Ever since we played it at BlizzCon last October, Blizzard's been completely silent about when exactly the wider public will be able to get its hands on its first-ever FPS. Today Blizzard revealed that an Overwatch closed beta will go live on the 27th, a few days before the start of BlizzCon 2015.
Betas being what they are, and Blizzard's 'when it's done' attitude being what it is, it's hard to say for sure whether an October beta points to a 2016 release. That does seem likely, but the duration and total size of the beta (which Blizzard has said will be small to start) will be telling about Blizzard's release plans. Game Director Jeff Kaplan said that it will be more of an "old school" beta, focused on technical issues and game design with the potential for drastic iteration. In the meantime, we'll let you know if we get our hands on any beta keys to give away.
Kaplan also said that a spectator mode and built-in voice chat will be ready for the beta's launch, the first time any Blizzard game has had the latter. The spectator mode, and the ability to make private games, means independently run competitions could potentially start right away, and Kaplan made it clear that Overwatch's competitive side is "super important to us."
Not coincidentally, Tom Marks has been at Blizzard for us this week and has updated impressions on Overwatch based on fresh hands-on time with it, as well as some video footage to share later on. We also expect to have more information on the game to share out of BlizzCon, which we'll attending in full force next month.