Overwatch animated media
Blizzard Entertainment released several computer-generated cinematic trailers and teasers, as well as animated shorts, to promote and develop the story for their 2016 first-person shooter video game, Overwatch. The shorts have been met with positive reception from fans and online publications alike.
- 1 Background
- 2 Cinematic trailers and teasers
- 3 Animated shorts
- 4 Other animations
- 5 Reception
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
Overwatch's animated media is interconnected, taking place in the same continuity. Through this animated media, in conjunction with comics and fictional news reports, Blizzard developed the story of Overwatch, rather than including it in the video game. Within the video game, the story is instead "hinted at through environments and character quips, with each individual personality reacting to the events of the battle in their own way," as Kirk McKeand of The Telegraph detailed.
Jeff Chamberlain, the director of the initial Overwatch cinematic trailer, revealed that Blizzard opted to develop their storytelling through this unconventional method because, "A long time ago we [realized Overwatch] doesn't have a linear storyline, like other games we do," adding that "[Blizzard] has been doing storytelling outside of the game, for Draenor and Legacy of the Void, so we have a precedent for short animations outside the game." Chamberlain said that they "wanted to create a lot of stories as quickly as we could", and in conjunction with making the cinematic release trailer, found the animated shorts to be best way to present these stories. While they were initially focused on exposition with the first shorts, further shorts are more focused on developing these characters and other stories, rather than driving to any narrative conclusion. When these stories have multiple characters involved, Blizzard may opt to instead create a digital comic.
The animated shorts take between six and eight months to complete from storyboarding to rendering, and there are usually two to three shorts in the production line. The animation team sometimes works in conjunction with the art and level design teams; Chamberlain said that the "Watchpoint: Gibraltar" map was developed simultaneously with the Recall short which took place at that location, and the animation and level design team worked to incorporate the assets and ideas developed by the other team.
On the release of Reunion in November 2018, Jeff Kaplan stated that after the animation team had produced so many shorts in 2016, they needed to slow down to prevent burnout, thus explaining the limited number of shorts in 2017 and 2018. Kaplan said that the team is ready to start creating more shorts, calling their upcoming work a second season of material.
Plot and setting
Overwatch is set in a fictionalized version of Earth, sixty years into the future; the Overwatch organization was established thirty years prior to this future setting. These pre-game events are also chronicled by Soldier: 76 in his origin story video.
The story of Overwatch begins with the in-universe "Omnic Crisis" event; the event's cause is unknown. However, prior to the event, humanity developed omnics, artificial intelligence (AI) that led efforts in creating global economic equality and manufacturing. These AI bots were soon developed by omniums, large facilities designed specifically for their creation. Eventually, the world's omniums began producing hostile omnics that attacked humans; the United Nations (UN) established a task force called Overwatch, composed of soldiers and scientists, in response to this Omnic Crisis. Overwatch was originally led by Gabriel Reyes and Jack Morrison, who are known in the game as Reaper and Soldier: 76, respectively. Morrison's battlefield success helped him take control of Overwatch from Reyes, relegating Reyes to lead Blackwatch, a covert operations division of Overwatch. The Omnic Crisis would eventually end, with Overwatch subsequently presiding over a period of maintained peace; those born in this period would be called the "Overwatch Generation". After a few decades, Overwatch would soon face allegations of corruption, mismanagement, weapons proliferation, and human rights abuses, among others, leading to worldwide protests against the organization. Infighting between Reyes and Morrison also occurred; during a UN investigation of Overwatch, a fight broke out at Overwatch's headquarters, leading to an explosion, which destroyed the building and supposedly killed both Reyes and Morrison. The UN would soon pass a resolution that declared any act in the name of Overwatch illegal. This resolution, dubbed the Petras Act, was signed six years prior to the game's setting. In the Soldier: 76 Origin Story animation, Morrison accounts that the allegations against Overwatch were part of a conspiracy.
Following this back story are five of the six animated shorts (Dragons takes place during the era in which Overwatch maintained peace), as well as the first cinematic trailer.
In November 2014, Overwatch was first announced at BlizzCon 2014; at the event, Blizzard showcased its first cinematic trailer for the game. The cinematic's plot focused on two boys visiting the in-universe Overwatch museum where the history of the team is explained, when it then becomes a battle zone between Overwatch members Tracer and Winston, and Reaper and Widowmaker who are agents of Talon, a terrorist organization within the game.
In December 2015, Blizzard released the We Are Overwatch theatrical teaser, showcasing several members of the Overwatch team speaking about what the organization stands for.
In May 2016, Blizzard released a cinematic teaser titled Are You With Us?, featuring the character Winston, a genetically engineered gorilla and former agent of Overwatch, giving a brief narration of the Omnic Crisis, a major in-universe event that led to the creation of Overwatch. Although the Overwatch organization would later disband, Winston concludes in his narration that "the world needs us [Overwatch] now, more than ever. Are you with me?"
