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Overwatch 2 free-to-play explained: Battle Pass, Shop, hero unlocks, and more

Overwatch 2
(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

When Overwatch 2 launches on Oct. 4, it will completely restructure the Overwatch multiplayer experience. Matches are moving from a 6v6 format to a 5v5 one, and the original game is being merged into Overwatch 2. Overwatch's loot box-based unlock system is also being replaced by a seasonal Battle Pass model and an in-game shop, with Overwatch 2 itself even going free-to-play.

These are some massive changes, and in the weeks leading up to the game's release, many players have asked how the new seasonal Battle Pass and in-game shop will work, as well as how you'll be able to interact with these systems as a free-to-play player. Thankfully, developer Blizzard recently answered these questions with a complete overview of Overwatch 2's Battle Pass progression, Shop, and the ways in which players can get access to new heroes. Here's everything you need to know.

Overwatch 2 Battle Pass explained: Heroes, details, and more

(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

The launch of Overwatch 2 will kick off the new game's new seasonal structure. Blizzard plans to add a substantial amount of content to the game (maps, modes, etc.) with the arrival of each of the game's nine-week long seasons, with each season also featuring a 80+ tier Battle Pass that players can progress through as they play the game. If players finish this Battle Pass before the season ends, they'll also have an opportunity to progress through special "Prestige" ranks that reward them with season-specific titles that can be added to their profile.

Battle Passes include a variety of rewards, including skins, emotes, highlight intros, weapon charms, souvenirs (3D items that can be displayed with emotes), name cards, and other cosmetics. Whenever a new hero is added alongside the start of a season — Blizzard says fans can expect a new hero every other season — they'll also be unlocked by progressing through the Battle Pass.

Note that Overwatch 2's new Sojourn and Junker Queen heroes will be available for everyone right away, while the new support hero Kiriko will be immediately available to everyone that owned the original Overwatch as long as they log into the game during Season 1. Players that start playing when Overwatch 2 launches will have to unlock Kiriko by progressing through the Season 1 Battle Pass.

Overwatch 2's Battle Passes have both Free and Premium reward tracks. The former are available to all players but offer fewer rewards, while the latter, more rewarding tracks are only available to players that purchase Overwatch 2 Season Passes. Here's what's available as part of Overwatch 2 Season 1's Free Battle Pass reward track:

  • The newest support hero, Kiriko
  • 2 Legendary Skins
  • 2 Weapon Charms
  • 2 Souvenirs
  • 1 Highlight Intro
  • 15 additional cosmetic items

Notably, Blizzard has confirmed that all new heroes will be unlockable on the Free reward track at Tier 55 on each of Overwatch 2's Battle Passes. Also, when heroes come out, they'll be unavailable in Competitive matchmaking for three weeks so that players have some time to unlock them (and also so that the developers can make balance adjustments if the hero is too powerful right out of the gate).

Players have raised concerns about this new system, arguing that it will make it harder for teams to swap to heroes that counter the opposing team's strategy since some players in matches won't always have access to every hero in the game. Blizzard has indicated that with Overwatch 2, the developer has changed its hero design and balancing approach so that heroes don't necessarily "hard counter" each other anymore, with the goal of having a much wider range of heroes be viable at any given time. Thus, Blizzard believes that adding heroes to Overwatch 2's Battle Passes "is fair to our players, respects the competitive nature of the game, and aligns with our goal of supporting Overwatch 2 as a live service."

Overwatch 2 Premium Battle Pass price and rewards

(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

Each of Overwatch 2's Premium Battle Pass tracks will cost 1,000 Overwatch Coins (a new currency we'll go over in the Shop section), or the equivalent of $10. These tracks are significantly more rewarding and offer more unlocks compared to the Free reward tracks, including Overwatch 2's new customizable Mythic skins. Notably, Premium Battle Pass owners also get instant access to the new hero on the Battle Pass.

Here's a look at everything you'll be able to unlock in Overwatch 2 Season 1 with the Premium reward track:

  • Immediate access to Kiriko
  • 15% XP Battle Pass Boost
  • 1 Mythic Skin
  • 5 Legendary Skins
  • 2 Epic Skins
  • 3 Play of the Game Intros
  • 4 Weapon Charms
  • 3 Emotes
  • 3 Souvenirs
  • 6 Poses
  • 6 Name Cards
  • 8 Player Icons
  • 11 Voice Lines
  • 12 Sprays

Overwatch 2 Battle Pass progression

(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

Progressing through the Free and Premium tracks of each Overwatch 2 Battle Pass will require players to earn XP. This is primarily done by simply playing the game and completing matches, but players can also bolster their progression by finishing special gameplay challenges. There are two primary types of challenges that players can complete while they play. Here's a look at each one:

  • Daily Challenges: 6 relatively easy challenges given to players daily. The first three completed offer large amounts of XP, while the last three offer a smaller amount.
  • Weekly Challenges: A long list of harder challenges that refresh every week. These challenges award a large amount of XP as well as some Overwatch Coins when completed.

Blizzard has confirmed that Overwatch 2's gameplay challenges won't require players to play as a specific hero, as the developer feels this would go against the core of Overwatch's gameplay experience. At most, players may have to play heroes from one of the three major roles.

Regardless of how you get XP in Overwatch 2, it's possible to boost your gains by 20% if you own the Premium track of the Battle Pass. Additionally, you also get a 20% XP boost if you play while grouped up with other players, regardless of whether you're a free-to-play player or a Premium Battle Pass owner.

Overwatch 2 Shop: How the store works

(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

In place of the loot boxes that Overwatch had originally, Overwatch 2 has a special Shop that allows players to purchase cosmetic items directly. This means that they won't have to "roll the dice" and can get exactly what they want. Items in the Shop will generally be designed around the theme of the current season (Season 1 will be cyberpunk themed), and players will be able to buy them with Overwatch Coins. This currency can be obtained in two ways:

  • Challenge Completions: Completing a weekly challenge will net players a small number of Overwatch Coins.
  • Direct Purchase: Players can directly purchase Overwatch Coins with real-world money. Based on what we've seen so far, players can likely expect 100 Overwatch Coins for every dollar they spend.

Overwatch 2's Shop will also have a special "Just For You" page that shows you items the game thinks you may want to buy based on your play history. For example, if you  play tank heroes more often than damage or support ones, the Just For You tab will likely only show you cosmetics for tank heroes. During the first few Overwatch 2 seasons, this section will also feature cosmetics from the original Overwatch so that new players can have a chance to collect legacy unlocks.

How to get Overwatch 2 heroes from past seasons

Kiriko is the latest of the new heroes coming to Overwatch 2. (Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

Something many players are no doubt wondering is how players will be able to unlock newer heroes after the season they were added in ends. Blizzard has announced that this can be done in two ways.

The first way players will be able to unlock heroes from past seasons is by completing special hero challenges challenges. We don't know what these challenges will look like just yet, but if we had to guess, we'd assume they'll be similar to the game's weekly challenges.

Secondly, players can also unlock heroes from past seasons by buying them directly from the Shop with Overwatch Coins. Blizzard hasn't shared the exact price that heroes will cost yet, but we'll update this article when the developer does.

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Overwatch 2: Watchpoint Pack

The $40 Overwatch 2: Watchpoint Pack offers fans a variety of benefits that will allow them to get guaranteed access to Season 1's Premium Battle Pass track, unlock some unique rewards, provide some in-game currency to use when Overwatch 2 launches, and more.

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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.