What you need to know
- Overwatch 2 Game Director Aaron Keller has announced in a new blog post that the game's map pools will be removed in Season 4 (expected to go live in April 2023).
- While map pools were intended to promote "seasonal identity" and make each season feel fresh, players have criticized them for reducing gameplay variety. Developer Blizzard ultimately agrees.
- Map pools may come back in the future when Overwatch 2 has more maps, though if they do, maps will likely rotate in and out of the pools much faster.
While the changes made to Overwatch's gameplay structure in Overwatch 2 have generally been met with positive feedback, one new feature has proven to be very controversial: map pools. Since the game launched in late 2022, its nine-week seasons have rotated several maps in and out of both casual and competitive matchmaking.
Developer Blizzard Entertainment's goal with map pools has been to promote "seasonal identity" and to make each season feel fresh to play, while also increasing the chance that matches will take place on newer maps. However, players have been near-unanimously critical of the Overwatch 2 map pool system since its introduction, arguing that the game doesn't have enough stages for an approach like this and that the loss of variety significantly overshadows any feelings of seasonal identity. In a new blog post, Overwatch 2 Game Director Aaron Keller has revealed that Blizzard agrees, and is removing map pools in Season 4 (expected to arrive in April 2023).
"Map Pools are going away starting in Season 4. We aimed to provide a bit of freshness each season and concentrate the number of maps that people were playing, however player sentiment around map pools was pretty low, the map roster doesn’t have enough maps where we truly need them, and the impact they had on seasonal identity was fairly low," Keller wrote. "Additionally, the cadence for maps leaving and returning to the pool didn’t align with the time it took to make changes to the maps. Gibraltar was supposed to return in Season 4 but the playtesting and iteration we were doing for the map started calling that deadline into question."
Notably, Keller added that in the far future, map pools may come back when Overwatch 2 has a larger selection of maps. However, if they do return, they'll rotate in and out much more frequently.
"There’s the possibility that we bring map pools back in the far future when we have a lot more maps in the game," he said. "If we were to bring them back, they would probably rotate at a faster rate, potentially every week. If you hate this idea, set a reminder for 2 years from now and let us know!"
Keller also mentioned that the developers are looking to address feedback that the same Push maps come up too often. The matchmaker currently tries to make sure players don't play the same maps and modes too often, and since Push is a new mode with few maps, players often end up playing on stages repeatedly whenever the matchmaker opts for a Push game. Blizzard is also working on solving the issue of players getting "spawn trapped" when they respawn right before their nearby objective is captured, and plans to make gameplay challenges less event-focused during limited-time advents, too.
Overwatch 2 Season 3 is releasing on February 7, and the game as a whole is available now on Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC, PS5, PS4, and Nintendo Switch. It's arguably one of the best Xbox shooters available, and since it's free-to-play, it doesn't cost anything to check it out. Alternatively, there's the Overwatch 2: Watchpoint Pack that provides access to a Premium Battle Pass, in-game currency, and more.
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