Blizzard is cracking down on third-party apps in Overwatch

Users of third-party Overwatch apps like Visor and Pursuit may soon find themselves in hot water with Blizzard, which is sending out warnings to players saying that the use of unauthorized third-party programs could lead to penalties, including a possible permaban. 

Visor provides on-the-fly stats and alerts via in-game overlays, while Pursuit focuses more on detailed after-action analysis including match histories, performance targets, and insights into how players can improve their performance. But some players, including Sabriel Mastin of Overbuff, have recently received warnings from Blizzard that "these programs provide benefits not normally achievable in the game," and that they could face sanctions if they continue to use them. 

Community manager Tom Powers confirmed on the Overwatch forum that the warnings are legitimate. "Recently, we’ve investigated third-party applications designed for use while playing Overwatch and we’d like to reiterate which of these applications are not permitted in Overwatch," Powers wrote.   

"To provide more clarity, any third-party application that impedes on the competitive integrity in Overwatch is not allowed. For example, a third-party application that offers users information such as enemy position, enemy health, enemy ability usage, or Ultimate readiness creates an uneven playing field for every other player in the map." 

Powers said that Blizzard draws a hard line against cheaters, but in this case it will contact users of these specific programs to request that they knock it off immediately, to avoid possible account suspension. 

"We take competition very seriously in Overwatch," Powers wrote. "The foundation of good competition is every player being equally-equipped to compete against one another, but many third-party applications erode the level playing field in Overwatch we strive for." 

Visor's in-game overlay is a little dodgy, but I'm a bit surprised that Blizzard would target an after-action reporting app like Pursuit. Post-game analysis is an important part of serious competition, in conventional sports and esports alike, and there's a clear difference between cheating and trying to figure out what went wrong and how to get better. Unless Blizzard's software can't differentiate between third-party apps (which I suppose is possible), dropping the hammer on post-match analytics seems a bit heavy-handed. 

As Gamasutra pointed out, the crackdown doesn't come at a particularly good time for Visor: In August it announced that it had raised $4.7 million in funding, "to accelerate development of our real-time technology."