Playing Producer: An Overwatch RPG?

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Taking a break from my more dramatic posts to do a bit of game analysis here!

As people discuss Blizzard’s next projects, somewhere I saw a comment that maybe Blizzard’s next goal would be a Destiny-like Overwatch FPS RPG. You know the basic idea – something like Destiny and it’s sequels, Borderlands, and so on. That got me thinking – is this a viable idea?    Also feel free to use any of these ideas.

I won’t beat around the bush – if an Overwatch action RPG with MMO-like elements (or a pseudo-MMO) was considered, would I play it? Well, honestly probably yes – but I’m just one person. But would it be a viable product for more than “Steve” and how would it be done.

Since I always love analyzing these things, let’s make me a stand-in Product Owner and producer and ask if this’d work.  Hey, come on of course I’m going to bring this back to my love of processes, Agile, and organization . . .

Factor #1: Product Synergy

Product Synergy is important to Blizzard, as one can witness by everything from movies to game tie-ins to whatever the bizarre Heroes Of The Storm roster. So first up, does an Overwatch FPS RPG provide good product synergy?

That’s pretty obvious – yes. It ties into an existing propery. It parallels an existing product (Destiny 2). It’d be a genre not explored in “core” Blizzard properties.  There’s tons of media crossover potential to be tapped.

Plus with that much lore? An RPG would let peope go nuts.

Summary: Yes, there’s product synergy.

Factor #2: Market

Secondly is there a market for a FPS RPG? Blizzard, after all, is known for polishing existing ideas to a fine sheen. These have been done in various forms – in fact, with Destiny 2 they’re kinda doing it now. So is there a market for another FPS RPG or just an Overwatch RPG.

I think so – this area has seen a number of successes in various formats and settings. The big worry would be doing it in a way that stood out. Fortunately Overwatch already stands out, but this is no sure bet.

I’d also add that maybe an FPS RPG isn’t the best idea depending on how accessible you want it to audiences.

Summary: Probably a market, but I’m not as sure.

Factor #3: Would It Compete With Destiny 2?

OK yes it probably would, let’s not lie. I’m not sure if it’d be a problem as Destiny fans are pretty dedicated, though I could see this producing bad blood.

However I don’t know what Destiny 2’s lifespan will be like – and I’m not sure it’s lore and peripheral elements lead to a larger mindshare over time. Competition would lesson over time – and I expect Destiny 2 to fade in time.

Still there’d have to be some awareness of this. Even if you could do it, say, this year, you shouldn’t.  Give it time.

Summary: It would complete with Destiny 2, and that has to be taken into account.

Factor #4: Could it stand out?

Well, bluntly, yes. Though it’s easy to compare Overwatch to Team Fortress 2 and other “people with guns” games, it’s really a superhero FPS. In turn an RPG would be more like a Superhero RPG with a unique take – and though we’ve had them in various forms, the best survivors I’ve seen were tie-ins.  Overwatch could forge ahead with a semi-superhero RPG as its own thing.

On top of this, Overwatch also has a very strong lore to build on. An Overwatch FPS RPG that *delivered* on the world, letting people immerse themselves in a setting, would definitely stand out. I’d wager a well done Overwatch FPS RPG would set a new standard for immersion of done right.

Summary: Yes, it’d stand out.

Factor #5: What about the economy?

Does the economy have room for Blizzard to drop a big property?

Here’s where there’s an issue – I’m not sure about the state of the economy right now. We’ve got political instability and the long slow recovery from the Great Recession may be the longest period of sustained growth, but not everyone recovered. Also, we’re probably due a recession.

In addition there is the potential competition with Destiny 2 and other action RPG games (say, Warframe).  The market is also saturated with Battle Royale type stuff.  Probably not the best time.

So launching anything like this wouldn’t be something to try to rush out or get out in 2 years. I don’t think it’d be viable until 2021 or 2022.

Summary: In the next few years this probably isn’t the best time.  3-4 years is probably a better timeframe

Factor #6: Will it detract from Overwatch’s interest?

I see two factors here:

  1. First, it well could, especially if it’s “Overwatch with some RPG” bolted on. Imagine if you could play Overwatch with some bits and bobs, and if it’d distract you from the core game (for me, yes).  You can’t make “Overwatch Fortress 2” with some customization elements and expect it not to compete.
  2. Secondly, it might increase its lifespan of Overwatch if done right. I’ve found myself loosing interest (indeed, Overwatch took me away from TF2, which I was losing interest in), and am not sure my own interest will sustain much beyond another year. But a new way to experience Overwatch (and some tie-ins) could keep me there.

So if an Overwatch RPG can synergize with the game but not detract from it, then I think it’s not just viable but may keep people involved. However, this may mean it’s more viable as a regular RPG so there’s less competition mechanics-wise. In other words, it might not be an FPS, though I’d preferr it.

I’d also note my above statement it might not be viable for a few years could let it refresh Overwatch if/when it sags.

As I analyze, I’ll proceed with the idea of an Overwatch RPG that would probably be FPS – but am not sure.

Summary: An Overwatch RPG has to stand out distinct from Overwatch while building interest.  That means it may not be an FPS, and would have to be both distinct and related to the starter property.

BONUS ROUND: Pen And Paper Tie-In?

One way to judge interest in an MMO would be to release a pen-and-paper tie-in related to any future game system to check buy in, gain synergy, and of course make money and build buzz.

Moving On

So next up, I’ll discuss just what an Overwatch RPG might be like.

And I’m sort of enjoying playing Product Manager . . .

– Steve