New Overwatch 'priority pass' system will reward players of less popular roles, and reduce queue times for everyone

Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan has announced a new addition to the game's matchmaking experience: the priority pass. Essentially a way for the game to assemble balanced teams more quickly, the system rewards those willing to play the less-popular roles, by giving them tickets that will later allow a little bit of queue-jumping.

"Priority passes are earned by entering a flex queue," says Kaplan. "You are in essence queuing for every role available — tank, support, damage — and the game will put you in the role most needed to speed up queue times for everyone."

Kaplan adds that the most impacted role here will be, unsurprisingly, the damage-dealers. Furthermore, in a choice I do find slightly odd, winning a match from the flex queue will reward you with more passes than losing a match from the flex queue. 

"If you win you're gonna earn a lot [of passes], you can bank up to 40, this is a number we might change, we might tune this differently, but win or lose you'll gain some passes."

So why do you want these passes? "If at a later date you want to play an impacted role, such as damage, you can use a priority pass to enter a faster queue than you would normally get otherwise. The goal of the system is to speed up queue times for everyone, and the way this is done is by highly encouraging the behaviour that people queue for as many roles as possible.

"When you're using a priority pass it does not guarantee you get matched instantly, it's impossible for the math to work out that way, but what we're gonna do is our best to match you in a faster queue time, and we're gonna show you what the estimated queue time would be if you're queuing normally versus with the priority pass, and those estimates are our best guess, we do a lot of math, we do a lot of statistics behind those estimates, but they're not perfectly accurate so we're gonna do our best. We think this system will make queuing for everyone better, we think it'll be very rewarding for flex players, you'll be rewarded for your very generous behaviour which we very much appreciate."

As for when the priority pass will arrive, big Jeff says it's "coming soon" but will show up on the public test realm first. "We'll mostly be testing on the PTR for bugs, but [we'll] get mass feedback when the feature goes live and we'll be iterating on it shortly after that."

In addition to this, "robust" changes are coming to the replay viewer, focused on esports and community creation. These changes will give players more control over the cameras and different UI options. "We feel like this will put a lot of power and functionality in your hands" says Kaplan, before mentioning specific tweaks: turning off player display names, health bars, muting certain sound effects, and adjusting the opacity of character outlines or getting rid of them entirely.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."