Today, Activision Blizzard announced three programs coming to Overwatch 2’s competitive and casual scene. These aim to foster a healthy environment, with a focus on its new and returning LGBTQ+ player base.
In a blog post titled “Calling All Heroes,” the Overwatch team and its competitive E-Sports program, Overwatch League (OWL), announced it would co-develop an in-game Defense Matrix, Challenger’s Cup, and Caster Camp. Blizzard said the goal of these programs is to “focus on equity, visibility, and community support for underrepresented genders.”
To ensure that its mission statement is upheld, the Overwatch team announced that it will be rolling out a gameplay system called Defense Matrix. Named after D.VA’s projectile blocking ability, Blizzard said the program will act as a system to “protect gameplay integrity and promote positive behavior in Overwatch 2.” How it’ll do so might be slightly invasive given it will involve the use of your phone under its new program, SMS Protect.
“Defense Matrix fortifies Overwatch’s security and game experience through aspects like SMS Protect, audio transcriptions, and the all-new first-time user experience, to name a few,” Blizzard said in the blog post.
If you were wanting to opt out of SMS Protect, it’s looking like you won’t be able to play Overwatch 2 at all. Because come October 4, players across all platforms will be required to have their phone numbers attached to their Battle Net accounts in order to play Overwatch 2.
Coupled with the announcement of Defense Matrix, Blizzard also revealed two new LGBTQ+ programs called Challenger’s Cup and Caster Camp. Alongside its partnership with Radiant, a production company that highlights “underrepresented genders,” Overwatch is developing a Challenger’s Cup, a competitive tournament that will run alongside Path to Pro, its developmental competitive Overwatch program under Overwatch Contenders.
“This tournament is not a replacement for the Path to Pro; rather, we hope it will serve as an entry point for underrepresented genders to jump into the broader Overwatch esports ecosystem, and we encourage all who are eligible to participate in both Challengers Cup and Path to Pro,” Blizzard said in the blog post.
The applications for the first qualifier rounds for Challenge Cup begin on October 21.
Additionally, Caster Camp will feature broadcasters like OWL’s Soe Gschwind and Matt “Mr. X” Morello. The plan is for them to share the skills they’ve learned as professional Overwatch commentators to folks within the LGBTQ+ community hoping to build upon their skillsets and make connections within the industry. Its registration will run from September 30 through October 28.
Although Overwatch 2’s imminent launch on October 4 as a free-to-play game is riddled with all the things that make for F2P nightmares, it is commendable that the game maker is going beyond the platitude of saying it’s pro-LGBTQ by pointing at its gay characters and leaving it at that, especially considering the high probability of its LGBTQ+ player base getting swept up in a wave of bigotry come the sequel hero shooter’s release.
Seeing as how two of its flagship characters, Tracer and Soldier 76 serve as the game’s confirmed LGBTQ+ representation, it’s nice that Blizzard at least recognizes that its player base might be in dire need of obfuscation in case any returning bigots of the game return with its sequel. Though the jury is still out on whether SMS Protect is on the up and up or not.