Why Overwatch Overshadowed Battleborn

Whether or not Overwatch and Battleborn are similar games has been a big discussion over the past few months. Some people call them both hero shooters, while others say that they are too different to compare. Personally, I think it’s a bit of both. But this article is more about why the successes and failures of these two games impacted each other and what that says about the industry.

Battleborn came out almost a month before Overwatch, but even with that advantage, it’s been quickly overshadowed. Developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games, Battleborn has the same power behind it as Borderlands. Gearbox knows how to make great games and their sense of humor, although not for some, is unrelenting. At its core, Battleborn is indeed a well-made game with that same sense of ridiculousness, but something went wrong. Reports say that it is not selling well and online chatter for it has quickly ceased.

Overwatch, on the other hand, just came out on May 24 and everyone is talking about it. My personal Twitter is littered with people praising the game, talking about how much fun they are having and praising for its balanced, calculated gameplay and map design. Overwatch has also been the most-streamed game on Twitch for the entirety of its launch week. The last game to get that much attention from streamers had to be Destiny, which is still a huge game on Twitch. The evidence so far makes Overwatch out to be a huge success, while Battleborn seems to be struggling to keep its player-base.

Battleborn Mellka
While I said that this was not going to be about how they are similar or different, it might be important to why people chose one over the other. So for instance, Battleborn prides itself on being a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) first and a first-person shooter second. For those who do not know, this essentially means that the game modes are different. The PvP focuses on defending bases, capturing objectives and guiding minions, two of which are very MOBA-esque (capturing objectives is part of every game, nowadays). This sounds enticing for MOBA players, but for someone who has never played a MOBA before, or someone who doesn’t like the genre, it could be a turn off.

MOBAs are known for being strategic, thoughtful games, but this makes them intimidating to a new player. They are complex, where Overwatch simply isn’t. Overwatch is a shooter with few game modes and very little to be confused by. It has tons of depth, but from the outside looking in, it doesn’t look intimidating. Even when just looking at the box art for each game, Overwatch looks less complicated and more inviting. It’s not to say that Battleborn’s box art is bad, it’s actually cool, but Overwatch looks focused (literally on one character) while Battleborn looks somewhat overwhelming. GameStops have these two games next to one another on the shelves and box art is surprisingly important when it comes to sales.

Overwatch BoxBattleborn Box

Speaking of looks, maybe the art style and character design of the games may have had something to do with the popularity of Overwatch over Battleborn. The Pixar-like style of Overwatch is appealing to the eye, even on a character like Junkrat, who’s supposed to be gross and dirty. On the other hand, Battleborn’s art style might not be for everyone. Cel shading is popular, but some people simply do not like it. Personally, I like the kookiness of Battleborn, but that Pixar style is almost universally enjoyed, which gives Overwatch the advantage.

The echo-chamber that is the video game fanbase could have had something to do with the disparity between them as well. People were hyping up Overwatch since its announcement and the closed beta that was pretty much “Twitch streamers only” kept that going. Battleborn had a lot less screen time, and without the buzz it needed, there was really no hope for it. Overwatch was also Blizzard’s first new IP in 16 years, so the excitement around that could not have been higher. Gearbox, while a competent studio, just doesn’t have the pedigree that the creators of World of Warcraft have.

Overwatch 02
Overwatch beat Battleborn. Neither of them picked the fight, but Overwatch has accidentally thrown Battleborn under the bus. On Overwatch’s release day, Battleborn dropped its price to compete. It seems the people have spoken, and those with enough money to buy one game this spring have chosen Overwatch. I feel bad for Battleborn, because it is a good game, it was simply overshadowed by the behemoth that Overwatch has become. If Battleborn 2 ever sees life, hopefully it will do well and won’t have any competition this time.

For Gearbox, more of the team has likely moved on to Borderlands 3, although support for Battleborn will still continue. Maybe we’ll see the official announcement of their new game at E3 this year, so stay tuned for that.

  • gxp01

    Awesome article; really appreciate it. I’m not an FPS-gamer as BIoshock Infinite is the only FPS I have in my library. I was (very) confused distinguishing both these games and I would’ve gotten Overwatch if it only had a single-player (I don’t have online subscription) mode. But alas….

  • Monkey Shinobi

    As a 20+ year gaming veteran who has played both moba’s and fps games competitively, I have to disagree that Battleborn is more complicated. Battleborn has a steeper learning curve in terms of mechanics if you have never played a moba, but for those who have played a moba the only adjustment required is controlling a character from the first person point of view. Both games rely heavily on team composition and coordination. Both games are objective based; Overwatch may not at first glance seem as strict on team composition and coordination as Battleborn, however after 150+ hours of play in Overwatch and 100+ in Battleborn, I can assure you that at high level competitive play Overwatch is *at least* as complicated as Battleborn if not more.

    • Christopher Reid

      You proved the point of the article in the second sentence:

      “Battleborn has a steeper learning curve in terms of mechanics if you have never played a moba”

      A lot of casual gamers have never played a MOBA, hence why Overwatch can look so inviting and uncomplicated. Hiding under that Pixar design is actually a decent amount of knowledge required to properly counter annoying classes…however, getting into a match takes a few minutes and you can pull the trigger, hit buttons and feel useful. It’s what Blizzard has always been great at and they pulled it off once again.

