Blizzard stirs controversy with Overwatch hero pools aimed at fixing metagame

Blizzard and the Overwatch development team will implement a variety of changes that aim to fix the hero-based shooter’s metagame, including an initiative that has already stirred controversy among casual players and professional teams.

In the latest Developer Update, Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan discussed several additions, including an experimental mode that will allow all players on the game’s main client, not just on the public test server, to try out changes planned by the development team.

The Overwatch development team will also take on a different philosophy, with the goal of shaking up the metagame more frequently and more aggressively than in the past.

The controversial announcement in the video, however, is the implementation of Overwatch hero pools in the game’s competitive mode. Every week starting March, the development team will disable certain heroes, which will force players out of their comfort zones. The initiative aims to “keep the meta fluid,” as teams that make the meta stale by dominating matches will easily be addressed.

Hero pools will also be coming to the Overwatch League, where one tank, one support, and two damage heroes will be made unavailable for matches each weekend. Heroes will be taken off the board randomly but from a group based on play-rate data. No hero will be unavailable for two straight weeks, and teams will be notified of each week’s hero pool about a week before their matches. The hero pools will not be in effect during midseason tournaments, the play-in tournament, playoffs, or Grand Finals of the Overwatch League.

The addition of hero pools has drawn controversy for a variety of reasons, including the stress that the extra preparations will have on Overwatch League players and coaches. There are some players who applaud the initiative, as it will reward teams who are more adept at making adjustments to their game plans.

There is also the argument that it will force one-trick players to sit out competitive mode when their only mastered hero is unavailable, but this may be a good thing as it will make them think about expanding their horizons and trying out other characters.

Kaplan also said that if hero pools do not prove to be effective in Overwatch‘s Season 21, the strategy will not be brought back for Season 22. The development team may make a wide range of adjustments to hero pools, such as how often they change, so it remains to be seen if the concept will succeed in fixing the game’s meta and stick around.

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