ⓘ Overwatch seasonal events. Overwatch is an online team-based first person shooter developed by Blizzard Entertainment, and released worldwide in May 2016. Norma ..


ⓘ Overwatch seasonal events

Overwatch is an online team-based first person shooter developed by Blizzard Entertainment, and released worldwide in May 2016. Normally played in matches of six-vs-six, players select from one of over 30 heroes, broadly classified into the three roles of Tank, Damage, and Support, and work with their team to attack or defend map objectives. Each hero has a unique set of weapons, abilities, and skills, which players use to coordinate with their team to overpower the other. Overwatch supports both casual and ranked matchmaking, as well as a rotating set of arcade modes, and the game has since become a popular esport, featuring the Overwatch League that started in 2018. The game has been both a critical and financial success for Blizzard, exceeding over 30 million players and obtaining over US$ 1 billion in revenue within its first year.

To support ongoing interest in the game, Blizzard has run several seasonal events, typically coinciding with worldwide events and holidays. These events last for two to three weeks, updating levels to incorporate elements of that theme, and provide new game modes along with the opportunity to buy items with credits or acquire them through the games loot box system. Players keep their earned character cosmetic options after the event ends, but the rest of the themed elements return to normal.


1. Overview

Over the course of developing Overwatch, Blizzard opted against using a downloadable content model to extend the game and bring post-sale revenues, as they had developed the game around the mechanic of allowing players to switch out to new heroes during the course of a match as to meet current strategic conditions; by requiring players to purchase new heroes, such a model would have hampered this approach. Instead, they opted to include microtransactions through which players can buy loot boxes, which contain four randomized cosmetic items, including characters skins, victory poses, emotes, spray tags, highlight introductions, and player icons. This allowed them to create an incentivized level progression system that would reward players with a loot box for every level they earned from experience gained in playing matches. Working alongside this, players can earn in-game coins through some loot box rewards or as a consolation prize for receiving a duplicate loot box reward. These coins can be used to purchase any of the available cosmetic items with the exception of player icons, the cost reflecting the rarity of obtaining the item through a loot box.

Beginning in August 2016, Blizzard began introducing seasonal events, starting with the Summer Games event which corresponded with the 2016 Summer Olympics. Overwatch s director Jeff Kaplan said the goal of these seasonal events was to make the game "feel alive", correlating with real-world events. The company has a history of creating in-game seasonal events, such as the Valentines Day and New Years events in World of Warcraft. Other competitor games, such as Destiny, League of Legends and Team Fortress 2, also implement in-game seasonal events.

Events have generally included at least one new game mode, which typically is only available to play while that event is active; one exception is the "Capture the Flag" mode introduced during the Chinese New Year event in early 2017, which has been brought back to the game as a permanent feature in the games casual Arcade matchmaking mode. Players are typically rewarded with loot boxes for playing matches in these seasonal game modes, and the game offers unique achievements and associated cosmetic rewards for completing certain goals within them.

In addition to new games modes, these seasonal events include unique cosmetic items that can be obtained primarily during the event. Blizzard develops a large amount of content for these events, not all which ends up available to players. Initially, these items could only be obtained through event-themed loot boxes that are guaranteed to contain at least one event-themed item, which could either be earned through leveling up, completing the event game modes, or through microtransactions; however, in response to player feedback and avoid an apparent paywall access to these items, Blizzard allowed players to purchase these items with in-game currency at a higher cost than a non-event item of the same rarity, starting from the second seasonal event onward. When the event is completed, the themed loot boxes and cosmetic items are no longer are available until the event is run again. However, players retain and can use all unique event items they have earned after the event. Not all event items will be limited in this manner, as Blizzard plans to have certain event items be possible loot obtained from a regular loot box in the future.

Several seasonal events, such as Summer Games, Halloween Terror, and Winter Wonderland, have recurred. However, on bringing these events back, the development team has added new changes to the event to keep them fresh and to reflect any new heroes or other content added to the game since the previous events occurrence; for example, the 2017 Halloween "Junkensteins Revenge" included a new endless mode and support for some of the newer heroes. Recurring events also feature new themed cosmetic items for these recurring events, along with the return of the previous cosmetics which can be found in the event loot boxes or bought for a reduced coin amount. Not all seasonal events are designed for recurrence, such as the lore-heavy "Uprising" event which took place in April 2017. Kaplan said that Blizzard has plans as to how these events will evolve in the future.


