Today, a pre-recorded Overwatch League video leaked sharing news that Blizzard is apparently implementing role-locking in Overwatch and the Overwatch League. [Update—4:45 pm ET]: Overwatch’s game director Jeff Kaplan confirmed that players will now queue for specific roles in Overwatch games, too.
Starting soon, all team compositions in the Overwatch League will consist of two damage-dealers, two supports, and two tanks, explained league staffers in the leaked video. The decision was made because “the more that we can do to keep the pro experience in Overwatch League consistent with the live game experience of Overwatch players, the better from the Overwatch League perspective,” explained Overwatch senior product director Jonathan Spector.
The dramatic shift may not come as a surprise to lots of fans; hints have been dropped for months. Before quitting the league, former pro Chan-hyung “Fissure” Baek apparently confirmed it. The esports site Upcomer did, too, in a report where they spoke with several internal sources. And before announcing tonight’s Overwatch League broadcast, where the news was apparently slated to air, three Overwatch league casters each threw up a peace sign—2-2-2.
What might rattle even the most tuned-in fans was Spector’s comment that “2-2-2 is coming to the game soon” in what he describes as the “biggest change that’s happened in Overwatch since they added the one-hero limit.” Without more details, it seems like the rule will be implemented in the game, meaning regular players will be asked to follow the pros’ lead and specialize in a certain class map-by-map. [Update—4:45 pm ET]: Players in-game will now choose whether they want to play tank, damage-dealer or support before Quick Play and Competitive matches, game director Jeff Kaplan confirmed this afternoon in a video. On the Overwatch subreddit, players are expressing cautious optimism.
Role-locking will come as a welcome change for Overwatch league fans who are sick of the dominant “GOATS” meta, an unflashy playstyle of three tanks and three supports. Without Widowmaker’s hype headshots or Tracer’s zippy time-turning, players became bored of tuning in to the same old compositions over and over for months. Those opposed to role-locking’s implementation would argue that GOATS was already on its way out. Damage-dealing heroes like Sombra and Pharah were insinuating themselves more and more into the meta; who’s to say that Tracer might not come back, too?
In the leaked video, Spector says that the Overwatch League team let pro players vote on implementing role-locking. “An overwhelming majority of the teams supported the approach that we’re taking here,” he says.
For fans tired of playing support when four players insta-lock DPS, or fans excited to play tank knowing they’ll have two supports behind them, role-locking will unlock a version of the game they believe best represents its core. Others who prefer a more molten and chaotic meta might find Blizzard’s unilateral decision stifling. For my part, I can’t wait to see Saebyeolbe back in action.