As its name suggests, the Overwatch PTR—that's Public Test Region—is a place where Blizzard, with the help of players, can test and tweak updates, new characters, and other such additions to the game before unleashing them on the world at large. But aside from early access to new features, it doesn't offer any incentives to help attract players to its walled garden. As one player named Capfoo wrote recently in the Overwatch forums, that diminishes the fun, and discourages people from taking part, because there's no incentive for anyone on the PTR to "play well."
"Nobody seems to go onto PTR to test changes in a balanced environment. Instead it seems like the PTR is just an excuse to play abysmally, and to play heroes you would never normally play, and to just play really awful team comps that just do not work," they wrote. "It's basically Overwatch but with no consequences because it'll just get overwritten, and so people just go onto it for laughs."
It's actually a very well-reasoned argument, something game director Jeff Kaplan acknowledged in his response. "I really appreciate your post. I agree with a lot of what you're saying," he wrote. But he went on to explain that it's not quite so simple.
"We'd love to improve the PTR experience. The difficult part for us is that the same time and resources we spend improving the PTR experience could go towards improving the core game. For that reason, we usually favor the latter," Kaplan explained. "We do frequently discuss the topic but we're wrestling with making the correct choice. To provide one example: The same people who would work on match history or replay features would be required to work on making EXP carry over from the PTR to your main account."
He added that the typical reaction from fans is to say that Blizzard should "just hire more people," a suggestion he responded to with a link.