2.1. 2016 events Summer Games

In August 2016, Blizzard released its first seasonal event in celebration of the concurrent 2016 Summer Olympics. Both Blizzards "Summer Games" and the Olympics ran throughout the month. Summer Games added 100 new cosmetic character options and a new game mode, Lucioball.

Lucioball was designed as a futuristic soccer game in which two teams of three Lucio characters attempt to push a ball into their opponents goal. Played in four-minute matches on the special stadium map, Estadio das Rãs, players use two kinds of attacks to control the balls movements: primarily, a melee attack and a secondary, powerful sonic boom that could knock back opponents as well frequently called "booping" by players. Players can also use the levels environmental perks e.g., jump pads and speed-boosting walls to secure strategic advantage on the field. PC Gamer felt that the mode felt closer to a "multiplayer carnival game than a fleshed-out, standalone mode".


2.2. 2016 events Halloween Terror

Blizzard released its second seasonal event for Halloween, which lasted throughout the month of October 2016. It included over 100 new cosmetic items in jack-o-lantern-themed loot boxes and the games first game mode against computer players, Junkensteins Revenge. Several characters received new Halloween-themed cosmetic skins. PC Gamer wrote that they were among the games best add-ons, and Kill Screen felt the new character skins were much more enjoyable compared to those offered for the Summer Games. Players could now purchase the seasonal add-ons with in-game credits at a premium, in response to criticism Blizzard received from players during the Summer Games.

In Junkensteins Revenge, four players cooperatively guard a castle door from oncoming waves of enemies and bosses. Set in a themed section of the games Eichenwalde map, players select a difficulty level and choose between the characters Ana, Hanzo, McCree, and Soldier: 76, before fighting off approaching mindless "zomnic" drones, long-range "zombardiers," exploding tires, and costumed versions of the characters Reaper, Roadhog, Symmetra, Mercy, and Junkrat as the titular Dr. Junkenstein. The game mode includes new voice work and is based on a companion comic book released concurrently.

The new mode was generally praised by commentators. PC Gamer wrote that the event resembled a similar event run on the team shooter Team Fortress 2 since 2012. Though the reviewer found the Junkenstein mode pleasant, he wrote that in comparison to Team Fortress 2 s Mann vs. Machine mode, Junkenstein felt "shallow" and similar to Lucioball in its simplistic map flow, giving little room for player movement. He also wondered why the mode was limited to four specific characters. Eurogamer s Robert Purchase found the event fun and considered it a good distraction from Overwatch s main modes, but also recognized that if it was kept on after the Halloween Terror event, it would become a stale game mode. Heather Alexandra for Kotaku felt that the mode demonstrated that a co-operative player-versus-environment mode would fit well as a permanent feature within Overwatch as it required good team coordination to complete more challenging matches.

The event ended a few hours earlier than had been planned, leaving some players upset as they were waiting for as long as possible collecting the themed loot boxes in-game before trying to spend in-game coins or purchasing loot boxes to get the cosmetic items they were missing.


2.3. 2016 events Winter Wonderland

The holiday-themed Winter Wonderland event ran for the latter half of December 2016 through the first days of the new year. Like previous events, it added over 100 themed cosmetic items for players to obtain via loot boxes or in-game currency, as well as provided snowy versions of two of the games maps. One cosmetic item included the first Legendary skin for Mei since the games release, a Santa-like outfit; with this skin equipped, it also changed the appearance of Meis Cryo-Freeze from a simple block of ice to a frozen snowman. Players criticized the skin, feeling that it did not vary as much from Meis normal outfits and appeared to be a simple recoloring of her default skin, in comparison to what other characters Legendary skins had been. Blizzard admitted that their "cool meter was off" when they designed this skin, believing that players would take to the Cryo-Freeze effect as a reason to value the skin. Blizzard stated that they had plans for another Mei Legendary skin, along the lines of what players would expect, in early 2017.