Later in the month, Blizzard released another trailer, which compiled the footage seen in the aforementioned original cinematic trailer and teaser, four animated shorts (Recall, Alive, Dragons, and Hero), as well as supplemental animated media such as the We Are Overwatch and Soldier: 76 Origin Story videos.
Blizzard released their first of the original four animated shorts, Recall, in March 2016. While the PlayOverwatch YouTube channel uploaded the short on March 23, the Xbox YouTube channel premiered it on March 21. The events of Recall precede the events of the cinematic trailer. The short focuses on the genetically-engineered scientist and gorilla, Winston, who is seen recalling memories of his days in Overwatch, as well as his Horizon Lunar Colony upbringing. Winston then fights back against an attack on his Watchpoint: Gibraltar base from Talon, a terrorist organization opposed to Overwatch, who is seeking to eliminate former Overwatch members. Despite the passing of the Petras Act, legally putting an end to all Overwatch-related activities, Winston initiates a recall at the end of the short, in an effort to bring back Overwatch.
The second of Blizzard's Overwatch shorts, Alive, was released in April 2016; the short premiered on April 3 on PlayStation.com, before being uploaded to the PlayOverwatch YouTube channel on April 5. The video centers on Widowmaker, while also featuring Tracer. The short is set in London's King's Row, which is also the setting for a map in the game. In the short, Widowmaker is featured on a rooftop plotting to assassinate Tekhartha Mondatta. Mondatta is the head of the Shambali, an in-universe group of omnics formed to bring peace between omnics and humans. Widowmaker is then confronted by Tracer, who engages in a rooftop battle with her; eventually, Tracer fails to protect Mondatta from assassination.
Blizzard's third animated Overwatch short, Dragons, was released on May 16, 2016. In Overwatch lore, Genji lived a playboy lifestyle prior to becoming an Overwatch agent. Genji, denying Hanzo's wishes to get more involved with their clan's criminal activity, was nearly killed by Hanzo. While Hanzo himself would abandon his clan after this, Mercy would rescue Genji at the brink of death. Overwatch then offered to rebuild Genji's body in exchange for his help; he agreed and was rebuilt into a cyborg. He would leave Overwatch after completing his mission, drifting around the world, struggling with his cyborg body, and searching for meaning. The event covered in Dragons takes place after this, which is prior to the other three shorts, and slightly before the fall of Overwatch. The short uses elements of Japanese folklore to parallel the story of Genji and Hanzo's relationship; the two Japanese characters are brothers of the criminal Shimada Clan. In Dragons, Hanzo can be seen making his annual return to his home of Hanamura, a fictional Japanese city, to face the past he left behind there. Hanzo encounters the now cyborg Genji during his return, which leads to a battle between the two. The battle ends when Genji spares Hanzo's life and reveals his identity to him.
Blizzard's fourth animated Overwatch short, Hero, was released on May 22, 2016. In Overwatch lore, Soldier: 76 continued being active after the disbanding of Overwatch and criminalization of Overwatch-like activities, aiming to go after everyone who conspired to bring Overwatch down. The Hero short illustrates this vigilantism as Soldier: 76 saves Alejandra, a young Mexican girl who is attacked by Los Muertos, an anti-omnic gang. Soldier: 76 was in Dorado, a fictional Mexican city, where he was investigating the illegal activities of the gang.
The Last Bastion
Although Blizzard initially announced four animated shorts, a fifth short titled The Last Bastion was announced in August 2016. The short was debuted at gamescom 2016 and simultaneously streamed on Blizzard.com on August 18. It was also released on the PlayOverwatch YouTube channel on the same day. The short is set outside of Eichenwalde, the site of a critical Omnic Crisis battle and centers on Bastion, the last surviving Bastion unit who remained dormant for over a decade following the Omnic Crisis. Ben Dai, Overwatch's Project Director, stated that Bastion, "an artificial intelligence programmed to do one thing, and one thing only—to fight—comes face-to-face with a choice to alter his destiny." He is awoken by a bird, which leads him to investigate the natural beauty around him. The short includes flashbacks to the event, showing that Bastion units made up a majority of the Omnic combat force. Bastion then has moments in which he returns to his combative directive and begins shooting the environment around him. Ultimately, Bastion decides to walk away from a combat zone of the Omnic Crisis, opting to indulge in nature.
