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Overwatch 2’s Anniversary Event Doesn’t Feel Like A Celebration

Overwatch 2 needs to be studied in a lab. Or, hell, maybe I need to be studied in a lab for how much I still love Blizzard’s hero shooter despite the company continuing to fumble the bag. The sequel’s first Anniversary event, which is running from now until October 9, is the latest example of Blizzard messing with a good thing, seemingly all in service of funneling cash into its in-game shop. But it also tweaks the annual event in ways that baffle from a business standpoint, as it gives players even less incentive to dump cash into the game than in previous anniversary events.

Overwatch 2's New Story Missions: Worth The Money?

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For the baby Overwatch fans in the room, the Anniversary event in Overwatch 1 was something to look forward to. On top of new skins, dance emotes for heroes, and a limited run of previous seasonal event modes, the event let players unlock cosmetics that were typically tied to certain times of the year. It gave players a chance to complete collections by getting skins you might have missed out on in previous, themed events—and it didn’t matter how old or obscure they were, they’d be available. Did you miss that sick Tropical Baptiste skin from the Summer Games event a few years back? It would be purchasable in the Hero Gallery, or you could unlock it in a lootbox. Was there an emote you always wanted to whip out after pulling off a Play of the Game-worthy team kill but you didn’t play Overwatch during the event it debuted in? The Anniversary event was there to help you fill out your collection.

Overwatch 2 anniversary event highlight’s the sequel’s problems

Now? The Overwatch 2 Anniversary event has elements of the original game’s, but is so limited it feels antithetical to what made it exciting in the first place. Overwatch 2 is celebrating its first year with some of what you’d expect, such as the return of seasonal modes like Battle For Olympus and Catch-A-Mari, and offering some previously-cycled skins through a new tab on the Shop menu. But there’s a distinct lack of new cosmetics and incentives, and the options to get old stuff that debuted in Overwatch 2 that you missed are far more limited.

When Overwatch 2’s free-to-play model and its subsequent microtransactions were revealed, I told myself that I would only spend my money on Soldier’s cosmetics, as he’s been my main since I started playing the original game. There’s a Soldier: 76 emote called Drill from Overwatch 2’s fourth season where the grumpy, gay grandpa performs a military drill with his rifle. This emote is one of the few Soldier unlocks I never acquired because I never saw it available for purchase on the Shop during Season 4. My assumption was that Overwatch 2 would follow its predecessor and make it available to buy with credits during the Anniversary event, but that’s not the case. The only old cosmetics Overwatch 2 has brought back is the curated list of skins in the Anniversary tab, but a lot more cosmetics have been on offer at certain points throughout the game’s first year that are worth making available again.

The Anniversary event has long been a tribute to the past, but it also had its own new skins and cosmetics to look forward to. New, $20 skins like the Flower Child Mei skin are cycling through the shop all the time, but they’re not explicitly tied to the Anniversary event, and even if they were, they haven’t been given the same fanfare this time around. But that’s not really a new problem. Most Overwatch 2 events haven’t had the immediate impact of the original game’s events because, as the game’s cosmetic rollout is setup right now, you get an abundance of themed skins through the Battle Pass, while events have typically been relegated to only a small handful of new lewks for your favorite heroes. There also aren’t any dance emotes for the new heroes that have debuted since the sequel launched (like Lifeweaver, Illari, or Ramattra), which was historically a staple of the Anniversary event. Lifeweaver is probably a dancing queen when he’s not pushing the payload, but Blizzard refuses to show us.

Kotaku reached out to Blizzard for comment and clarification on this story and did not hear back in time for publication.

The Anniversary event isn’t disappointing in a way that is new for Overwatch 2. It’s a letdown in the same ways swaths of the game’s seasonal events have been, and in the way the cost of cosmetics have felt astronomical. But because of what the Anniversary event used to represent, it’s especially tragic to see this half-hearted version of what used to be Overwatch’s biggest event of the year.

I will give the Overwatch 2 Anniversary credit for spotlighting the much-maligned (unfairly, in my opinion) Assault mode from the original game and putting it in Arcade instead of just custom matches. But beyond that, there’s little that reflects everything that happened before October 4, 2022, instead it feels like this event only highlights the sequel’s incredibly uneven past year instead of the series’ seven-year history, which is concerning. It underscores that, despite the initial pitch of Overwatch 2 as a game that exists in tandem with Overwatch 1, the sequel has completely devoured the original game—and all its history along with it.

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