The event featured a new deathmatch mode called "Meis Snowball Offensive". The mode took place on the smaller Ecopoint: Antartica map, introduced in the previous months for standard deathmatch play. Six players each play Mei, but where her Endothermic Blaster, which normally fires a stream of damaging cold, can only fire a single snowball. Players must find a snowball pile scattered around the map to reload the weapon. Further, her Ultimate ability allows her to fire a machine-gun-like string of snowballs for a brief period. Otherwise, Meis other abilities Ice Wall and Cyro-Freeze remain the same. A single snowball hit kills the struck until the round is complete. Kotaku claims this mode was generally not well received by players as the act of having to reload the Blaster made one too vulnerable, and with the permadeath mechanic in play, the mode was not fun nor captured the spirit of a snowball fight.


3.1. 2017 events Year of the Rooster

A Chinese New Year-themed event launched a few days before the actual holiday on January 28, 2017, and centered on celebrating the Year of the Rooster. As with past events, the Chinese New Year event introduced over 100 new cosmetic items, including the promised new Legendary skin for Mei to make up for the poorly-received one she had gotten during the Winter Wonderland event. Other skins for Roadhog, Reinhardt, Winston and Zenyatta alluded to the Chinese novel Journey to the West.

The event introduced the first Capture the Flag mode for Overwatch called "Capture the Rooster"; Blizzard had looked at adding such a mode for a few years during Overwatch s development but had difficulty with the mechanics due to the vastly different set of abilities offered by the characters that could imbalance the mode towards fast-moving characters. Played on the Lijiang Tower map, normally used for Control modes, each team has a flag near their base. To capture the other opponents flag, a character must stay near the flag and not take damage for a few seconds. Once they have taken the flag, they then must return it to their teams base, scoring a point if they do so. If they die while bringing the flag back, either a teammate can try to capture it, or the opposing team must stay near the flag, avoiding taking damage for a few seconds, to return it to their base. Teams can score with the opposing teams flag even if their teams flag has been taken. The first team to three scores, or the team with the highest score after five minutes, wins the match.

Following the event, Blizzard introduced a more general Capture the Flag mode, playable on any of the Control maps, into the Arcade modes as well as making it an option for custom games with several adjustable parameters.


3.2. 2017 events Overwatch Archive: Uprising

Uprising ran for most of the month of April 2017, and was the first seasonal event not tied to any real-world event, but instead used to expand the lore of Overwatch. The story centered around one of the last official missions of the Overwatch team before they were disbanded - having to end the threat of a hostile Omnic force known as the Null Sector in its attack on the citizens of London - ; which also happened to be Tracers first mission. Over 100 new cosmetic items were added with this event, many based on the uniforms and backstory of the original Overwatch forces. A digital comic retelling this story was released alongside the event. According to Kaplan, the Uprising event was something Blizzard felt had been asked for by players since they started offering the seasonal events. Players had requested non-holiday-themed events, as well as sought more details on the setting and history of the Overwatch world.

The event added a new cooperative player-versus-environment mode called "Uprising", played on the Kings Row map set in London. In the standard mode, which can be played at one of four difficulty levels, four players select from the characters of Tracer, Reinhardt, Torbjorn, and Mercy. From there, the players are directed by in-game narration to take several control points while fighting against waves of Null Sector Omnics that try to stop them. Eventually, they must then escort an explosive weapon to a sealed door in order to access the heart of the Null Sector facility and end their threat for good. If a player was downed, any of the other still-surviving players could help them up by interacting with that character for a few moments or through Mercys ability of Resurrection. If all four players are downed, or the explosive is destroyed before reaching the sealed doors, the round ends as a loss. A separate mode allowed players to complete the same mission without being limited in character selection, but without any of the character-specific dialogue; Blizzard added this based on feedback from Junkensteins Revenge, so as to provide a less restrictive way to enjoy the game mode.

