Hey, did you know crossplay hit Overwatch this week? For the first time since the 2016 release, it is now possible to group with console / PC buttons and jump to any mode (as long as it is not competitive). If you’re a PC player, you’ve probably been playing with console players for days without knowing it.
I don’t blame you for not noticing it. It’s surprisingly hard to know which players in your lobby play on a different platform, and the rules about when platforms can play together are much more complicated than just about every other crossover game out there. It is already causing some confusion in the community. The most common misunderstanding so far it happens when console gamers match PC players and are pleasantly surprised that the game still feels balanced with keyboard and mouse users. In fact, most of these players don't play PC players at all, they just think they are because the Overwatch user interface is blurry.
Console players cannot match PC players unless they have a PC friend in their game when match preparation begins. Any group with PC players automatically enters the "PC group". All other types of players or groups can only play with other consoles, specifically the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S / X and Nintendo Switch.
To make matters worse, Overwatch does not highlight any of these details about matching games: you need to read a Dedicated FAQs to find out these things. Overwatch also follows the increasingly popular trend of making it harder to know when there are cross-platform players in your game. There are no signs of cross-game presence on the scoreboard or anywhere on the post-match screen. You need to summon the Social menu (this screen I occasionally use to change the voice channel) and look for the small cross game symbol next to the players' names. The symbol does not tell you on which platform they are, but they are not on yours.
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEvKTSF7CMM (/ embed)
There’s a lot to keep track of, but not for any reason: Blizzard is trying to keep Overwatch as fair as ever, while connecting platforms and improving queue times. The idea is nice, but honestly, this is impossible in an FPS.
Recent years have shown that there are clear winners and losers when it comes to cross-play. Mouse players will always have a goal advantage over drivers, and the more shot a shooter is, the more noticeable this skill gap becomes. That's why the Overwatch PC pool is in line with the all-together-console-funtime function pool. It’s a different and more ruthless space that console gamers can only choose by grouping with a PC friend.
It’s hard to see how any console player is supposed to have a good time in the PC pool, especially because the advantage that the driver usually has, goal support, is automatically turned off. Blizzard decided to ban target assistance in the name of fairness (if mouse players don't get help with aiming, why should drivers do it?), But how frustrated console players have pointed out, crossover gaming is inherently biased in favor of PCs anyway. Call of Duty: Warzone's crossover game helps control gamers and PC gamers often complain that support is too is good close, but considering the list of bonuses that PC gamers enjoy (an unlocked photo frame, a FOV slider, proper video options, and mice), is it really a big deal? Blizzard says yes.
Of course, console players have the option to get away from the crowd of PCs and enjoy the new base of players. But even that can be problematic for gamers on Overwatch's darkest and (I suspect) least popular platform, the Nintendo Switch. The experience of the Overwatch console is more or less the same, regardless of the box of Sony or Microsoft, but the Switch version works at 30 fps. It’s half the frequency of 60 fps locked PS / Xbox frames, a major downside in a fast-moving shooter. Switch players may decide that the inconvenience is not worth it and turn off cross-play. Unfortunately, Reddit user ulemann123 I tried it and found discouraging news:
With cross-play off, fast-paced queue times on the switch are eight to fifteen minutes to play a single game. It seems that if cross-play is turned on by default, players who turn it off are automatically in the minority. It's an absurd time to wait, but if they want to play a casual game on equal terms, now is the only option. From what I can tell, the wait times were already longer on Switch than any other platform, so many may think it's worth the performance disadvantage.
What are the winners here? PlayStation and Xbox players, mainly. These are the platforms that can now enjoy universally faster queuing times (in theory) without disturbing the balance (unless they make the decision to jump into the PC pool, it kind of sucks).
Not bad for PC players either. It’s great to have the option to group with friends I couldn’t before. I haven't had noticeably faster queuing times, but I've noticed that games are a little easier when my group of friends from all over the PC matches the console players on the other computer. The only downside is that PC gamers can't turn off cross-play, so I have no control over how many console players will appear on my computer (and unfortunately make it difficult to win).
It’s a good thing Overwatch crossplay is in beta, because it could use some tuning. Blizzard says it is listening to comments and aims to improve the feature by moving forward. In the meantime, I apologize to all the driver players I dusted off last week, especially if you’re on Switch.