The 27th hero, the imminent release of Blizzard World, and changes to competitive play were all previewed by Jeff Kaplan in the first Overwatch developer update of the new year.
Overwatch's lead designer began the episode by reviewing the previous year’s accomplishments, including the release of new heroes, maps, game modes, and the Overwatch League pre-season, before jumping into what players can expect in 2018.
Kaplan confirmed that Overwatch’s next hero is currently in internal testing, and will be released sooner rather than later. He offered no specifics, saying only that “the release date is less important to us than getting the hero right.”
He also confirmed that Blizzard World will be released on live servers soon, and that we can expect a variety of new maps in 2018.
The lead designer emphasized the Overwatch team’s commitment to improving competitive play in the long-term. As many know, performance-based skill rating is being removed in season eight for those rank diamond and above, and we can expect relatively minor, short-term improvements such as these going forward.
“We want to make good, short-term, strategic and tactical fixes to competitive play to improve [each season of competitive],” said Kaplan. “...And as the year goes on, we want to kind of evolve our plan for what competitive play looks like over the long-term of Overwatch, and does it take a different shape or form? And that’s still to be determined, but I just want to share with you some of our thoughts and some of what we’re working on here at Blizzard.”
Kaplan did not go on to provide any additional information about Blizzard's plans to improve competitive. The implementation of a role queue; a separate solo queue; and, low-priority relegation for frequently reported players are common requests from the community.
Kaplan also mentioned a variety of cosmetic content coming in 2018. For starters, Overwatch League skins will be available “soon,” and new skins will be added to the original, or non-event, loot boxes.
A new event will celebrate the Lunar New Year, and the Uprising PvE event from April 2017 will return, though not without updates and alterations. Similarly, the Overwatch anniversary event will return in late May. The dance emotes and, presumably, legendary skins from 2017’s anniversary event will be available alongside new cosmetics.
For the full developer update, click here.