On November 4, 2016, during BlizzCon, Blizzard officially announced Sombra, the second character to be added to the game post-release. In addition, they released Infiltration, a sixth animated short featuring the new character, alongside Reaper and Widowmaker. The short features Sombra ostensibly assisting Reaper and Widowmaker with infiltrating a Russian base, in order to assassinate Katya Volskaya. According to Sombra, Volskaya is "the most powerful woman in Russia." Volskaya pretends to defend the nation from the Omnics, but in reality makes deals to receive technology from this enemy. Using her hacking abilities, Sombra is able to secure a few moments to speak to Volskaya, promising to not expose her, in return for favors to fuel her own personal gain. Following this, she alerts Reaper that the mission to assassinate Volskaya failed, claiming she escaped. After the short fades to the Overwatch logo, Zarya is featured, speaking to Volskaya.
Rise and Shine
On August 23, 2017, at the 2017 Gamescom event, Blizzard released the seventh animated short, "Rise and Shine", which retells Mei's backstory. In the short, Mei is stationed at Overwatch's Antarctic eco-Watchpoint studying abnormal climate phenomena. A severe polar storm hits, and Mei and the other scientists decide to enter cryosleep to wait out the storm. When Mei awakens, she discovers that nine years have passed and her colleagues are all dead, their pods having malfunctioned during cryosleep. With the help of her robotic assistant Snowball, Mei works to get a signal out to let someone know of her survival and rescue her before she freezes to death, constructing an Endothermic Blaster in the process. She intercepts Winston's recall message and commits herself to the cause, beginning her journey with Snowball back to civilization.
Honor and Glory
Honor and Glory debuted at BlizzCon 2017 on November 3, 2017. The animation focuses on Reinhardt, showing him in a flashback to his time in the Crusaders, defending a German town from an army of Omnics under his commander, Balderich von Adler, whom had just been selected to join the Overwatch team. The Omnics proved to be a stronger force, and in order to give the other Crusaders time to evacuate the rest of the town, von Adler volunteered to stay back to hold off the Omnics as long as possible, telling Reinhardt to take his place in Overwatch once the battle is over.
Shooting Star, a short focused on D.Va, was released on August 22, 2018 on the first day of the first Korean Overwatch fan festival. In the short, the Korean MEKA defense team, consisting of pro gamers like D.Va, are currently in downtime after fighting off an Omnic invasion of Busan, and at their main base, D.Va is repairing her MEKA with help from Daehyun, one of the team's mechanics that hopes to share the spotlight that the MEKA squad gets. He spots signs of a new Omnic invasion, much sooner than they had expected, and D.Va takes off alone to fight them. Though she is able to put most of the Omnics out of commission, one last one tears the gun arms off her suit, leaving her powerless. With the reactor core in her suit nearly overloaded, D.Va had Daehyun trigger the overload as she bails out, destroying the suit and the Omnic but keeping the city safe. D.Va is rescued and treated for her wounds, and once back at the MEKA base, thanks Daehyun for his help.
Reunion premiered on the first day of Blizzcon 2018, November 2, 2018. The short centered on McCree as well as the newly introduced hero, Ashe. McCree, having tipped off his old Deadlock Gang about the transit of a special crate near Route 66, waits at a nearby diner for them to blow up the bridge and derail the train to secure the package. McCree steps out, meeting his old gang who are securing the crate for transport. He and Ashe talk about their past when McCree was in the gang, but McCree states that all he wants now is the contents of the crate, Ashe and her gang can take everything else. This leads to a standoff, and when high noon hits, the two sides have a fire fight. McCree overpowers them, tying them up on a payload cart and sending it on its way while recovering the crate. Inside the crate is an inactive robot, which McCree slots in a small chip that awakens it. McCree welcomes the robot, named Echo, who has been asleep for a long time, and tells her that she is needed, and to go find Winston, while he rides off into the sunset on another mission.
To further develop the game's story, Blizzard released short videos that include animated stills with narrated voice-overs, such as the aforementioned Soldier: 76 Origin Story video. In addition, Blizzard released A Moment in Crime Special Report: "The Junkers", which was a fake news report chronicling the criminal activities caused by Junkrat and Roadhog. When introducing Sombra, Blizzard released Sombra Origin Story, to further flesh out her background. Blizzard similarly revealed Doomfist as a playable character via a short 2D-animated trailer, Doomfist Origin Story. Blizzard used an animated short Junkertown: The Plan, starring Junkrat and Roadhog, to introduce the new Junkertown map for the game during the 2017 Gamescom.
Media outlets often positively received the Overwatch animations, and in a broader sense the story as a whole. Various outlets including The Telegraph, International Business Times, The Mary Sue, and The Daily Beast have all likened Blizzard's animations to Pixar's films.
In November 2015, International Business Times reported that after Blizzard released the initial cinematic trailer "plenty of fans have expressed interest in an animated movie of it, despite the game not being out yet." Mike Fahey of Kotaku expressed that he was also "charmed by [the] beautifully animated trailer." Nick Schager of The Daily Beast praised the cinematic teaser, which is also seen when the game is first loaded up, expressing that "the charisma of these avatars is established early on, in an introductory video featuring hyper-intelligent simian warrior Winston that establishes the game's Earth-under-siege sci-fi premise – and proves to be a tour-de-force of digital animation. It's no exaggeration to say that Winston feels like he's leapt out of a Pixar film (or a similarly gorgeous Disney effort like Big Hero 6)."
