Overwatch 2 is finally giving out all heroes for free up front, game director admits "not all" attempts to balance the paywall competitive advantage worked

A screenshot of Mauga in Overwatch 2.
(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

It's finally happening—around a year and a half after its early access launch, Overwatch 2 is removing all of its heroes, new and old, from its Battle Pass. This means that free-to-play players will soon be able to instantly access new heroes at the same time as those paying for the Premium Battle Pass without spending a penny.

Until this point, if you didn't buy the Premium Battle Pass, you had to work your way through the Free Battle Pass to unlock new heroes at launch, which obviously takes time. While it was always possible to have a full roster eventually, the problem was that those who spent money on the game would get their hands on the latest heroes first, giving them significantly more time to learn their moves and what makes them tick. Therefore, it was debatable whether Blizzard was essentially paywalling a competitive advantage that would be reflected by how practiced paying players would be with the new heroes compared to free-to-play users.

"We're really excited for this change to the game – and we really do think it's what's best for players and it's what's best for the game," game director Aaron Keller says in a roundtable interview attended by GamesRadar+. "When you're developing the way a game is going to fund itself, it can get really complex fast. I think originally, we had some worries about whether Overwatch 2, as a purely cosmetic game, when you have the ability to get cosmetics for a whole roster of heroes, was going to be successful.

"But putting any type of gameplay behind a paywall can be a competitive advantage for players," he continues. I think we did a lot to try to mitigate that—we allowed players to unlock heroes in the Free Battle Pass, we had challenges for it, and we also had an idea that Overwatch 2 would have fewer counters in it, so this problem could be mitigated. Not all of those things we tried were as effective as we wanted them to be."

Keller notes that enough time has passed to determine that "the game can be successful without having heroes in the Battle Pass." He adds: "We're confident that [by] taking them out, we'll be able to continue to be successful. It's going to allow us to keep making all the cool things we have been making like new heroes, new maps, new game modes, and also we just think that this is the right thing to be doing for all of our players."

It's worth noting that new Overwatch 2 players will still need to go through the first-time user experience (designed to ease players into the game gradually) in order to unlock all of the heroes from the first Overwatch game. But, once this is done, all of the sequel's new faces will become immediately available, too, as they will for veteran players who hadn't already unlocked them.

This crucial change to Overwatch 2 is one that was teased at the end of 2023, when executive producer Jared Neuss said that making all heroes instantly available for free was something the team was "actively working towards." The change will be rolled out from Season 10 onwards, along with the launch of the FPS's 40th hero, Venture. 

Check out our list of the 25 best FPS games for some great recommendations of new games to play.  

Catherine Lewis
News Writer

I'm one of GamesRadar+'s news writers, who works alongside the rest of the news team to deliver cool gaming stories that we love. After spending more hours than I can count filling The University of Sheffield's student newspaper with Pokemon and indie game content, and picking up a degree in Journalism Studies, I started my career at GAMINGbible where I worked as a journalist for over a year and a half. I then became TechRadar Gaming's news writer, where I sourced stories and wrote about all sorts of intriguing topics. In my spare time, you're sure to find me on my Nintendo Switch or PS5 playing through story-driven RPGs like Xenoblade Chronicles and Persona 5 Royal, nuzlocking old Pokemon games, or going for a Victory Royale in Fortnite.