Overwatch Pros Share Their Thoughts on the Shift to Five-Player Teams

Overwatch, the team-based multiplayer first-person shooter that debuted in 2016, has undergone numerous changes over its five-year lifespan. From adjustments to the way players queue for quickplay and competitive play to frequent patches and updates, the game has evolved significantly. In its early days, there were no restrictions on hero choices, resulting in matches featuring entire teams composed of the same hero.

Blizzard, the developer behind Overwatch, has been striving to find the ideal balance since the game’s launch. While much of the news surrounding Overwatch 2 has focused on the new co-op mode, some major changes were revealed during the May 20 Overwatch 2 PVP Developer livestream. The most significant announcement was the reduction in team sizes from six to five players. This seemingly minor alteration will require professional players to adjust their strategies.

The Shift to 5v5

The shift to five-player teams in Overwatch 2 is the largest change coming to the game. The new game director, Aaron Keller, explained during the livestream that Overwatch 2 will now be played with “two teams of five players, consisting of two support, two DPS, and one tank.”

Keller cited several reasons for this major adjustment, emphasizing that Overwatch’s fast-paced nature and complex gameplay can make it challenging for players to keep track of all the action. By reducing the number of players on each team, Blizzard aims to simplify the gameplay and enable players to better understand what’s happening on the battlefield, leading to more informed decision-making.

Overwatch 2 heroes in action.
Image used with permission by copyright holder.

Naturally, this shift to 5v5 will have a significant impact on tank players. Having two main tanks on the same team can create overwhelming gameplay dynamics that are difficult for opponents to counter. Although the role of off tanks will no longer exist in the new PvP mode, all tank heroes from the original game will carry over to Overwatch 2. Additionally, tanks will receive adjustments to make them more versatile. For example, Zarya will have two bubble charges that can be freely used on herself or teammates, and Winston’s Tesla Cannon will be able to hold alternate fire charges.

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Insights from the Pros

The transition to five-player teams raises many questions for Overwatch players across all levels. Robert Gedarovich, a digital strategist at and a member of the casual Overwatch team Danger Close Esports, explains the impact on tank players and teams once Overwatch 2 is released. He suggests that tank players who previously specialized in either main tank or off-tank heroes will need to master a broader range of tank heroes to adapt to the new 5v5 scenarios. This will require them to switch heroes mid-match based on the situation, as they will no longer have a tank partner with complementary skills by their side.

A live Overwatch League event in an arena.
Image used with permission by copyright holder.

Overwatch League player Daniël “Daan” Scheltema, who serves as a main tank player for the Paris Eternal, shares his initial reaction to the shift to five-player teams. While expressing concern about the increased competition and potential job losses, Daan also sees the potential for faster, more DPS-centric gameplay that audiences may find more enjoyable to watch.

Indy “Space” Halpern, an off-tank player for the Los Angeles Gladiators, shares similar concerns. He initially thought that 5v5 would only apply to specific game modes and maps, not the entire game. Consequently, he has been duoing with as many main tank players as possible before the transition takes place.

Matthew “Super” DeLisi, a main tank player for the San Francisco Shock, appeared during the PvP developer livestream and interacted with the developer team. Afterward, he expressed his affection for coordinating with a tank partner and building synergy, describing it as one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game.

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A Mixed Reaction

The changes coming with Overwatch 2 have sparked a range of reactions within the player community, especially among professional Overwatch League players. While Daan and Space express optimism about the 5v5 approach, others have reservations. Gael “Poko” Gouzerch, an off-tank player for the Philadelphia Fusion, voiced concern on Twitter about the future job prospects for tank players. Nathan “frdwnr” Goebel, an off-tank player for the Vancouver Titans, felt that the decision to remove the off-tank role was disrespectful to players who dedicated years to mastering it.

Overwatch heroes poised for battle.
Image used with permission by copyright holder.

Christopher Mann, the lead for rEvolution’s gaming and esports group REV/XP, believes that the shift to 5v5 is an attempt by Blizzard to inject new energy into Overwatch League. He emphasizes that metas and gameplay norms constantly evolve in the gaming industry. Players’ reactions to the changes will vary, particularly regarding the future of tank players, but excitement about the game’s potential remains high.

Ultimately, Overwatch 2’s transition to five-player teams will simplify gameplay, reduce queue times, and revolutionize the role of tank players within teams. Although the Overwatch League community has mixed reactions to the changes, it will be fascinating to witness how these adjustments unfold once the game is released.

Interview responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

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