Overwatch: Jeff Kaplan opens up about the challenges of communicating with fans on the game’s forums

By James O'Connor, Wednesday, 4 October 2017 02:13 GMT

Overwatch has been a massive success – but that can create its own unique challenges for a development team.

Overwatch, which launched in May 2016, hit a 30 million player milestone six full months ago. It continues to grow today, with the growth of the Overwatch League and the continued cycle of new skins and events.

But maintaining a game, and an audience, this big can be exhausting and ‘scary’, as Blizzard Vice President Jeff Kaplan has explained in a new post on the Overwatch forums.

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Posting in the thread ‘Do you think Overwatch team simply not have enough people?’ (sic), Jeff Kaplan clarified that while the team is made up of about 100 people, not all of them are able to communicate directly with the fanbase.

“Since the day we have launched, we’ve only increased our efforts and dedication”, he says. “Overwatch is a 24/7, 365 days a year affair for us. Overwatch doesn’t stop because it’s 5 o’clock on a Friday evening. Overwatch doesn’t stop because it’s our kids’ birthday.”

Kaplan speaks at length about the work the team puts in, their dedication, and how critical they are of their own game (if this post is accurate they sound tremendously overworked, to be honest, which is a definite problem in the industry). There’s one section that people are latching onto, though, as Kaplan outlines how difficult it can be to talk about the game, with comments being latched onto and taken as definitive:

And if you’ll allow me to speak openly for a moment — it’s scary. Overall, the community is awesome to us. But there are some pretty mean people out there. All of our developers are free to post on these forums. Very few of us actually do because it’s extremely intimidating and/or time consuming. It’s very easy to post the wrong thing and make a “promise” to the community that no one intended to make. Once we say we’re working on something, we’re not allowed to “take it back”. It’s set in stone.

It’s an interesting post about the culture around game development and fandom, one that exposes the balancing act involved between being able to talk about the game and knowing that every word you say – and the ones you don’t say – will be analysed by the community.

“Anyway, we always appreciate feedback when it is expressed in an open, direct and constructive way”, he concludes. “Player feedback is what has made this game great. We will try to communicate as much as we can. We love being a part of the community and we don’t ever want to view ourselves or be viewed as being separate or removed from that. Thanks for being patient with us.”

Overwatch is available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

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