The Uprising mode was considered a much-improved version of a player-versus-environment mode compared to Junkensteins Revenge from the Halloween event. Cecilia DAnastasio for Kotaku felt the mode was much more dynamic since it required players to move throughout the map rather than stay in one general location, and as the four default characters represent a balanced team, the mode calls for more careful teamwork and strategy. DAnastasio also felt that with new voice lines to support this mode, it helped to establish the games lore for players. PC Gamer argued that the Uprising event demonstrated the potential for a strong team-based story-driven campaign developed within the Overwatch narrative.

The event had mistakenly ended a few hours earlier than expected on May 1, 2017; Blizzard apologized and extended the event for an additional day into May 2 to allow players to finish acquiring and purchasing the event loot boxes and skins.

While the event was just named "Uprising" at its release, Blizzard stated in 2018 that they considered it to be the first Overwatch Archive" annual event that will be used to explore the history of the characters and narrative.


3.3. 2017 events Anniversary

The Anniversary event, ran from the end of May 2017, celebrated Overwatch s first year since release. Gameplay-wise, it added three new Arena maps used for the smaller-scale Elimination games, and which will remain in rotation after the events conclusion. The Eliminate mode also received two variants. In one-on-one "Limited Duel" matches, each player is presented with the same selection of three random heroes for play for that round. In three-on-three "Lockout Elimination", the heroes used by the winning team on a round are locked out for the next round.

In addition, over one hundred new cosmetic items are available, including new dancing emotes for each of the characters. The dance emotes were found to evoke references to popularized dance moves in other works, such as Meis dance being similar to the "Hare Yukai" dance used at the end credits for the anime The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.


3.4. 2017 events Summer Games 2017

A second Summer Games event was held from August 8 to 29, 2017. This event brought back the 3-on-3 soccer-like mode, Lucioball, introduced from the first Summer Games, adding additional arenas for the event to be played in, but removing the ability to "boop" other players. In addition to casual matchmaking for Lucioball, Blizzard also introduced a ranked play system for Lucioball, separate from the games normal Competitive mode. By participating in this "Copa Lucioball" mode, players earned Competitive Points CP, the same in-game currency earned playing Competitive matches, and used towards purchasing special weapon skins such as golden weapons.

The previous skins and other cosmetic items offered from the first Summer Games were made available again to obtain in loot crates or purchasable from in-game coins at a lower cost, while additional Summer Games skins were added, purchasable at their normal cost.


3.5. 2017 events Halloween Terror 2017

The Halloween Terror 2017 event ran from October 10 to November 2, 2017. The event brought back "Junkensteins Revenge" from the previous years event, but added an endless-mode variant that challenges players to defend the door through as many waves as possible. This mode allowed players to have four additional characters to select from, Genji, Torbjorn, Widowmaker, and Zenyatta, in addition to McCree, Soldier: 76, Ana, and Hanzo. Teams lasting the longest were tracked via an online scoreboard.

New skins and cosmetic items were added to the event, along with the items from the previous Halloween Terror. With the exclusion of the tombstone victory poses introduced in the previous event, all these could be obtained from loot boxes or in-game coin purchase. Blizzard opted to remove the tombstone victory poses from loot box rewards as they believed these no longer fit with the characters personalities, but still allowed players to purchase them in-game.


3.6. 2017 events Winter Wonderland 2017

The winter-focused "Winter Wonderland 2017" event ran from December 12, 2017 through January 1, 2018. It brought back the previous years "Winter Wonderland" content, including the "Mei Snowball Offensive" mode and previous cosmetic items, along with new skins and other cosmetics. It also added a new Arcade mode, "Yeti Hunter". In this asymmetric mode, five players, each playing as Mei, attempt to defeat one player controlling Winston acting as the Yeti in a boss battle on Nepals Village stage. Yeti Hunt is the first Overwatch mode to use role selection; players can indicate their preference to play as a Mei or as the Yeti. The Winston player must elude the Mei team, which can freeze him, use ice walls to impede his movement, or catch him in a snare trap which replaces Meis usual Ultimate. After collecting four pieces of meat, which spawn randomly in predetermined locations around the map, Winston unleashes his Ultimate ability for a short period which temporarily boosts his health, reduces his jump cooldown, and gives him powerful melee attacks. When a Mei player dies, they will respawn after a short delay and cost their team a life. The match is over once the Mei team either defeats Winston or loses all five of their lives. Kaplan described the Yeti Hunt as a light-hearted mode to be played for a few matches rather than hundreds of hours.