    • Droid

      Whoa we have a veteran on our hands telling us how it is

    • gommer strike

      I have never played Battleborn so take it easy on me, but your description of Battleborn almost sounds like Smite(another title which I’ve never played).

  • Aaron blanchard

    At least Battle Born has a single player. And its on sale here in Canada for 51.99 with gold membership. Overwatch got more media coverage, both good and bad and it created a stir in waiting for it’s release on consoles. I personally haven’t got the game because I love single player campaigns in full priced games. With all the “shorts” released for Overwatch a campaign could have been sweet, but for straight multiplayer only its the price that stop me from checking it out. Great article by the way, I’ve always enjoyed Hardcore Gamer and will continue to do so.

    • Didney Worl

      I would’ve gotten Battleborn if the campaign wasn’t online only. That’s an instant deal breaker for me.

      • Aaron blanchard

        Online Campaign …. I didn’t know that. thx. Definitely won’t buy now. Is nothing offline anymore?

        • Didney Worl

          Yeah, I absolutely hate this trend. I can at least respect Overwatch, because it’s a multiplayer only game, but if your game has a single player mode or some form of local versus, DO NOT make it so that I need to connect online. Seriously, did no one learn how bad of an idea that was after Diablo III and SimCity?

          Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 had tons of single player content, even local split-screen co-op. But then they completely ruined it by requiring an online connection to play the game. I repeat, to play the OFFLINE modes, you have to be connected online. It sucks because I really wanted to play it. Hopefully they make it a free game for PS+ in the future.

          • Aaron blanchard

            P vs Z two Is great. Got it on release date and its awesome fun.

          • Didney Worl

            Yeah, it looked great. But, I’m not going to spend money on a game EA can take away from me whenever it damn well pleases. Remember Darkspore? That had a single player campaign, but it required an internet connection. Well, EA shut down the servers back in March, and now anyone who bought the game can’t even play it anymore.

          • Aaron blanchard

            Check out Powers on Psn. Its pretty decent. I’m downloading Dead Island Definitive Edition. Hope its worth 20 bucks. Getting tired of zombie crap. But love busting heads in High Def!!!!!

    • gommer strike

      So if Battleborn had a larger marketing budget and just did more with it – similar to what Blizzard did with Overwatch – would it have evened out the numbers?

      • Aaron blanchard

        Probably not, maybe some butt crack controversy and it could’ve done well lol.

  • PatrickGE

    I play both and honestly battleborn is more completed, Overwatch is fun but for how long? After you play xx match there are very few choice just only change “champion”. Very few content for my point of view and also is totally unbalance… i think they made a good advertisement thats all

    • Antic

      I can understand how it looks like that from the outside looking in, but get in and give it a go. Team Fortress 2 has been around for almost 10 years with way fewer classes (9, compared to Overwatch’s 21) and it’s still one of the most played games on Steam. TF2 also didn’t have competitive mode to keep it alive, which Overwatch is getting the end of June.

      Remember as well, games like Counter Strike don’t even have classes, and only a handful of guns and maps; but it’s still going incredibly strong and actually gaining players and traction after almost 20 years – despite the same maps, same guns and same objective every single match. It’s just fun – and when it’s an online skill based game, it usually stays fun as long as there are people to verse.

      • PatrickGE

        Hi Antic,
        Do you think that in 10 year people will stay play Overwatch? what is the new introduction of this game? Honestly I don’t see any big news and few different way to play the same characters (defend, control a place …)
        I read a lot of review and is hilarious how big name give 10 or 9 to a game so empty considering a game like star wars battlefront was killed because no single player (and it was announce that was without).

        Don’t compare Overwatch to the GOD Counter Strike…

        • Your Average Spearman

          Tl;dr – popularity of tf2 (OW) over time vs that of league of legends or dota 2(BB). You run the numbers.

          Let’s look at it this way: Say, you’re a Youtuber or Twitch streamer. Between the two games, what would you be able to put in 100 episodes of Overwatch versus 100 episodes of Battleborn. I’d say Overwatch has the edge on quick clips, maybe games of around 15 mins, perf for YT. But after x games of the same maps and the same heroes, what then? Compare that to Battleborn’s plentiful, although disorganized mishmash of content. You got Borderlands style coop campaign, multiple paths and playstyles to each hero, and a OBA where you can dump all your previous strategies out the window and think of new ones.

  • dknight xs

    i hve started to dislike gearbox alot, the way they handled aliens colonial marines and duke nukem just too all their goodwill away atleast for me.
    i am superglad that battleborn didnt sell well, i am sick of these mobas coming out so often now… let moba stay with dota 2 and lol… we dont need more of those.

    overwatch is supposed to be good… its Blizzard we are talking about.

  • Yummy Bear

    Overwatch got old quick, and it’s much too similar to PvZ 2. Between the two PvZ 2 is more fun by the way. Battleborn has a sense of progress and most importantly strategic elements, so that’s what I play out of the three.