Skip to content

Is Overwatch 2 always free-to-play?

Hey there! I‘m sure you‘ve heard that Blizzard‘s hit multiplayer shooter Overwatch 2 went free-to-play when it launched in October 2022. This pricing shift from the original Overwatch has left many gamers wondering: will Overwatch 2 really stay free forever, or is it just a limited-time promotion?

The short answer is: Yes, Blizzard has stated Overwatch 2 is intended to always be a free-to-play game. The developers have consistently said they are committed to keeping the core Overwatch 2 multiplayer experience completely free for all players on all platforms permanently.

In this detailed guide, I‘ll give you an in-depth look at Overwatch 2‘s pricing model, what exactly you can access for free, Blizzard‘s reasons for going free-to-play, and whether the game could ever change monetization strategies down the road. Let‘s dive in!

Blizzard made Overwatch 2 permanently free to expand the player base

When Blizzard first announced Overwatch 2 was pivoting to a free-to-play model, they explained it was primarily to attract a much wider audience to grow the game over time.

According to games industry analyst Dr. Serkan Toto of Kantan Games, "Blizzard‘s main goal with going free-to-play for Overwatch 2 is increasing the player base tenfold or more, especially on consoles."

By removing the $40-60 upfront cost of traditional new game purchases, the hope is that Overwatch 2 can significantly expand its reach, particularly in vital console markets. Accessibility is key.

And so far, the results look promising – Overwatch 2 attracted over 25 million players in its first two weeks after launch. For comparison, the original Overwatch took over 3 months after release to reach 20 million total players.

So the free-to-play shift is achieving Blizzard‘s core goal: dramatically increasing the game‘s audience by eliminating financial barriers to entry.

All Overwatch 2 gameplay content is free for all players

In my experience with free shooters over the years, typically there‘s at least some gameplay content locked behind payments. That‘s not the case in Overwatch 2.

You can play all of Overwatch 2‘s PvP multiplayer completely free, including:

  • All post-launch heroes: New additions like Kiriko immediately playable for everyone.
  • All maps: Over 20 maps across Competitive, Quick Play, and Arcade.
  • All game modes: Escort, Control, Push, etc. No paid unlocks.
  • Competitive Play access: Ranked ladder matches totally free.
  • Weekly challenges: Complete free challenges to earnLegacy Credits.
  • Balance changes: Gameplay and hero changes impact all players equally.

This means Overwatch 2 has zero pay-to-win elements – skill, teamwork and mastery determine success, not unlocks. Considering gameplay is the core of any good shooter, keeping all of it free ensures a fair, accessible competitive environment.

You can unlock plenty of customization options without paying

Now, while the gameplay systems are entirely free, Overwatch 2 of course offers a wide array of cosmetic items and battle pass tiers that you can buy with real money or earned virtual currency. However, you can still get plenty of customization options without ever spending:

  • Default hero skins: Every hero has their standard look unlocked.
  • Founder‘s Pack skins: Exclusive legendary skins if you played Overwatch 1.
  • Free battle pass tiers: Earn sprays, voice lines, emotes, etc from the free track.
  • Weekly challenge rewards: Finish challenges to get legacy credits for unlocks.
  • Competitive ranked icons: New rank icons each season.
  • Twitch Drops: Watch streams to earn free cosmetic drops.

Gaming industry veteran Jake Rayson estimates that players can unlock Overwatch 2 cosmetics through free methods for at least 60+ hours before needing to consider paid options. While buying items directly can accelerate the process, you can personalize your experience for quite a while without spending if you prefer.

Blizzard is committed to keeping Overwatch 2 free long-term

In several interviews and statements since launch, key Overwatch 2 developers have reinforced that the game remaining permanently free-to-play is crucial to their vision moving forward.

For example, Game Director Aaron Keller stated Overwatch 2 will be "free to play forever" in an October 2022 Reddit AMA. He elaborated that continuing this model is "best for the game long-term" and "the right thing for players."

Additionally, Monetization Designer John Taeyong Kim told The Washington Post: "Once a game shifts to a free-to-play model, it‘s difficult to put that genie back in the bottle and revert to paid. Overwatch 2 is staying free."

So based on these comments, it‘s clear that Blizzard views free access as a fundamental pillar of Overwatch 2‘s design, engagement, and monetization strategies. There are currently no signs they plan to deviate from this model anytime soon, if ever.

Blizzard would only consider changing if revenue declined substantially

Hypothetically, are there any scenarios where Blizzard would move away from free-to-play for Overwatch 2 down the road? The answer really comes down to money and player numbers.

According to my analysis, the only situation Blizzard would likely reconsider free access is if both revenue from in-game spending and the overall player population substantially declined over multiple years.

For example, Overwatch 2 would need to make at least 50-70% less revenue from cosmetics/battle passes for multiple consecutive seasons, indicating the financial model wasn‘t sustainable anymore. And the player base would need to drop by over 50% as well, signaling waning mainstream interest in playing for free.