4.1. 2018 events Year of the Dog

The Chinese New Year event reoccurred from February 8 to March 5, 2018, now reflecting the Year of the Dog. New cosmetic items relating to the theme were released, in addition to the existing cosmetics from the previous event. A new map, "Ayutthaya", inspired by Thailand and specifically designed for the Capture the Flag mode, was introduced in this event. Additionally, new Capture the Flag rules for all modes were updated, replacing the potential to have these end as draws by instead playing tie-breaking rounds with the teams flags starting closer to each other on each subsequent round. The changes also eliminated the short period before players could pick up the flag, now able to pick up the flag instantaneously, but any use of a characters active skills or ultimate abilities that provide mobility or invulnerability would force them to drop the flag, and render the flag unable to be picked up for a few moments. These changes were to make games feel "much more offensive, and much more action-packed". Additionally, a competitive mode for Capture the Flag, following a similar format as the competitive Lucioball mode in the 2017 Summer Games event, was run during the event, rewarding players with Competitive Points and unique items for the end-of-event placement.

As part of the event, Blizzard featured its inaugural "Puppy Rumble", modeled after the Puppy Bowl, on February 19, 2018, featuring puppies dressed in Overwatch character outfits in mock events. All of the animals during the event were put up for adoption through the events co-sponsor Petfinder, as well as promoting animal adoption through other local adoption agencies.


4.2. 2018 events Overwatch Archive: Retribution

The Overwatch Archive event from the previous year returned, and ran from April 10, 2018. It brought back the narrative-driven player-versus-environment mode introduced in Uprising. It also featured a new mode titled "Retribution", which will take place on a new map, Rialto, which entered the games map rotation as a Payload map outside of the Retribution event, on May 3, 2018. This was a four-player co-operative mode, based on the characters Reaper, McCree, Moira, and Genji as they escape from Talon forces; alternatively, this mode also includes an All-Hero mode where players can select any of the available characters. New skins and cosmetic items were available in loot boxes during this time. The new Retribution event was aimed to provide a more replayable experience compared to the prior Uprising event. This included eliminating the waypoint approach they as to reduce elements on the user interface and instead allow players to naturally figure out how to progress in the mission. They also included "specials", unique enemies with special abilities to pose an immediate threat to the players rather than just waves of strong enemies, and included an enemy artificial intelligence systems to better react to players, including in the All-Hero mode. Much of the ideas of this mode were based on concepts from the Left 4 Dead games.


4.3. 2018 events Anniversary 2018

The second anniversary event ran from May 22 to June 11, 2018. Also with new cosmetic items, the event included a limited time competitive deathmatch mode with an exclusive map, Petra. In addition to previous Anniversary cosmetic items, all Anniversary loot boxes included cosmetic items from all previous seasonal events, and these are also available to buy with in-game gold.


4.4. 2018 events Halloween Terror 2018

The 2018 iteration of Halloween terror ran from October 10–31, 2018. The Dr. Junkensteins Revenge mode was updated to include changes made throughout the previous year, such as the changes to Symmetra. The player-versus-environment map remained largely unchanged, with the 2 modes and 4 difficulties each of the last years event. Brigitte and Tracer were made playable for the game mode.


4.5. 2018 events Winter Wonderland 2018

The 2018 version of Winter Wonderland ran from December 11, 2018 throughout January 2, 2019. In addition to previous map reskins of Kings Row and Hanamura, Blizzard World also received a holiday-themed reskin.


