It’s been a rough month for the launch of Overwatch 2. In the first few days of its release, Blizzard’s long-awaited sequel to the 2016 team-based shooter was plagued with connection issues, leaving millions of players unable to enter matches. While many of the problems relating to server issues have now been addressed, Blizzard now has another challenge on its hands: making enough sales from microtransactions to support the franchise’s move to a free-to-play model.
So far, that’s been pretty difficult. Overwatch 2’s recent Halloween event, Halloween Terror, introduced a variety of themed character and weapon skins into the game for the ‘discounted’ price of 2000 Overwatch Coins each, roughly the equivalent of $20. Legendary skins for Kiriko were available for 2600 Overwatch Credits. This is a reduction on the original price 3700 Overwatch Currency. As you might imagine, this is already causing upset amongst some players, especially as this year’s Halloween update removed the option to earn unlockable skins simply by progressing through the game.
Evidently, some players aren’t willing to spend over $20 for an alternative outfit for their character. However, we do know that players are more than happy to spend roughly the same price in other free-to-play games such as Fortnite to unlock characters from popular franchises, whether that’s Goku from Dragon Ball Z or Marvel’s Spider-Man. This is something that Jon Spector, Overwatch’s commercial leader and vice president at Blizzard, seems well aware of, according to a recent interview with GameInformer.
In the interview, Spector announced that while he isn’t a Fortnite player, he thinks it’s ‘super cool’ and ‘awesome’ to see branded collaborations such as Naruto appear in Fortnite.
“As we look at the Overwatch 2 space, those are things that we’re interested in exploring,” he says.
So, with Overwatch 2’s current monetisation strategies leaving a lot to be desired, could we see a shift towards branded collaborations as a core monetisation strategy rather than the traditional legendary and epic skins? According to a survey that was sent to selected players, Overwatch 2 still appears to be struggling with its pricing. It would make commercial sense to lower the cost of skins and embrace Fortnite-style collaborations.
We know that Fortnite’s collaborations with the likes of Marvel, NFL, Nike and Ferrari have been hugely successful for Epic, largely due to the amount of revenue they generate from the sale of cosmetic items such as skins, emotes, banners and emoticons. As an example, the game’s collaboration with NFL resulted in 3.3 million NFL-themed skins being sold for $15 each in November and December 2018, according to leaked court documents from the Apple v Epic case. That’s nearly $50 million in revenue.
The big question now is how easily Overwatch 2 can replicate Fornite’s primary business model, and how well-suited these collaborations are for the Overwatch brand.
One of the biggest challenges facing Overwatch 2 is the fact it’s a hero-based shooter, with each hero boasting their own unique set of skills, traits and playstyles. As is often the case with team-based shooters, players often find themselves favouring specific heroes, whether that’s offensive heroes or defensive heroes that suit their preferred styles of playing.
Overwatch 2 will have a lot to consider when it comes to launching branded partnerships. For example, will a Marvel partnership introduce unique skins for each hero or introduce a limited-time character to the game? The introduction of any new character will have to be calculated carefully, so it doesn’t negatively impact the balance of existing characters.
It’s more likely that Overwatch 2 will introduce themed skins rather than new characters such as those seen in Dragon Ball Z. Depending on the popularity of the IP that Overwatch 2 pursues, I suspect players will be more susceptible to investing $15 or $20 into a skin that turns their favourite Overwatch hero into an alternative version of their favourite anime, film, TV or comic book characters, whether that’s Spider-Man, Darth Vader or one of The Transformers.
Overwatch 2’s hero-based system could mean skins only for certain characters. This could lead to new revenue streams, despite some backlash from fans. Reinhardt’s appearance and style make him an ideal Transformers skin candidate. Players that don’t typically choose Reinhardt but are huge Transformers fans may be tempted to purchase a Transformers skin for him and start using him more. In turn, this could lead to a knock-on effect for players who go on to purchase Reinhardt’s wider cosmetic items.
There’s no denying that Overwatch 2 is a great game; the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. Fortnite and Overwatch 2 may struggle to monetise. Branded collaborations might help. It is not easy to take an established franchise with a full-price retail price tag and make it free-to-play.
Here are some key considerations to make when choosing your target IP
If you’re a game developer looking to emulate Fornite’s IP success, there are a few things you need to consider before bringing IP into your game.
- Don’t pick a target IP just because it’s a really popular brand or character. Look at your game and your players and ask yourself if it’s something that will resonate with them. The Walking Dead and State of Survival partnered cleverly to bring 20 million new players into the game. A good knowledge of your player demographics will be a necessity. Be prepared to prove this to the license holders, too, as they’ll be just as interested to know if there’s any audience overlap.
- While it might sound easy, do your research. Different IP rights owners may have very different priorities or strict requirements about usage. Larger properties, particularly those that are loved by children, may have more stringent requirements. It is in the interests of the holders to limit their use. So, it’s up to developers to demonstrate their ability to comply with them. Preparation can help you gain an advantage and clear the initial screening stages.
- There are many ways to incorporate IP into your game. It is important to think about your primary goals. Because of their simpler terms, cosmetics and skins can be easier to negotiate with rights owners. They also have lower development and creative costs, making them easier to roll out. FIFA 23 recently brought Apple TV’s Ted Lasso as well as Marvel cards to Ultimate Team, with these simple, smart deals opening the door for more collaborations in future.
Leave a Reply