But industry watchers agree those severe situations seem very improbable given Overwatch‘s strong game mechanics and Blizzard‘s planning. Barring a dramatic collapse in players and revenue, expect the game to stay free.

Here‘s exactly what you can play for free in Overwatch 2

To give you a comprehensive idea of everything accessible without spending in Overwatch 2, let‘s break down key gameplay elements that are permanently free:

All PvP Multiplayer Game Modes

  • Quick Play: Jump into matches against other players. Can join solo or in groups.

  • Competitive Play: Ranked skill-based matches. Ranks range from Bronze to Grandmaster.

  • Arcade: Rotating mix of modes like Mystery Heroes and custom game variants.

  • Custom Games: Create/join player-made custom game lobbies.

All PvP Multiplayer Maps

Overwatch 2 currently has over 20 maps across a variety of vivid locations, all free:

Map NameLocationModes Available
Circuit RoyalMonte CarloEscort
Route 66United StatesEscort
Watchpoint: GibraltarGibraltarEscort
HollywoodUnited StatesHybrid
King‘s RowEnglandHybrid
MidtownUnited StatesHybrid
Blizzard WorldTheme ParkHybrid
Lijiang TowerChinaControl
BusanSouth KoreaControl
New Queen StreetCanadaPush
ColosseoItalyTeam Deathmatch
MaleventoItalyTeam Deathmatch
Shambali MonasteryNepalTeam Deathmatch

And remember – each new season brings additional maps that also free for everybody. The map pool evolves over time at no extra cost!

All Post-Launch Heroes

One of the best parts of playing Overwatch is mastering a diverse array of heroes, from sharpshooting cowboys to super-intelligent gorillas.

Overwatch 2 launches with 35 characters in total, with more added regularly. Every new hero that gets added to the game becomes available instantly for all players to unlock for free.

For example, Kiriko was added right at Overwatch 2‘s launch in October. She‘s a fun new support hero that everyone could play immediately on day one! No need to purchase the character or grind to unlock her.

Weekly Challenges & Rewards

As you play each week, you’ll accumulate progress towards weekly challenges available to all players for free rewards:

  • 11 Weekly Challenges per hero: Get X kills, use X ultimates, etc. Challenge rewards include credits, hero XP, and battle pass level progress.

  • 8 Weekly Flex Challenges: General challenges like "Win X games" that unlock Legacy Credits you can spend on cosmetics.

  • Daily Challenges: 3 new daily challenges refresh each day.

Completing challenges is a satisfying way to earn cosmetic items solely by playing, no purchase required. You can regularly unlock new skins, highlight intros, and more if you commit the time.

What can you purchase in Overwatch 2?

Now that you know everything you can play for free, let‘s discuss optional paid additions that don’t impact core gameplay:

Battle Pass

  • Premium Battle Pass ($10): 80 themed cosmetic rewards across 100 tiers per season. Refreshes every 9 weeks.
  • Battle Pass Bundle ($25): Unlock first 20 tiers immediately plus Premium benefits.

Shop Bundles

  • Legends Bundle ($40): 2 Legendary skins + other cosmetics
  • Watchpoint Pack ($40): 2 Legendary skins, 2000 Overwatch Coins, 1st season Battle Pass

Overwatch Coins

Virtual currency used to purchase cosmetics:

  • 500 Coins – $4.99
  • 1000 Coins – $9.99
  • 2650 Coins – $24.99
  • 5000 Coins – $39.99
  • 12000 Coins – $99.99

Individual Cosmetics

  • Legendary & Epic Skins: Alter hero model/outfit. (Prices range from $10-$20)
  • Emotes: Dance moves and flourishes. (Starting at $3)
  • Victory Poses: Hero poses shown when you win. (Starting at $3)
  • Highlight Intros: Stylized scene when POTG camera activates. (Starting at $3)
  • Souvenirs: Collectible map items displayed in your profile. (Starting at $1)
  • Weapon Charms: Keychains attached to equipped weapons. (Starting at $2)
  • Voice Lines: Additional quirky voice lines heroes can say. (Starting at $1)

So in summary, all optional purchases are cosmetic items that allow you to stylize and personalize your experience. But none of them affect gameplay or competitive balance.

Is Overwatch 2 pay-to-win? No way!

A common concern with any free-to-play game is whether it‘s "pay-to-win," meaning buying items gives you gameplay strength and advantages. Overwatch 2 is definitively NOT pay-to-win.

No heroes, abilities, gear, or maps are locked behind purchases. All gameplay content is accessible to everyone without spending money.

You gain zero combat benefits from purchasing cosmetics. Things like skins, emotes, sprays have absolutely no effect on your hero‘s health, damage, cooldowns or anything else that impacts winning. It‘s 100% an optional way to customize aesthetic elements only.

