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The Steam version of Overwatch 2 launched on August 10, marking the start of Blizzard’s move to bring its PC titles to platforms other than for the first time. The release, which comes almost a year after the title launched on and consoles, has racked up 100,000 reviews in its first three days. The big takeaway being reported in gaming media outlets is that 91% of the reviews on Steam are negative, a ratio that has made it the worst rated game on Steam. One detail that has slipped through the cracks of every media outlet is that nearly two-thirds of the reviews (63,000 as of August 13) are written in Simplified Chinese, with an overwhelming 97% of them being negative.

Let’s dig in to understand why this is!

The global negative review backlash
Over 80% of reviews from users in other languages are negative too, indicating that the negative review backlash on Steam is being echoed globally. On the surface, the Chinese reviews align with many of the same sentiments being expressed by the international player base. Reviews in all languages cite frustration with Blizzard over the lack of promised PvE content, criticism over expensive IAPs, and perceived downgrades compared to Overwatch 1 (2016).

Server shutdown: A player’s laments their heavy investment in the game and losing their account data

Why Chinese gamers are leading the charge
The heart of the issue for Chinese gamers lies with how the dissolution of the partnership between Blizzard and NetEase impacted them. The shut down of Overwatch at the beginning of the year (January 23) led to Chinese gamers losing their game accounts, game data, and ability to play on Chinese servers. This has led to uncertainty around whether gamers will be able to play on Chinese servers with their game data again, and while Blizzard has said they plan to bring it back, there has been no announcement so far. The launch on Steam is the first time that gamers can vent about this on an open and international platform, with many taking the opportunity to do so.

Criticizing Blizzard’s poor game balance, lack of new heroes in Overwatch, split from NetEase, and inability to use existing game account

What are Chinese gamers saying?
While the debut on Steam will technically allow Chinese gamers to play Overwatch again, thanks to the international version of Steam being accessible without a VPN in China and the game shipping with a Simplified Chinese localization, it hasn’t led to much positive sentiment.

Here are the key complaints:
• Blizzard’s development and live ops decisions
• No access to Chinese server and existing game data
• Slow log in times and poor online connections
• The Blizzard and NetEase split negatively impacting gaming communities

This player says the broken promises for in game content have negatively impacted the Overwatch community and their desire to play

What do Chinese gamers want?
We delved deeper into the sentiments of the Chinese player base with a survey in March 2023. We found that World of Warcraft and Overwatch were the most played Blizzard PC titles prior to the shutdowns at the beginning of the year.

Would you return if the China server relaunched with existing game data?

The survey also showed that post-shutdown of all the Blizzard titles, Overwatch players were most likely to switch to a similar title from another publisher. However, over 40% said they would start playing on the global server using a VPN or game accelerator, indicating high interest in continuing to play the title. Players of Blizzard PC games also reported incredible loyalty with the majority of the user base for each individual title indicating they would return to the Chinese version if the game officially relaunched with local servers and existing game data.

Another more positive aspect is that Overwatch 2 achieved 75,000 global concurrent players on Steam at launch. It was also the 10th highest grossing title on the international version of Steam in China for the week ending August 15, indicating that Chinese PC gamers were still jumping back into the Steam version despite the complaints. Our China Games & Streaming Tracker, which looks at the top games live streamed on Huya, DouYu and Bilibili, found that Overwatch was still the #23 most viewed PC game on these platforms for the period between January 24 and August 15, 2023, despite the shut down.

It’s undeniable that the Overwatch IP still resonates strongly with the Chinese gaming community. But at the same time, it’s clear that frustrations over the lack of an official relaunch have been building for a while, culminating in the high number of negative reviews on Steam. For a comprehensive understanding and deeper insights into the Chinese PC gaming landscape, including full survey results, please check out our China PC Games Market Report.