needs

Overwatch 2 has avoided the pitfall that ruined Battlefield and Call of Duty by sticking to its guns.

Overwatch 2’s launch has been controversial, and I get why. Between placing new support character Kiriko on the far end of the free battle pass, the SMS Protect system Blizzard already removed, and the fact that the original Overwatch had to die for its sequel to live, the game has had a rocky start—and that’s without even mentioning the tragically DDoSed launch, the delay for its new PvE missions, and the bad feelings that playing competitive gives me.

Despite all that, I’ve been enjoying playing Overwatch 2. The sequel’s two main shifts—going from 6v6 to 5v5 and limiting role queue to just one tank—have completely changed the feel of the game for me, making it much more manageable and readable as a new player. It probably helps that I don’t have the same history with the original as my editors, but I think Overwatch 2 is currently doing exactly what Blizzard needed it to do, which is to get people talking about Overwatch again and bring in a big batch of new players while it’s at it.

Is Overwatch 2 going to drag the franchise to the top of the FPS genre like it’s 2016 again? Probably not, but I couldn’t care less about that, because I—an almost total noob—am having a blast right now. I have 35 characters to play as and master, a ton of maps to learn, and a multiplayer game that all my friends actually want to play. But the main thing about Overwatch 2 that makes me want to keep playing it, and one of the reasons I can continue to have fun with it even when I’m getting destroyed, is how it handles cross-play.

Sure, I prefer to play some games on PC, but when it comes to multiplayer FPS, I’m a console player through and through. While I dabbled in Counter-Strike: Source and Quake back in the day, my real love affairs with shooters have all been on console—namely the Halo, Battlefield, and Gears of War franchises. But over the last few years, an insidious virus has infected all of my favorite shooter games, making them pretty much unplayable for me. That virus is called cross-play, specifically PC and console cross-play.

I get why developers and publishers want to force cross-play into every game. They can keep servers full even when their games are underperforming (look at Halo Infinite and Battlefield 2042), and it gives them a feature to stamp on the back of the proverbial box. But when it comes to doing something that’s actually consumer-friendly, like letting console players team up with their PC friends, it’s almost always implemented in the worst possible way.

Instead of making cross-play opt-in or console-only, 2042, Infinite, Call of Duty: Warzone, Fortnite, and even Chivalry II practically force console players into unfair matchups against KBM warriors. Between the precision of mouse aim, the advanced movement options with keyboard, and the (generally) better performance of computers over consoles, playing against PC players just ends up being more frustrating and fun, to the point where I now actively avoid games that I would enjoy playing otherwise, and will continue to do so in the future. The funny thing is that not even PC players seem happy with being able to farm console peasants. Warzone players, for instance, make aim assist sound like aimbot and swear that it gives console noobs an unfair advantage. So if console players aren’t happy with cross-play, and PC players aren’t happy with cross-play, then why do developers keep forcing it on us?

That’s why, when Blizzard stood its ground against console players complaining that they didn’t get aim assist when cross-playing with PC, I stood up from my fart-covered, working-from-home gaming chair and applauded. The way that cross-play works in Overwatch 2 right now is exactly how it should work in every other game: There’s a console pool, a PC pool, and a mixed pool if a console player parties up with a PC player. Unless you’re a console player actively opting into playing with PC players, you won’t have to face them at all. But if you are a console player opting into a match against PC players, you will have to do so without aim assist to keep things “fair” for PC players.

When console players who wanted to play with their PC friends discovered that they couldn’t do so with aim assist, they made a stink. To that, I say, as a fellow console player, “Sorry, not sorry.”

Adding aim assist to PC lobbies would be a slippery slope to seeing full console-versus-PC cross-play. If console players seem okay with playing against PC players, they might accidentally, passively give Blizzard the go-ahead to say, Why not? And since not enough players will actually have the resolve to stop playing a game just because the developers have made a terrible decision for their quality of life, Overwatch 2 will just become another multiplayer experience ruined by cross-play. At least, that’s how the scenario plays out in my prone-to-catastrophizing, anxiety-addled brain.

The fact is, cross-play will never be “fair.” Developers can get aim assist and mouse aim as close as possible in a practical sense, but it will still be perceived as unfair no matter what they do. So far, Blizzard hasn’t indicated that it’s going to change how cross-play works, and that’s the best thing it can do if it wants to retain its console player base. Right now, not only is the game itself just fun to play, but it provides a safe haven for console players that want at least a marginally equitable playing field when they log on. Other multiplayer developers need to take note: Overwatch 2 is how you do cross-play.

Images: Blizzard

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