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Bill Murphy: Overwatch & Battleborn - WoW and EQ2 Redux

Editorials By William Murphy on May 25, 2016

Overwatch & Battleborn - WoW and EQ2 Redux

Now that they’re both in the wild, the war rages on between fans of Battleborn and Overwatch – two similar (at first glance) games competing for gamers’ attention this summer. While there’s little doubt that Blizzard’s shooter is dominating the marketing airwaves, our own Suzie Ford recently penned a column on why you can love and play both. And really, you can because they’re two vastly different games that happen to look the same on the outside or at first blush. But for me, there are some obvious parallels to two rival MMOs from 2004, and just how the next few months will play out.


The prediction or observations here will seem grim for fans of Gearbox’s Battleborn, but believe me: there’s nothing wrong with being a fan of a niche game. You’re talking about a former fan site editor for Auto Assault.  But let’s not beat around the digital bush here, one game is going to dominate sales, and it’s been clear for months that Blizzard’s Overwatch is that game.  I’m not even addressing other similar titles such as Lawbreakers, Paragon, and Paladins in this article. The fates of those games remain to be seen, and again they’re all vastly different experiences but they’re in the same wheelhouse.

Ah, the good ol’ days.

No, how I see Battleborn and Overwatch will be familiar to all of you: Battleborn is EverQuest 2. Overwatch is World of Warcraft. Battleborn comes from a studio that’s been developing shooters for years and is seen as the “veteran” of the genre. Overwatch is Blizzard’s first attempt at the shooter.  Battleborn pulls from Gearbox’s previous games (especially Borderlands) in tone and mechanics. Overwatch pulls from the best games in the genre while donning Blizzard’s own custom-built IP.  Battleborn has a faithful and devoted niche community based on fandom for Gearbox’s previous games. Overwatch has a massive audience, but it’s amazingly built just from fans of Blizzard games in general. Something the Irvine developer has earned over decades.

What will happen next is probably clear to see. Battleborn, a great game in its own way, will see a dwindling player base and will likely go Free to Play after some large discounts (it’s currently sitting at $40 as part of a sale with the launch of a new hero). Meanwhile, for some time into the future, Overwatch will make a mint on box sales, and even the lootcrate sales.  I’m betting we’ll see a “10 Million Units Sold” announcement from Blizzard within the month, and Gearbox’s camp will hit around 1 million units. These are just guesses, but again they draw parallels to what we saw with EQ2 and WoW over ten years ago.

Image courtesy of

Blizzard does something few developers can ever hope to replicate. They take a game, they distill it to its basics, and they polish and iterate until even if it’s “basic” it’s so damned refined that few people can resist its lure.  Battleborn is beefier, to be sure. With progression, a full (but limited) PVE campaign, and more heroes and maps already being added you’d think folks would be more drawn to Gearbox’s game. But there’s something working against them, and it’s not something they can even fight: they’re not Blizzard.

Like EQ2 and WoW 12 years behind us, I doubt we’ll still be talking about Overwatch and Battleborn in 10 years’ time. But I’m willing to bet we’ll see more Overwatch games and spinoffs, and quite possibly we’ll still see Overwatch being played by hundreds of thousands of players. Maybe we’ll see a Battleborn sequel, but it’s probably more likely we’ll see more Borderlands games come to fruition beforehand… the RPG shooter is something Gearbox owns by themselves for now. Now if Overwatch: The RPG ever becomes a thing, then we’ll just have to see what happens.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.