A worldwide phenomenon, Overwatch combines tight team-based shooting with lovable, culturally diverse characters and a rich world full of ever-expanding lore. Three years since its release, Overwatch shows no signs of slowing down, with its player base continuing to grow and its community continuing to shower it with praise and support. After changing the first-person shooter landscape, Blizzard is looking to follow that success with the release of Overwatch 2. If you’re still not on the Overwatch train, it’s time to change that with these 42 action-packed facts!
1. A Little On-The-Nose
There are a lot of cool characters to choose from in Overwatch, with one favorite being Pharah, the rocket-launcher wielding warrior queen. Before landing on the name Pharah, though, Blizzard nearly went with Rocket Queen. Might be a little on-the-nose there, Blizzard.
2. From the Ashes
Overwatch may have never existed without its canceled predecessor Titan, a massively multiplayer online game that Blizzard had in development for seven years. It wasn’t all a loss though: the company took inspiration from Titan’s setting and narrative for Overwatch, making sure not to waste those seven years of work.
App developers Innovis Labs were already using the name “Overwatch” for a phone game at the time that Blizzard started developing its online shooter. The gaming giant had to negotiate with Innovis Labs to secure the trademark. The process probably involved a fat paycheck from Blizzard, so I’m sure there’s no bad blood.
4. No Escape from Murlocs
World of Warcraft players have spent many hours killing Murlocs, so reactions were probably mixed when they saw the Murloc Easter egg in Overwatch’s Hanamura level. The frog-like creature appears on a can of soup in the stage and makes the iconic Murloc gargle when you shoot it.
5. Hitting the Beer
Any time a shot hits another player, the sound you’re hearing is a beer bottle opening in reverse!
6. Swapping Genders
Tracer might be the most well-known playable character in Overwatch, but she was originally designed as a man. In Titan, there was to be a male character class called “Jumper” who had nearly an identical moveset to Tracer.
7. Well Meme’d
Overwatch has inspired a number of memes. Users on TikTok popularized the “I’m Already Tracer” meme, which saw TikTokers singing a back-and-forth song that depicts a fight over which character they get to be. It was a pretty weird one.
8. (Un)Familiar Voice
Bastion is one of the playable robot characters featured in Overwatch. He is voiced by Blizzard artist, designer, and regular voice actor Chris Metzen, albeit heavily edited. He has voiced Thrall in Warcraft and the Marines in StarCraft, but Bastion’s boops and beeps are pure Metzen as well.
9. Diversity Everywhere
Overwatch features over 7,000 lines of recorded dialogue, an impressive amount for a competitive shooter. And that’s not even considering the 12 languages in which these lines are recorded, bringing the total to a whopping 84,000!
10. A Lesson in Empowerment
Blizzard wanted to avoid sexualizing their female characters with Overwatch and pledged to represent a diverse range of female body types in the game. Since initial promotional material for the game showed characters like Tracer and Widowmaker, who are both thin and clad in skintight leotards, many writers expressed doubt that Blizzard would follow through with the promise.
11. Achieving True Empowerment
To combat controversy, Overwatch introduced Zarya, a muscular-bodied female hero. They also changed one of Tracer’s original victory poses, an over-the-shoulder gaze that showed off her behind a little too much. Good on you, gang!
12. The Loot Box Problem
Nobody likes loot boxes, the randomized rewards system that allows players to spend money to try and get in-game prizes, and Overwatch came under investigation by the Belgian Gaming Commission for including them. The investigation was to determine whether loot boxes are a form of gambling (spoiler-alert: they are). Since then, much of Europe and China deem loot boxes illegal, and Overwatch had to change how they work by revealing the exact odds of winning items in their boxes.
13. Something New
Blizzard had been riding their pre-established franchises Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo for years before Overwatch came out. Overwatch is their first new IP in 17 years!
14. More of a Good Thing
On November 1, 2019, Blizzard announced Overwatch 2! It’ll feature new characters, maps, and even a story mode this time around, something missing from the first game.
15. An Inclusive Sequel
Despite being a new game, players of the first Overwatch will still get access to the new characters and game modes in the sequel. Everything beyond that will be exclusive to Overwatch 2, however.
Overwatch has received plenty of praise for its control customization. The best of this came from a young player with cerebral palsy, who was able to make his first snipe shot because of the customizability.
17. You Gotta Pump Up Those Numbers
At the time of writing, Overwatch touts over 40-million registered players, a number that just keeps rising, and the release of Overwatch 2 is sure to only make that number skyrocket further. Who knows where this smash-hit franchise is going to go next?
18. Let Art Live
Overwatch fans love making fan art of the game. Blizzard fully supports this and released a reference kit for the heroes to help artists perfect their craft. This has lead to highly detailed cosplays and art!
There’s also a lot of…less savory art out there based on Overwatch. One popular adult website saw an 817% spike in the search term “Overwatch” upon launch of the beta. So much for avoiding objectification.
20. GOTY Gold
Overwatch has won its fair share of acclaim since release, including 102 Game of the Year awards!
21. Watch Where You Step
Each character in the game has unique sounding footsteps, a detail not many other games can boast. Diehard players use this to their advantage by memorizing the sounds so they know exactly who might be sneaking up on them and how to deal with it!
22. The Horde Lives
Among the hieroglyphs in the Temple of Anubis map is a Horde crest, a reference to World of Warcraft.
23. Getting Meta
The character D.Va (pronounced Diva) is a heavy who utilizes a mech-suit for combat. She is also a pro gamer. Her game of choice? StarCraft 2. The lore says she was actually a world-famous StarCraft professional before retiring to protect her homeland of Korea. As it turns out, the skills that she honed as a pro gamer made her amazing at controlling her enormous, robotic battle suit.
