While there are many updates coming to Overwatch, game director Jeff Kaplan has explicitly explained one major change: The leveling system.
Overwatch’s leveling system has remained constant since its launch: When leveling from 1 to mid-20s, the experience (EXP) needed to level is low and steadily ramps up. After those first 20-something levels, leveling requires 22,000 EXP per level– until you hit level 100. At that point, you “prestige”, or reset to level 1 with a star added to your level (For example, Level 401 looks like 1****). The reason that the return-to-level-1 distinction was important is that the EXP needed to level also reverted to the 1-99 model, so (for example) levels 401-425 would be easier to climb than 325-399.
This is important not just for leveling, but for Loot Boxes, which the game gives out after each level up and contain accessories for your heroes. When special events like the Olympic and Halloween themed Loot Boxes were upcoming, players would sometimes save up loot boxes and not open them until the event started. As this led to some players losing interest until those events started, Blizzard made it impossible to get event loot from Loot Boxes that weren’t earned DURING the event– just opening earlier-acquired Loot Boxes during the event wasn’t enough.
This led to a new problem: Players would come close to “prestiging” and stop playing until an event started, so that they could get those first 20-something loot boxes very quickly. The new leveling model seeks to remedy this: The first 20-something levels are acquired at the same clip, but prestiging doesn’t reset the model (e.g. levels 25-999 all take the same EXP). The upside of this is that leveling now takes 20,000 XP, which is 2,000 less than before.
Some players cried foul, claiming that Blizzard was trying to sell more event Loot Boxes through cash purchases by limiting the ease with which people could level. Jeff Kaplan took to the forums to set the record straight: “Overall, the EXP change should be a benefit to the player base. Had this change been in effect for the Halloween Terror event we would have given out MORE loot boxes. More players would have gotten more stuff,” Kaplan points out.
“This change has nothing to do with a desire on our part to drive more or less interest in loot box sales. This change is to prevent players from binge behavior or halting play… and to prevent players who are not close to prestiging from feeling like they somehow missed out on “bonus” items. This change exists to add levity to the leveling experience. We want you playing Overwatch or not playing Overwatch when you want/don’t want to. That’s the entire reason for this change… nothing else.”
Given Blizzard’s enormous wealth and the fact that the average player doesn’t play enough to have gamed the prestige system, Kaplan’s explanation rings true. Overwatch is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.