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 main reason for this stance is likely because of the Overwatch League. A player could be better with a controller than they are with a keyboard and mouse, or vice versa. Unless all things are equal, the matchup results are not an accurate measure of skill. Professional play is all about measuring skill, so consistency is key. Overwatch is passionate about that style of play and has been since its launch.
Unfortunately, this problem won’t automatically resolve with Overwatch 2 or the upcoming console generation. The Xbox Series X supports keyboard and mouse input, and the PS5 likely will, too. However, developers still need to support keyboard and mouse inputs for their games. Yet, most console players will only have access to the controller that comes with their console. Therefore, it’s unlikely that the disparity between input devices will disappear with the next console generation.
Playing Overwatch on a particular platform type is aggravating for some gamers. However, the developer team designed it that way for a reason, regardless of whether other games allow for crossplay. We might wish for this to change, but don’t count on that changing for Overwatch any time soon. For now, if you’re on a console, you’ll have to use controllers, and on a PC, you get the keyboard and mouse.
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