On Friday, Blizzard Entertainment kicked off its annual Blizzcon event in Anaheim with announcements about longtime series such as StarCraft and newer entries like Heroes of the Storm, but the keynote's biggest noisemaker was the debut of a new IP: Overwatch, the company's first-ever first-person shooter series (no, we don't count StarCraft: Ghost).
The class-based online shooter was revealed by way of a lengthy, pre-rendered 3D animation, which saw two excited children wander through a bright, colorful museum dedicated to a long-ago battle. Not surprisingly, chaos broke out in the trailer, with a number of super-sized heroes showing up to leap, dash, punch, and blast at each other.
The cartoony, Pixar-like visuals of the animation were followed by an immediate gameplay reveal, which showed a number of distinct characters shooting at each other in mostly first-person combat, though with frequent camera-pulls to show off special maneuvers. It included team-shooter archetypes like healers and engineers, but Overwatch's gameplay seemed to particularly stress speed and firepower. One character, named Tracer, could run into a ruckus and lay down attacks, then personally rewind time as a way to escape the hectic scene; another named Hanzo could climb and bounce off of walls, then shoot arrows that exposed enemies through walls.
The gameplay footage also had rockets, hammers, pistols, bombs, and all other matter of destructive implement, all wielded in colorful arenas, including an Egyptian tomb and an ancient Japanese villa.
Overwatch's reveal was followed by the unveiling of a giant hub of computers at Blizzcon, where attendees could start playing the game's alpha immediately. Not surprisingly, details about the game were otherwise scant, and we can't imagine Blizzard will answer questions this weekend about issues like sales model, target platform, or exact timeframe any time soon. We only know that its beta is coming "in 2015" (wide window, guys), and fans can now sign up for that beta at PlayOverwatch.com.
Blizzard CEO Michael Morhaime also took an opportunity at the beginning of the BlizzCon keynote to call out those who "tarnish[ed] our reputation as gamers" over the past few months. "There is another person on the other end of the chat screen. They're our friends; our brothers and sisters; our sons and daughters."
Though while he didn't use the word "Gamergate," Morhaime's statement couldn't be mistaken as referring to anything else; additionally, he did not correct Blizzcon correspondent Geoff Keighley when he used the word Gamergate to describe the statement.