Jessica Lachenal of The Mary Sue praised the tone and music of the Recall short, writing "The short itself is so incredibly well done," adding "It's full of heart, and it's already got me invested in the featured character, Winston. I found myself getting a bit misty-eyed at his flashbacks, as well. Thanks, emotionally epic, dramatic score." Lachenal also wrote that the Dragons short was "filled with gorgeous animations and some pretty sweet action sequences." The Telegraph concurred, describing Dragons as a "beautiful, Pixar-esque" short. Writing about The Last Bastion, Nick Statt of The Verge stated "While other Overwatch shorts have done a stellar job providing world-building backstories, "The Last Bastion" — as it's called — is more emotional powerhouse than plot point delivery."
When discussing the shorts in general, Lachenal opined "[Blizzard has] a real knack for applying a fantastic cinematic tilt to these shorts, and every time I catch one, I find myself intrigued and —perhaps most of all —invested in the world that they're building. Gabe Gurwin of Digital Trends, while agreeing that the Blizzard released "a number of fantastic computer-animated short films," was critical of their decision to exclude the story from the game.
|Short||Main character(s)||Released||Views (approx.)[a]|
|Recall||Winston||March 21, 2016[b]||March 23, 2016[b]||14.1 million[c]|
|Alive||Widowmaker and Tracer||April 3, 2016[d]||April 5, 2016[d]||15.0 million[e]|
|Dragons||Genji and Hanzo||May 16, 2016||28.6 million|
|Hero||Soldier: 76||May 22, 2016||15.2 million|
|The Last Bastion||Bastion||August 18, 2016||18.1 million|
|Infiltration||Sombra, Reaper and Widowmaker||November 4, 2016||18.8 million|
|Rise and Shine||Mei||August 23, 2017||11.3 million|
|Honor and Glory||Reinhardt||November 3, 2017||15.4 million|
|Shooting Star||D.Va||August 22, 2018||9.4 million|
|Reunion||McCree and Ashe||November 2, 2018||9.3 million|
|Name||Main character(s)||Released||Views (approx.)[a]|
|Soldier: 76 Origin Story||Soldier: 76||July 7, 2015||3.0 million|
|Ana Origin Story||Ana||July 12, 2016||5.0 million|
|Sombra Origin Story||Sombra||November 4, 2016||4.5 million|
|Orisa Origin Story||Orisa||March 2, 2017||7.2 million|
|King's Row Uprising Origin Story||Tracer||April 11, 2017||1.5 million|
|Doomfist Origin Story||Doomfist||July 6, 2017||12.0 million|
|Moira Origin Story||Moira||November 3, 2017||3.7 million|
|Brigitte Origin Story||Brigitte||February 28, 2018||4.2 million|
|Wrecking Ball Origin Story||Wrecking Ball||June 28, 2018||3.8 million|
|Ashe Origin Story||Ashe||November 2, 2018||2.6 million|
|Baptiste Origin Story||Baptiste||February 25, 2019||2.9 million|
Other animated media
|Name||Main character(s)||Released||Views (approx.)[a]|
|Overwatch Cinematic Trailer||Tracer, Winston, Reaper, and Widowmaker||November 7, 2014||14.6 million|
|A Moment in Crime Special Report: "The Junkers"||Junkrat and Roadhog||September 21, 2015||1.3 million|
|We Are Overwatch||Various||December 18, 2015||4.7 million|
|Are You With Us?||Winston||May 2, 2016||2.2 million|
|Junkertown: The Plan||Junkrat and Roadhog||August 21, 2017||7.4 million|
|Overwatch Lúcio-Oh’s||Lúcio||November 2, 2018||0.9 million|
- These approximated figures are accurate as of April 17, 2019.
- Recall was released onto the official PlayOverwatch YouTube account on March 23, 2016, but premiered two days earlier on the Xbox YouTube account.
- This approximated figure includes the 3.8 million views received by the Xbox upload, and the 10.4 million views received by the PlayOverwatch upload.
- Alive was released onto the official PlayOverwatch YouTube account on April 5, 2016, but premiered two days earlier on the PlayStation YouTube account.
- This approximated figure includes the 5.0 million views received by the PlayStation upload, and the 10.0 million views received by the PlayOverwatch upload.
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- [NEW HERO - COMING SOON] Orisa Origin Story | Overwatch. PlayOverwatch. YouTube. March 2, 2017. Retrieved April 5, 2017.
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- [NEW HERO – NOW AVAILABLE] Wrecking Ball Origin Story | Overwatch. PlayOverwatch. YouTube. June 28, 2018. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
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