Penny Arcade came out with this comic and as a launch-day advocate of Battleborn, I can heartily agree that Blizzard’s Overwatch smashed it to pieces:
For those living under a rock, these were two first-person games that released within weeks of each other. One (Battleborn) developed by Gearbox, the makers of the popular Borderlands series. The other developed by Blizzard, the makers of everything else popular (Diablo, World of Warcraft, Starcraft, Hearthstone). While different games in their own respect, they both competed in the same FPS arena and in the end, Overwatch won.
I had a ton (350+ hrs) of fun in Battleborn. Full stop.
With that being said and currently playing Overwatch, here are 3 main lessons that Gearbox must learn from competing with Blizzard now that they’ve entered the FPS gaming space:
1. Bots and AI
Battleborn started with a very fun and entertaining cooperative story-mode, and 8+ months after launch they implement a bot match that simulated player-vs-player modes. The problem: their bots were dumb as bricks. There was no challenge, and only if the entire team played the worst character would the computer have a slight advantage, but still have no chance at the end of the day.
I didn’t follow Overwatch until recently, but their bot-mode is leagues better. The AI at lower difficulties are push overs as well, but Hard AI have near uncanny aim, achieving god-like head-shot accuracy.
2. Skins and Cosmetics
Gearbox has never focused on, nor have been very good with character skins in their Borderlands series. Simple color reskins are boring and lazy. By time Battleborn implemented specialty skins, they had implemented it with an in-game cash-shop, to the ire of their player-base.
The loot box system in Overwatch is in by no means perfect, but there is a wild amount of character customization that one can obtain freely by just leveling in the game. Whether it be color reskins or unique skin, voice emotes, victory poses, sprays, or weapon skins, there are a ton of exciting ways to stand out in a crowd.
3. Attention Span
I believe these days, gamers have a much shorter attention span and Battleborn’s matches were far too long, ranging anywhere between 10 to 40 minutes depending on the match type. Matches in Overwatch on the other hand can be as short at 2-10 minutes max. This is good for a variety of reasons including the ability to get many matches in a short time period and joining friends quicker.
It is a crowded and competitive field (Call of Duty, Battlefront, Wolfenstein, Paladins, Team Fortress etc), and if Gearbox doesn’t learn to develop a game that can compete against Blizzard, a company with nigh-unlimited funding, there is no hope for them in the future.