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.
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.
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 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.