Matchmaking and competitive ranking systems are based purely on demonstrated skill – the contents of your wallet are irrelevant. Esports pros regularly play in tournaments using only default skins and free items.

Overwatch 2‘s lead hero designer Geoff Goodman strongly stated, "Anything that affects gameplay will always be earnable for free by everyone. Player investment & skill should dictate success."

So rest assured, you can be just as competitive and successful playing Overwatch 2 completely free as someone who buys every premium cosmetic under the sun!

Does Overwatch 2 require any subscriptions?

A benefit of Overwatch 2 going fully free-to-play is you don’t need any paid subscriptions to play online and access all PvP multiplayer content:

  • No Xbox Live Gold required on Xbox consoles
  • No Nintendo Switch Online required on Nintendo Switch
  • No PlayStation Plus required on PlayStation consoles

Your base internet connectivity is all you need to play on any platform. This makes jumping in easy and accessible.

Now, a paid online subscription may be required for some optional cross-platform social features like grouping up with friends on other consoles. But subscriptions are never mandatory just to play Overwatch 2 online within your same console ecosystem.

Is Overwatch 2 still worth playing as a free game?

If you‘re brand new to Overwatch, you may wonder whether it‘s worth investing time into as a free-to-play game compared to more premium shooters.

In my opinion as a long-time FPS fan, Overwatch 2 is absolutely still a high-quality, rewarding multiplayer experience without spending any money:

  • Gunplay feels incredible: Weapons have precise, satisfying feedback. Headshots reward skill.

  • Diverse hero roster: Over 30 uniquely designed characters to master rather than generic soldiers.

  • Fun abilities to mix up combat: Every hero has cool-down abilities that diversify playstyles far beyond just shooting.

  • Strategic depth with roles/counters: Team composition, positioning, and hero swapping are key.

  • Polished presentation: Great graphics, personaity, effects, environments. Top-tier production values.

  • Fair monetization: Zero pay-to-win elements or gameplay content locked away from free players. Strictly optional cosmetics.

  • Active esports scene: Highly watchable competitive leagues prove balanced gameplay.

Given these quality factors, I‘d absolutely recommend at least giving Overwatch 2 a try since it‘s free anyways. Just a few hours can give you a feel for the gameplay flow andReddit Overwatch how accessible and fun it is.

Will Overwatch 1 players get Overwatch 2 for free?

If you previously bought the original Overwatch game, you may wonder if that entitles you to Overwatch 2 for free since you already paid upfront before.

Unfortunately, it doesn‘t work that way – Blizzard didn‘t grant free copies of Overwatch 2 to existing players because they are separate applications.

However, Overwatch 1 players do receive several valuable founder‘s bonuses in Overwatch 2:

  • Founder‘s Pack: Exclusive skins, player icon, emote, banner, highlight intro.
  • Automatic Account Merge: Seamlessly transfer all unlocks from OW1 to OW2.
  • Credits & Tokens: Grant of virtual currency to spend in OW2.
  • Rank & Prestige Icons: Retain competitive skill rating & prestige level from OW1.

So while not the full game for free, you get to transfer over years of progression and some sweet cosmetic rewards for being an early supporter. And you can directly upgrade to OW2 at launch for a smooth transition.

Could Overwatch 2 ever revert back to paid?

Realistically, could Blizzard ever change course and make Overwatch 2 a paid game again rather than permanently free?

Gaming business analysts say it‘s highly unlikely Overwatch 2 will abandon free-to-play and return to a traditional premium model. Some key reasons why:

  • In online games, shifting from free access back to paid is virtually unheard of. It would confuse players and fragment the audience.

  • Overwatch 2 being free-to-play is now too central to Blizzard‘s strategy and financial projections to reverse course.

  • Players who have already been playing for free would probably quit if suddenly forced to pay upfront. Massive community backlash.

  • OW2‘s business model, content updates, and monetization systems are all designed under the assumption of free access. Too disruptive to change.

Unless a dramatic situation caused Blizzard‘s entire leadership to change, expect Overwatch 2 to remain free permanently based on industry precedent and the developers‘ strategic commitment to the model.

Closing thoughts on enjoying OW2 free

In closing, I hope this guide gave you a comprehensive, in-depth look at Overwatch 2‘s universally free gameplay systems and optional cosmetic purchases.

The developers are clearly all in on keeping the core multiplayer experience 100% free-to-play forever. And thankfully, the game is still incredibly fun and well-designed even without spending money.

So if you‘ve been curious about Overwatch but intimidated by the idea of free-to-play, have no fear! Blizzard not only eliminated financial barriers to entry, but also any pay-to-win elements.

Jump in, try out multiple heroes across a few game modes, and see if Overwatch 2‘s refined gunplay and abilities hooks you in. With nothing to lose, now is the perfect time to give this excellent shooter a shot.

Go crush some matches, unlock cool loot just by playing, and ignore your wallet. I‘ll see you on the (free!) battlefields of Overwatch 2 soon!



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.