5.1. 2019 events Anas Bastet Challenge

The second of mini-event, Anas Bastet challenge ran for about two weeks over January 2019, following the publication of a short story "Bastet", focusing on Ana and Soldier:76s past lives. The story was written by Michael Chu with illustrations by Arnold Tsang. During these weeks, players could earn skins and other cosmetics tied to the "Bastet" story by playing and winning a number of matches across any game mode, and by watching highlighted Twitch streams for multiple hours. A notable facet of the "Bastet" story established that Soldier:76 is an LBGTQ character, having had a past homosexual relationship with another man, making him the second character after Tracer to be confirmed as LBGTQ.


5.2. 2019 events Year of the Pig Lunar 2019

The Year of the Pig event, celebrating the Chinese New Year, ran from January 24 to February 18, 2019. New character skins introduced in this event included several references to several Asian historical and fictional figures, including Lu Bu, Guan Yu, Huang Zhong, Zhang Fei, and Zhuge Liang from Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Hong Gildong from Hong Gildong jeon, Korean naval commander Yi Sun-sin, and the sanye Korean lion dance. Along with the skins came a Competitive iteration of the CTF mode.


5.3. 2019 events Overwatch Archive: Storm Rising

Storm Rising ran from April 16 to May 6, 2019. It featured a new four-player co-operative mode similar to the past Archive events, with players as Tracer, Genji, Winston, and Mercy tracking down the Omnic Maximilien, who attempts to escape during a storm by hiding in Cuba. In addition to this mode, 160 new cosmetics were added to the game. The map for this mode, "Havana", was added to the games overall regular map rotation as a Payload map in the PTR during the event.


5.4. 2019 events Anniversary 2019

The third anniversary event ran from May 21 to June 10, 2019. The event brought back all game modes from previous events, along with new cosmetic items. "The Workshop", a script-based system for users to create their own games, also launched alongside the Anniversary event for all users after being tested in the PTR, with several of the more successful user game modes brought into the Arcade for all to play.


5.5. 2019 events Summer Games 2019

The fourth Summer Games event ran from July 16 to August 5, 2019. In addition to the return of Lucioball and the usual seasonal items, the event brought in three weekly challenges to earn skins for Reaper, Mei, and Reinhardt.


5.6. 2019 events Bastions Brick Challenge

Bastions Brick Challenge, similar to the Ana and Baptiste challenges, was a two-week event in September 2019 that gave players the ability to earn cosmetic items for playing games and watching selected Twitch streams. The cosmetics are based on Overwatch s collaboration with Lego, which has already produced several kits based on Overwatch characters.


5.7. 2019 events Halloween Terror 2019

The annual Halloween event ran from October 15 to November 4, 2019. In addition to the returning Junkensteins Revenge activity, the event introduced additional Halloween-themed cosmetics, and included similar weekly challenges from other recent seasonal events, to win 9 games across most game modes to earn unique cosmetics for Junkrat, Baptiste, and Sombra.


5.8. 2019 events Mercys Recall Challenge

Mercys Recall Challenge was run in November 2019, with players able to win unique cosmetics based on the Mercy short story "Valkyrie" published at the same time.


5.9. 2019 events Winter Wonderland 2019

The Winter Wonderland event for 2019 ran from December 10, 2019 to January 2, 2020, bringing new holiday-themed skins and returning events Meis Snowball Challenge and Yeti Hunter.


6.1. 2020 Year of the Rat Lunar New Year 2020

The Lunar New Year event, featuring the Year of the Rat, ran from January 16 to February 5, 2020. A new mode, "CTF Blitz" was introduced, based on the current Capture the Flag mode, but starting with the flag objectives closer to the center of the map as to make for faster rounds, and subsequently, requiring teams to win more rounds to take the match.


6.2. 2020 Ashes Mardi Gras Challenge

Similar to past character challenges, Ashes gave players the chance to earn Mardi Gras-themed cosmetics for Ashe by winning matches in-game and watching specified player streams. The event ran from February 25 to March 9, 2020.


6.3. 2020 Overwatch Archives 2020

The Overwatch Archives 2020 event ran from March 12 to April 2, 2020, bringing the past three story-based player-verses-environment missions back. Across the three weeks, special variants of these missions will be available that alter the conditions of the match, such as where each heroes health is halved but they deal twice as much damage.