During a livestream discussing new PvP content for upcoming Overwatch 2, Blizzard’s team of developers lead by Aaron Keller dropped a juicy bit of information on the sequel: the game would reduce down the total number of players on a team from six to five. The reduction in force would come to the Tank role, meaning teams will consist of two DPS, two Support, and one Tank in Overwatch 2 (and presumable Overwatch 1 if they’re still going forward with matching that game’s PvP with that of the sequel).
This is naturally a very divisive topic. As players we’ve been used to 6v6 since the game’s beginning. Despite changes to how we choose characters (role lock wasn’t always a thing, and neither was picking just one of a character), the game as we know and love today is sitting fairly nicely in the 2-2-2 meta. Removing a tank, or really any player from the total number on a team, is a very large change. The decision to do so was to line up with the play style the game has to offer, and as one of the ongoing efforts to balance the game’s multiple heroes.
Initial thoughts to the change were mixed. Pro players to casuals alike were all over the board. Many cited the pressure they would now feel being the only tank on a team. Others were excited to see how the reworks for existing characters would make them viable as the only tank on the team. I got the sense the community largely saw this upcoming change as a “Nerf” to the Tank role as a whole. It’s hard to not see this: classic combos we’ve grown to love (Hello Rein-Zarya!) are no longer an option once this change goes through. Players have spent 5 years learning to play the game a specific way, and with the release of Overwatch 2, that will have to change yet again.
As a Tank player on consoles, and only in the Platinum rank, I can say personally I’m exited for this change. I hear all the criticisms folks are saying, and can absolutely validate them. Winston will not be the same to play if he doesn’t have some other tank to aid him in his jumps. If your team isn’t running a shield tank and the enemy has a Widowmaker, you’re probably going to have a bad time. The aforementioned combos and strategies that helped the two tanks synergize in the past will not longer be available to help win maps. However, with all this in mind, I still see this change with optimism.
For months, if not years, I’ve felt the tank role was played more like a beefy DPS. Roadhog, for example, could jump in the front line and decimate some squishies, kind of like a Reaper or Echo would. Reinhardt would hold the front line, but also dole out tons of damage swinging that hammer into groups of enemies. Moving to one Tank and reapproaching how they play given their new status makes me excited to see my familiar favorites. You’re telling me my boy Reinhardt can get two firestrikes, and can deal more damage? I’m game!
I listened to one’s argument about this switch, and they mentioned even if a tank player was in the right place and doing the right thing, they might still die do to a lack of follow-up from your team, or incredibly good plays from the opponents. They made a point that moving to one Tank will make this even more unfair and difficult for a Tank player to manage. I wholeheartedly disagree. If you’re on a team (with two or one tank), and you cannot push through the enemy line, cap the point, what have you… the problem might not be with your teams skill and positioning, but rather your heroes selected. As a Rein player, I can be in the front for me team, using cover and providing shields, and absolutely in the right place. But if the enemy is just ripping through my shield, destroying our flanking Genji, and getting shots on our Support backline, maybe we’re running the wrong composition. Or maybe the team we’re playing is making better plays. As a Tank (or any role) in Overwatch, just because you’re in the right place, or shooting the right thing, it doesn’t mean you automatically get to win. This is a competitive game: if you are outplayed, out-sniped, or just downright stomped by the opponent, you have the option to adapt, change your role, and go into the situation from a different perspective.
I am treating the move to 5v5 as a sort of patch change. Like with any other changes to the game, it takes some times to adjust and get used to the new features. When Rein lost a few hundred health off his shield, for example, it took me a few games to get my timing down on pokes and when to drop my shield. I feel the same will happen with the role reduction. I know I can’t charge in and get bubbled by Zarya. How long it will take me and other players to learn that is subjective, but a necessary alteration to the fundamental way the game has been played we’ll all need to accept. Like with so many other patches and nerfs/buffs before, the changes to Overwatch 2 will just take some time adapt and work into your own personal play style.
Lastly, and as with every change we’ve seen, the game can always be changed again. Do I think the game will go back to 6v6 once it’s moved to 5v5? No, I don’t . I really hope Blizzard is structuring the PvP elements of Overwatch 2 around the 5v5 team comps, meaning the game will be balanced assuming 5 players are on each time. However, if something seems off with a tank in this new format, they can always be patched. Blizzard has been doing this since day one of Overwatch: balance patches are common and to be expected with any competitive video game. I do not see why players would reject the idea of a large gameplay change if it means more fun, more balanced gameplay overall. And even if there is pushback, the issue can always (and will) be addressed by the developers in a future update.
I’ve written about Overwatch multiple times on this blog, and I’ve said this before: Blizzard can take all the time they need to create a fun video game. If that means delays and waiting longer, so be it. While I would want the game sooner rather than later, if waiting means we’re given a game that one-ups the original and is an absolute blast to play, I am more than happy waiting. The change to 5v5 will absolutely be game changing, too. And I’m here for it. I want to see what the Overwatch team can come up with for this new type of game. And I want another reason to continue playing the game I’ve been loving for years now. Only time will tell what the future of Overwatch will bring.