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It’s been a rough month for the launch of Overwatch 2. In the early days of release, Blizzard’s long-awaited sequel to 2016’s team-based shooter was experiencing connection issues, leaving millions of players unable to enter matches. While many server issues have now been resolved, Blizzard now has another challenge: making enough sales from microtransactions to support the franchise’s shift to a free-to-play model.

So far it has been quite difficult. Overwatch 2’s recent Halloween event, Halloween Terror, introduced a variety of themed character skins and weapons to the game for the “discounted” price of 2000 Overwatch Coins each, roughly the equivalent of $20. A legendary skin for the character Kiriko was available for 2600 Overwatch Coins, a discount from the original price of 3700 Overwatch Coins. As you can imagine, this is already bothering some players, especially since this year’s Halloween update removed the ability to earn unlockable skins simply by progressing through the game.

Obviously, some players aren’t willing to spend more than $20 on an alternate outfit for their character. However, we know that players are more than happy to spend roughly the same price in other free games such as Fortnite to unlock characters from popular franchises, whether it’s Goku from Dragon Ball Z or Spider-Man from Marvel. It’s something Jon Spector, Overwatch’s chief commercial officer and vice president at Blizzard, seems well aware of, according to a recent interview with GameInformer.

In the interview, Spector announced that while he’s not a Fortnite player, he thinks it’s “super cool” and “awesome” to see brand collaborations such as Naruto popping up in Fortnite.
“As we look at the Overwatch 2 space, these are things we’re interested in exploring,” he says.

So, with Overwatch 2’s current monetization strategies leaving a lot to be desired, could we see a shift towards branded collaborations as the core monetization strategy rather than the traditional Legendary and Epic skins? Lowering the price of skins and embracing Fortnite-style collaborations would make a lot of business sense for Overwatch 2, especially since the company still seems torn over its pricing, according to a recent survey sent to some players.

We know that Fortnite’s collaborations with Marvel, NFL, Nike, and Ferrari have been a huge success for Epic, thanks in large part to the amount of revenue they generate through the sale of cosmetic items such as skins, emotes , banners and emoticons. As an example, the game’s collaboration with the NFL sold 3.3 million NFL-themed skins for $15 each in November and December 2018, according to leaked court documents of the Apple v Epic case. This represents nearly $50 million in revenue.

The big question now is how easily Overwatch 2 can replicate Fornite’s core business model and how well these collaborations fit the Overwatch brand.

One of the biggest challenges facing Overwatch 2 is the fact that it’s a hero-based shooter, with each hero having their own unique set of skills, traits, and playstyles. As is often the case with team shooters, players often find themselves favoring specific heroes, whether offensive heroes or defensive heroes that match their preferred playstyles.

That means Overwatch 2 will have to think carefully about how it rolls out brand collaborations. For example, will a Marvel collaboration introduce special themed skins for each hero in the game, or introduce a new limited-time character to the game? The introduction of any new characters will need to be calculated carefully, so as not to negatively impact the balance of existing characters.

It’s more likely that Overwatch 2 will introduce themed skins rather than new characters like those seen in Dragon Ball Z. Depending on the popularity of the IP that Overwatch 2 is chasing, I suspect players will be more likely to invest $15 or $20 in a skin that turns their favorite Overwatch hero into an alternate version of their favorite anime, movie, TV, or comic book characters, whether it’s Spider-Man, Darth Vader, or any of the Transformers.

Overwatch 2’s hero-based mechanics could also mean that skins are only available for specific characters. While this may cause some backlash from some fans at first, it could also open up alternative sources of income. For example, tank hero Reinhardt’s style and appearance lends itself well to a Transformers skin. Players who don’t usually choose Reinhardt but are big Transformers fans may be tempted to buy a Transformers skin for him and start using him more. In turn, this could have a ripple effect on players purchasing Reinhardt’s larger cosmetic items.

There’s no denying that Overwatch 2 is a great game; reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. If Overwatch 2 continues to struggle with monetization models, brand collaborations like Fortnite’s could be the answer to its future success. But taking an established franchise that previously carried a full-price retail tag and moving it to a free-to-play model is no easy task.

Key Considerations When Choosing Your Target IP

If you’re a game developer looking to emulate the success of Fornite’s IP, there are a few things to consider before integrating IP into your game.

  • Don’t choose a target IP just because it’s a very popular brand or character. Look at your game and your players and ask yourself if this is something that will resonate with them. For example, a smart partnership between The Walking Dead and State of Survival brought 20 million new players to the game. A good understanding of the demographics of your players is therefore essential. Be prepared to prove this to licensees as well, as they will be equally interested in knowing if there is an audience overlap.
  • It may sound simple, but be sure to do your homework. Different IP rights holders may have very different priorities and strict requirements for use. Larger properties, especially those popular with children, can be particularly strict as it is in the owners’ interest to carefully limit their use. It is therefore up to the developers to demonstrate their ability to respect them. Being prepared can give you a huge advantage and help you get through some of the initial screening stages and introduce yourself to the right decision makers.
  • There are more ways to incorporate IP into your game than ever before. So think carefully about your main goals, because simpler game items, like cosmetics and skins, are often much easier to negotiate with rights holders due to less complicated terms. Plus, lighter development and build costs can make them much faster to deploy. . FIFA 23 recently brought Apple TV’s Ted Lasso as well as Marvel cards to Ultimate Teamwith these simple and smart offerings opening the door to further collaborations in the future.

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