Overwatch isn’t always the friendliest place to play, and Blizzard knows it.
After more than a year of dealing with cutting feedback and public reports of toxic behavior, Blizzard has finally responded with what amounts to an action plan. It comes in the form of a behind-the-scenes change right now and a list of more public-facing changes to arrive in the near future.
“[E]ffective immediately, we will be issuing increased penalties to players in response to verified reports of bad behavior,” Blizzard community manager Stephanie Johnson wrote in a forum post on Tuesday.
“In Overwatch, that means anything from abusive chat, harassment, in-game spam, match inactivity (being intentionally AFK), and griefing,” Johnson continued. “If you see someone engaging in any of these types of behaviors, report them. Players in violation will be silenced, suspended, or even banned from the game as a result.”
For lots of Overwatch players, a statement like that probably rings hollow. Blizzard has owned the game’s less-than-optimal reporting feature in the past, but behind-the-scenes changes — even when delivered in forceful tones, like this one — are invisible, and tough to buy.
Fortunately, Blizzard also plans to roll out a number of other anti-toxicity features over the next few months. There’s nothing there that other games haven’t offered before, but that’s the whole point: Overwatch needs to catch up to those doing a better job of shutting down the trolls.
Johnson writes: “Over the next several months, we have plans to make additional improvements based on your feedback, including scaling competitive season bans, a notification system that will alert you when a player you’ve reported is actioned, and functionality that will allow us to more aggressively penalize players who attempt to abuse the in-game reporting tool.”
Welcome changes, all around. Especially that second one: players that have been abused deserve some peace of mind when action is taken against their abuser.
Blizzard’s proclamation also accepts that the console versions of Overwatch lag far behind even the sub-par PC reporting features. To date, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game both force players to rely on built-in console reporting — and those reports are dealt with by Microsoft and Sony; they don’t make it back to Blizzard.
“As console players ourselves, we know it’s been frustrating to not have this functionality on your platform,” Johnson writes.
“We are actively working on the feature and have many elements of undergoing internal testing right now. Our goal is to implement similar reporting options as are currently available on PC, and any improvements made to PC between now and when it’s available.”
Actions speak louder than words, of course — but these words seem, at least, to be promising swift action.