There have been rumors floating around recently that Overwatch players wouldn't be able to play ranked until they've unlocked all of the playable characters. However, it turns out that Activision Blizzard are instead locking newly released heroes from competitive play until two weeks after their release.
These rumors started up after many fans became increasingly skeptical of Overwatch's transition into a free-to-play mode. Since the original Overwatch focused so much on character counter-picks, having a system where not every player would own every character seemed like a recipe for disaster. It seems, though, that the Overwatch developers have heard that criticism and are planning on balancing the game differently for Overwatch 2 as a result.
In their most recent blog post, Activision Blizzard revealed:
"As we build new heroes and balance the existing cast for our new 5v5 PvP experience, we have shifted our hero design approach to allow you to have an impact on your matches with a range of different heroes and strategies. This means reducing the presence of specific hard counters to heroes."
Instead of locking players from ranked mode, Activision Blizzard are instead making it so new characters are unable to be played in ranked immediately after they come out. According to Activision Blizzard:
"The purpose here is two-fold: our team will take this time to monitor and tune new the new heroes' performance while players learn how new heroes play; and it gives players some additional time to unlock the new hero before they become available in Competitive modes."
Given that new heroes will be unlocked using the battle pass system, it makes sense to delay their introduction into competitive play until a larger number of the player base has the character available at their disposal.