Blizzard's Overwatch 2 director responds as major upcoming change sends shockwaves through the community: "It was a mistake to talk about this lone change out of context"

Overwatch 2
(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

What you need to know

  • The Overwatch 2 community got a major shock recently when developer Blizzard announced plans to give tank and damage heroes self-healing in Season 9.
  • This will be a "modified, tuned-down version of the support self-healing passive," enabling tank and damage heroes to slowly heal after a few seconds of avoiding damage.
  • Many believe the change will be extremely detrimental, while others are cautiously optimistic. Originally, it was said that the adjustment was intended to give individual players more agency over their health and to alleviate the pressure on support players.
  • Game director Aaron Keller later clarified that the change is also part of a larger effort to tweak the impact of damage spikes, the ability to secure kills as a DPS, and the power of healing overall.

In case you haven't heard, the Overwatch 2 community recently got quite a shock after developer Blizzard announced a massive upcoming change to the team-based FPS' fundamental gameplay earlier this week. Game director Aaron Keller announced the studio's plan to implement a "modified, tuned-down version of the support self-healing passive" (you start healing if you don't take damage for two seconds) for tank and damage heroes in Season 9 in a blog post, and ever since, it's been hotly debated whether this is a good idea or not.

Players haven't appeared to reach a general consensus on how they feel about that yet, so the jury's still out. The majority of initial reactions to the change appeared overwhelmingly negative, with many concerned about a reduction to the importance of teamwork and healing from support heroes. However, lots of fans have since expressed cautious optimism and a willingness to give it a fair shake. The most-liked reply to Keller's post on the matter confidently asserts that the change "might be the worst idea ever," but more positive takes like this one from OW2 streamer GURU are doing numbers, too.

One thing everyone can agree on, though, is that this adjustment will have a major impact on the way Overwatch 2 feels to play — and as it turns out, that's exactly the type of effect Blizzard wants it, as well as other upcoming tweaks, to have. Keller made this clear in a response to all the community buzz, clarifying the reasoning behind the change and apologizing for not providing more context beforehand.

Aaron Keller's response on X (formerly Twitter). (Image credit: Windows Central)

"Clarifying a few things with the self-heal. It's one part of a much larger set of changes coming to the game in [Season 9]," he wrote on X (formerly Twitter). "Internally we're talking about, and targeting some of these changes at damage spikiness in game, the role of DPS in securing kills, and the strength of healing."

"It was a mistake to talk about this lone change out of context, since its a part of a much bigger set coming to Season 9," he continued. "Sorry for that, and I look forward to more discussion around [Season 9] balance changes when we drop more details."

This expands on Keller's explanation in his original blog post, where he noted that while Overwatch 2's gameplay is uniquely special and enjoyable when you've got a cohesive team, the experience can simply often be frustrating when players struggle or refuse to work together and instead play with more of an individual-oriented mindset. 

"In Overwatch, there is a constant tug of war between the power of a team and the power of an individual hero or player. A change like this shifts that balance a bit. This is something that we are constantly evaluating," he wrote in the post. "We still want Overwatch to be defined by team strategy and mechanics, but we feel this can be pulled back a bit now and possibly more in the future."

Overall, then, this change is intended to relax Overwatch's demand for teamwork a bit, while also contributing to a wider effort to lessen the impact of damage spikes, promote more aggressive DPS play, and tweak the power of healing overall. For now, that's all we know, though we're sure to learn more specific information from another post that's expected to be published "closer to the start of" Season 9, which is scheduled to begin on Feb. 20, 2024.

Analysis: An Overwatch paradigm shift

Hanzo, Lucio, and Cassidy escorting the objective robot in the Push game mode. (Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

Assuming Blizzard sticks with its plan and implements passive self-healing for tank and DPS heroes come Season 9, it will arguably be the largest balance change the game's gotten since launch. On top of that, it'll represent a paradigm shift for the hero shooter, kicking off a new era of Overwatch that enables more individualistic play and lessens how much you'll have to rely on your supports for healing.

On one hand, I totally see the appeal here — especially as someone who primarily plays tank. It can often feel impossible to get anything done when your supports aren't healing you enough, and aside from trying to get a health pack, all you can do is hope they give you some love before you have to contest the objective or go in for picks. With this passive, you'd be able to regenerate some health each time you duck out of combat, both giving you more agency over that resource and alleviating pressure on teammates. 

It'd allow supports to focus more on damage and utility, too, likely improving the viability of heroes like Lucio that get the most value when they're not focusing on healing. Then there's the ripple effects on the wider balance of the game to consider, also; as Keller hinted at in his clarification, self-healing is likely to make large spikes of damage less devastating and encourage DPS players to engage more actively.

On the other hand, Overwatch's strong emphasis on teamplay and coordination is a huge part of what makes it one of the best shooter games, and there's definitely a part of me that will be sad to see the needle shift towards empowering the individual. As Keller made clear, though, Blizzard is endeavoring to find the right balance between the strength of a team and the strength of each of its members — and hopefully with this adjustment, the developer nails the sweet spot.

Overwatch 2 is one of the best Xbox games and best PC games on the market for fans of multiplayer shooters, and it's available now for free on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Windows PC, PS5, and PS4. The Overwatch 2: Complete Hero Collection costs $20, and gives you instant access to every hero in the game along with three Epic skins, three Legendary skins, 1,000 Overwatch Coins, and 1,500 Overwatch Credits.


Overwatch 2: Complete Hero Collection

This $20 bundle gives you instant access to every hero in Overwatch 2, along with three Epic skins, three Legendary skins, 1,000 Overwatch Coins, and 1,500 Overwatch Credits.

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Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.