Overwatch 2 has finally arrived on Steam, to less than great user reviews. Of 118,000 user reviews (a number that dwarfs other recent releases), the majority are “overwhelmingly negative,” as fans take aim at how Blizzard has handled the FPS franchise since Overwatch 2’s launch on Battle.net and consoles almost a year ago. That has made it the worst user-reviewed game on Steam of all time just a few days after its launch, with only around 9% of reviews being positive.
Review-bombing is nothing new. That, however, isn’t the full picture. As pointed out on Twitter by Daniel Ahmad, a video game analyst specializing in the Asian market, over two-thirds of the game’s Steam reviews are written in Chinese, with the majority of those being negative. While many of the reviews from Chinese players sport similar complaints to those of negative reviews from the rest of the world–like Blizzard’s cancellation of Overwatch 2’s planned PvE Hero mode and the price of the game’s microtransactions–Ahmad said the reviews also reflect larger feelings of frustration that have long gone unanswered.
Here’s something that no English language media outlet has caught on to:
Overwatch 2 currently has 100k reviews on Steam since launching 3 days ago, of which 91% are negative.
However, nearly 2/3 of those reviews (63k) are written in S.Chinese, with 97% of them being…
— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) August 13, 2023
Chinese players have been unable to play Overwatch 2 (or any Blizzard games aside from the NetEase co-developed Diablo Immortal) for nearly eight months following the end of Blizzard and NetEase’s 14-year distribution agreement back in January 2023. The breakup between Blizzard and NetEase was messy, with both companies issuing statements accusing the other as being the reason a new agreement or contract extension couldn’t be reached. Blizzard games are still largely inaccessible in China as a result, as Blizzard searches for a new distribution partner in the region for its games.
Overwatch 2’s arrival on Steam marks the first time Chinese players have been given both a chance to play the game (Steam can be accessed without a VPN in China and Overwatch 2 on Steam features a simplified Chinese localization) since the end of NetEase’s distribution agreement and voice their complaints on the issue on a global stage.
Since Chinese Overwatch 2 players are having to go through Steam to play and don’t have access to their original Overwatch 2 accounts following Blizzard and NetEase’s breakup, players are frustrated about having to start over from scratch and the game’s lack of proper Chinese servers.
“In the end, it’s clear that OW [Overwatch] was and still is a popular IP in China,” Ahmad said. “But the string of events starting from the shut down at the beginning of the year has led to pent up frustration being let out all at once.”
NetEase’s president of global investments, Simon Zhu, said earlier this year that the shutdown of Blizzard’s Chinese game servers was “such a sad moment.”
“The biggest victim would be players in China who live and breathe in those worlds,” Zhu said. “I also know how hard it will feel for those Blizzard developers who have spent all their passion and talent to build those amazing worlds. I hope all those valuable memories never fade away.”
In December 2022, World of Warcraft general manager John Hight said Blizzard was in “discussions” with a number of potential new distribution partners and efforts would continue until “a viable solution” is found. No new Chinese distribution partner for Blizzard games has been announced.
Despite the user-review backlash, Overwatch 2 seems to have found some success on Steam. The game peaked at over 75,000 players on the platform following its launch and is currently among Steam’s top-20 played games. Overwatch 2’s Steam debut coincided with the arrival of Season 6, titled Invasion, which introduced the new support hero Illari and PvE story missions.