Overwatch is one of the biggest games in the world, and news of a sequel has fans in a tizzy, though hopefully not causing them to forget publisher Blizzard’s misdeeds. The team-based mechanics, strategy, and gameplay are widely acclaimed. But the title’s success important owes just as much to its roster. Playable characters like Tracer, Gengi, and Soldier: 76 are a major appeal to fans who follow their stories across the game, in animated shorts, and beyond.
Surprisingly, developers and even fans and rarely acknowledge some of Overwatch’s most obvious influences. For a game referred to as a “hero shooter,” its protagonists are rarely referred to as superheroes and supervillains. Still, Blizzard doesn’t attempt to hide its comic book roots. Hell, the tagline is The world could always use more heroes.
Overwatch undoubtedly owes a lot to the superhero universes built through comics over the decades. Read about why Overwatch is very clearly a superhero game and some of its most interesting comic book influences.
Even though Overwatch is multiplayer-only, Blizzard develops plenty of story in and outside of the game. Blizzard has created 10 animated shorts and counting that expand the world of Overwatch. They’re worth watching whether or not you care about the video game itself, on par with the quality of virtually any animation studio. The videos feature the hero’s secret origins and oftentimes tragic backstories, a staple in the superhero genre.
Even the overall narrative clearly falls inside the realm of superheroes. Blizzard recently published a video summarizing the story so far.
For better or worse, it’s reminiscent of a hundred stories where the heroes come out of hiding to band together again. In fact, it’s shockingly similar to the plot of Square Enix’s Avengers game!
Superheroes are defined by their costumes, but Overwatch takes that to a new level. Not only are their designs critically acclaimed and extremely dynamic, one of the game’s two sources of monetization is entirely owed to them. The game costs $40, but after purchasing it you can also purchase microtransactions, a business model long despised by video game consumers.
Overwatch, however, features micro-transactions that are largely considered inoffensive to gamers. That’s because they’re limited to loot boxes that contain cosmetics, which allow players to make visual changes to their heroes. Since they have no effect on gameplay, players who don’t pay extra for them don’t feel cheated.
The Verge details why Overwatch’s loot box system is so brilliant. It even led the way for Fortnite, the biggest game in the world that earns all of its money from selling cosmetic items. The shooter’s cosmetics, however, wouldn’t have been so appealing without the instant the excitement for the heroes and outfits that can be adapted into all kinds of colors and styles while remaining recognizable.
Overwatch has earned over $1 billion of in-game revenue, an absolutely staggering number, and a lot of that traces back to the outfits and armor of its 31 heroes.
An Overwatch comic tie-in that matters
Blizzard posts Overwatch comics on its website, and they’re genuinely good reads! They’re not slapped together licensed products, but something the developers clearly care about. Several issues are even illustrated by Bengal, so they clearly have good taste.
All 16 issues are free to download on Blizzard’s website. If you prefer a physical edition, Dark Horse published a trade paperback collecting the first 10 issues. The comic is consistently entertaining, especially if you already have an attachment to the characters through the game.
Interestingly, Overwatch spawned headlines across the world because of a scene shown in the comic. In the tenth issue, a Christmas special, we meet Tracer’s girlfriend. She’s introduced casually because Tracer’s sexuality is just a normal part of her life. But the media considered it a big deal and it was covered by hundreds of news outlets.
As anyone could have predicted, the worst segment of gamers complained, crying that the revelation was an unnecessary new detail about the character. Unsurprisingly, they had no complaints about the comic’s first nine issues which also detailed the lives of Overwatch characters. But news of Tracer’s sexuality is likely to go down as a watershed moment for gay characters in media.
The introduction of a gay hero was and continues to be a great learning experience for millions of young people. With the reveal that a character they already knew and loved is gay, fans start to learn that someone’s sexuality shouldn’t affect how you feel about someone.
Blizzard knew Tracer’s sexuality would turn heads. Its willingness to reveal it through a comic rather than the game itself shows that the company understands how valuable it is to point back at Overwatch’s comic book roots.