As Overwatch enters its third calendar year, its developers at Blizzard want players to know that the team-based shooter isn't going stagnant any time soon. The studio released a New Year's developer update with game director Jeff Kaplan where he teased some of the new bounty we can expect in 2018. You can watch the whole thing above, and read on to see the six things I'm most looking forward to this year.
Blizzard World opens its doors soon
This Hybrid map was first teased at Blizzcon back in November, and we're getting super close to its debut beyond the test servers. Look forward to hunting down all the little Easter eggs of course (it is set in a fictional Blizzard theme park after all), but also be prepared for some new approaches to level design. More new maps will follow after Blizzard World throughout 2018.
Hero 27 is well on the way
Jeff Kaplan says Blizzard is "well along the path" to Overwatch's next playable character, who he thinks is "very needed". We haven't gotten any new Defense heroes since launch, so that category's as good a guess as any. Hero 27 is in internal testing right now, and though we don't have any hint of a release date yet, I doubt we'll have to wait too long into 2018 to find out more. Kaplan also confirmed that Blizzard has plans for more heroes even after No. 27 arrives.
Competitive Mode may get some big changes
Blizzard typically makes small tweaks to Competitive Mode between each season, like different rules for overtime, but grander changes may be afoot in 2018. "As the year goes on, we want to evolve our plan for what competitive play looks like over the long term of Overwatch, and [whether it takes] a different shape or form," Kaplan said. I'm a pretty casual competitive player (I am aware of how much that sounds like an oxymoron) so I'm open to pretty much anything, but Blizzard will have a difficult task in pleasing the mode's many different kinds of players.
Events get bigger, starting with Year of the Dog
The next seasonal event will be the Lunar New Year, and players can expect some "pretty significant content" when Year of the Dog begins (so hopefully not just dog icons pasted over all the old rooster icons). Kaplan confirmed that the Uprising event will reappear later in 2018 - I wasn't sure, since it's built around an in-universe event rather than a season or holiday - as well as celebrations for Overwatch's second anniversary; get ready to unlock all those dance emotes while you can. Those were the only events called out by name, but it's safe to assume that another round of Summer Games, Halloween Terror, and Winter Wonderland are on the way in 2018 too.
The standard loot selection will grow
"Hopefully sometime this month", the pool of non-event-exclusive loot will get a sorely needed infusion of new items. Kaplan says it will be "a ton of new content" and you'll have all the time you need to unlock it... assuming you don't buy all of it straight off with that pile of credits you've been saving up.
The Overwatch League begins
You're probably already pretty hyped up for the first season of Overwatch League to begin on January 10 if you're into esports. Blizzard's ambitious new approach to competitive play has athletes from around the world competing for city-based teams and the pre-season has already produced memorable moments aplenty. If you're not into esports, hey, at least some of those new team skins look pretty cool.