See mom? I told you all my gaming was going to pay off someday!
24. Good-Guy Blizzard Strikes Again
Blizzard managed to raise over $12 million for breast cancer research through a special promotion where they sold a pink costume for Overwatch’s medic character, Mercy.
25. There’s a Plot?
Despite not having a campaign, Overwatch has a deep story and lore behind it. The game is set 60 years in the future on Earth during a golden age of technological prosperity. In this future, people create AI called “Omnics” who effectively surpass humans and seek world domination. To combat this threat, the UN created Overwatch, a team of heroes whose sole purpose was to combat the Omnic threat.
26. Overwatch 2 For Everyone!
Some fans were worried that Overwatch 2 might not be available on the Nintendo Switch upon release. After all, the first Overwatch came to the console very late, and the Switch is far less powerful than its other counterparts. Well, fret not Nintendo fans, Blizzard has since confirmed that Overwatch 2 will be coming to PC and all consoles, including the Switch.
27. Tie-Ins Galore
Overwatch has spawned a lot of tie-in media to help expand its backstory, including animated shorts and digital comics available through the Overwatch website. These delve deeper into individual characters and how they fit into the world.
Ever since the game’s release, fans debated about Tracer’s orientation—because what else is there to do on the internet? The debate was settled in Tracer’s digital comic, “Reflections,” where Blizzard revealed that the time-warping hero is a lesbian.
29. Pixar, Please
Jeff Kaplan, the creator of Overwatch, has high hopes for the future of the franchise. He stated in an interview that he would love to expand the series with a TV series or movie. Please let it be animated!
Occasionally, the cowboy character McCree will say, “You seem familiar, have I killed you before?” Fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise might notice this Easter egg as a reference to Captain Jack Sparrow, who says a few times in the franchise, “You seem familiar. Have I threatened you before?”
31. Big Open Beta
Overwatch proved successful even before it actually launched. The open beta was released across consoles before the official launch and brought in over 9.7 million players, who played the game for over 81 million hours before it had even hit shelves. That’s a lot of people calling in sick from work!
32. Attack of the 15 Foot Tracer!
Overwatch’s success is partially thanks to the genius marketing team at Blizzard. One of their marketing stunts had the company create three 15-foot action figures (complete in box) and place them in Hollywood, South Korea, and Paris. Only one question remains: Where can I cop one of these things?
33. Thinking Physically
Physical copies of Overwatch were available for purchase a day before the release of the game. The game was still unplayable until the next day when servers went live, but Blizzard did this to give players time to install the game so they could jump right in the second the game became playable. How considerate!
34. Overwatch in the Storm
Blizzard loves throwing references to their other games across their properties. One of the best examples of this is Heroes of the Storm, a MOBA game that features characters and settings from all their games. It came out before Overwatch, but Blizzard added characters and items from the shooter shortly after the game’s release. Want to see Tracer face off against a Murloc on a Diablo map? Look no further than Heroes of the Storm.
35. Reading Overwatch
The game’s tie-ins continue to expand through publishing house Scholastic. In 2019, Blizzard announced that they were releasing a young adult book starring Efi Oladele, the young African inventor who created the playable robot Orisa. The book will be called The Hero of Numbani. Mm, that sweet, sweet lore.
36. Creating an Esport
While Overwatch was not explicitly built with esports in mind, the game has since been embraced by the competitive gaming world. The game’s first official tournament had a total prize pool of $300,000, and it’s now one of the most popular esports games of all time, with professional teams from cities all around the world competing in the Overwatch League. Who said you can’t make a living gaming?
37. Culturally Appropriate
The character Pharah has a few alternative outfits available, including a Native American headdress. This was met with some cries of cultural appropriation since Pharah was perceived as an Egyptian character. The creators, however, confirmed while her mother is Egyptian, her father was an indigenous man from the west coast of Canada. Dodged a bullet there! Or should that be a missile…
38. Overwatch Souls
If you look closely in the German map Eichenwalde, you’ll notice a sword stuck in a pile of ashes near one of the spawns. This is a reference to the bonfires used as checkpoints and healing points in Dark Souls, another wildly popular game franchise across consoles.
39. A Birst of Joy
When a young Overwatch fan drew her own character for the game, named Birst, Blizzard decided to make her dream come true. Overwatch artist Roman Kenney drew fully detailed concept art for the character and shared it with her and her father over Twitter to stellar reactions from the community. There’s a video of the girl reacting to the concept art and it’s adorable!
40. PvE Incoming
Since the original game is almost entirely player vs. player gameplay, one of the most anticipated additions to Overwatch 2 is the player vs. environment (PvE) modes. These modes see players facing off against hordes of AI-controlled enemies, and they’re sure to finally explore some of the game’s rich story with actual gameplay, rather than just cinematics and webcomics.
41. Loving Tribute
When Hongyu Wu, a 20-year-old fan who was eagerly anticipating the game’s full release, tragically passed on the day before Overwatch came out, Blizzard paid him tribute by adding his name to a spacesuit in the Lijang Tower map. Hongyu was attempting to stop a thief when he died, and right above the spacesuit bearing his name, you’ll find Mercy’s catchphrase in Chinese: “Heroes Never Die.”
42. Cat Kept in the Bag
There are a lot of heroes to play as in Overwatch, but there’s one hero that never made it off the cutting room floor. The hero was a cat in a jetpack that would paw at the controls occasionally. Why there isn’t a revolt to add this character back in I have no idea. Oh well, at least we got a hamster.