During and following each Halloween Terror and Archives event, there’s a noticeable quantity of players requesting that Blizzard implement a permanent player versus environment mode. Indeed, the PvE events get the most play, and many gamers cite them as their favorites. There are a few reasons it seems unlikely to happen soon, however.
“Playlist saturation” is the most prominent factor. This term refers to the fact that when online games have a large number of playlists to search for games in, gamers tend to congregate to a few and leave others entirely unpopulated. The “Hardcore” modes in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and the “Team Objective” playlists in the Halo series are two examples.
Blizzard communicates with other developers, and they seem to be painfully aware of this phenomenon and they’ve played it safe with Overwatch ever since its release. Initially, the game only had a quick play, the weekly brawl, play mode versus AI of several difficulties, and competitive seasons, which had week-long offseasons in those days.
A few months in, they introduced the Arcade mode we’re all familiar with now, expanding the number of playlists. Ever picked one and been left searching for over five minutes? That’s a sign that Overwatch’s player-base, large as it may be, is being stretched a bit thin. Every time Blizzard runs a PvE brawl, it adds not one, but four playlists due to the varying difficulty levels.
While the developer implements achievements as an incentive to play different difficulties, there’s a notable dip in player traffic two weeks into both Halloween Terror and Archives. People gravitate toward Legendary to try and earn the most difficult achievement, or Easy for quick wins. Normal and Expert, meanwhile, tend to have longer search times.
If wait times steadily increase for PvE modes only two weeks into a limited-time event, imagine how long the wait would be for a match if Overwatch received a permanent PvE game. Blizzard would have to cut down on the number of difficulty levels to accommodate this issue, at least.
Still, it’s evident that Blizzard is gradually embracing the success of their PvE events. While the Anniversary event last year introduced elimination modes, this year they’re cycling all of their limited-time event games in a brawl slot that changes daily. The schedule is being updated every week, and PvE modes have been receiving three out of seven of the days.
By doing this, and it’s doubtful it’ll be the last time they do, Blizzard is cutting down on the time between PvE events. While they may never introduce a permanent mode, the developer is at least shortening the time Overwatch players must wait to play those modes again.
Blizzard has never been a developer to shy away from analytics, so it seems especially likely Overwatch’s second anniversary is being utilized to gather data on which of their modes are most popular. Using data, they can better choose what to do with future events to attract the maximum number of players.
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The take away from all this? If you like the game’s PvE events, be sure to log some hours on them on the days that the Anniversary event features PvE modes. Blizzard may be charitable, but the studio obviously aims to make money, so if featuring their PvE modes results in increased player time investment and loot box purchases, it’s likely they’ll choose to expand upon that facet of Overwatch.
Cover photo courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment