Since the game’s launch in 2015, Overwatch players have been begging for cross-platform support. It’s easy to see why, too. Overwatch lives among massively popular, multiplayer-only shooters like Fortnite, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Paladins: Champions of the Realm, all of which support crossplay. Overwatch still doesn’t support crossplay, and it’s unlikely it ever will. However, the next generation of consoles and Overwatch 2 provide some hope for the future.
Is Overwatch cross-platform?
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: No, Overwatch is not cross-platform. The official Blizzard page on the topic says that players all live in “separate ecosystems,” those being Xbox Live, PSN, Nintendo Switch Online, and Battle.net. Consequently, cross-progression isn’t supported, either. If you have the game on Battle.net and want to play on Switch, you’ll have to start over from scratch.
Will Overwatch support cross-platform play?
The more interesting question isn’t if Overwatch supports cross-platform play, but rather when it will support cross-platform play. In a recent interview, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan said that the team is very interested in crossplay, specifically in reference to Overwatch 2. Kaplan also said that Overwatch players will be able to play with Overwatch 2 players in core competitive modes.
This idea that cross-platform is interesting but the team is still looking into it has been echoed in countless other interviews. It seems like a canned answer, and to a certain degree, it is. However, there’s a big reason why Overwatch hasn’t implemented cross-platform support yet.
We have a perfect reference for how cross-platform support would work in the form of 2019’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: Warzone. Under the Modern Warfare umbrella, both games support crossplay and cross-progression through an Activision ID. The short of it is that everything is tied to your Activision account, so when you switch platforms, you can carry your progress over by logging in to your account.
You may see the problem already. As mentioned, your Overwatch progression isn’t tied to an external account. It’s tied to whatever online service the platform you’re playing on supports. Moving everything over to an external account, such as the way Modern Warfare handles things, could mean that you’ll lose your progress in the game. For a game that’s five years old and highly competitive, starting over from level one doesn’t bode well.
It’s unlikely we’ll see cross-platform support for Overwatch. However, it’s possible we’ll see it with Overwatch 2. Given that players from the original game and the sequel will be able to play together in some game modes suggests that Blizzard is implementing some external progression tracking system.
The keyboard and mouse problem
Outside of technical problems, there’s one massive hurdle for Overwatch cross-platform support: The keyboard and mouse. On consoles, Overwatch supports a controller, and on PC, it supports keyboard and mouse. Despite supporting keyboard and mouse inputs, you can’t use this setup on a PS4 or Xbox One. There are ways around this problem that involve spending a few hundred dollars on an adapter, but we wouldn’t recommend going that route.
In a forum post, Kaplan stated that “the Overwatch team objects to the use of mouse and keyboard on console.” This statement isn’t an explicit ban threat, but it’s close. Understanding the team’s rationale is essential for soothing frustrations over a lack of support, of course. Suppose one person is using a keyboard and mouse and everyone else a controller. The person with a keyboard has an unfair advantage. Sure, you could point to other games that support crossplay regardless of your input device (Modern Warfare is among them). For Overwatch, though, the dev team has decided that it’s too significant an advantage for this particular game.
The Overwatch League is the largest explanation for this stance. An Overwatch player may have a stronger skillset with a controller rather than with a keyboard and mouse, or vice versa. Unless all factors are constant, the matchup results are incapable of accurately measuring skill. Since professional play is centered around measuring skill, consistency is extremely important. Overwatch is known for its long-time passion for the playstyle.
Unfortunate but true, we can’t expect to see an instantaneous solution to this problem with Overwatch 2 or the newest generation of consoles. The Xbox Series X and, most likely, the PS5 support keyboard and mouse input, but that does not mean developers will automatically support it in their games. In fact, the majority of gamers will be restricted to only using the controller they received with their console. With that, the chances of this input device disparity disappearing in the future is unlikely.
We know some gamers claim that it’s annoying to play Overwatch on a specific platform type. However, the game’s developers did not create this way without cause—even if other games are more flexible. Regardless of how much we want it to be different, it does not seem to be happening anytime in the near future. For now, everyone will have to be satisfied with using controllers if you use a console and with a keyboard and mouse if you use a PC.
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