Back in July of 2016, an Overwatch player by the name of ChaosProz made a simple request in the Battle.net forums. "I'm deaf," they wrote. "Please provide subtitles for all voice lines." Yesterday, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan dove into the necro'd thread to say, okay.
"Uprising is the first event to support subtitles," Kaplan wrote, alluding to the Overwatch seasonal event that got underway earlier this month, featuring balance changes, a pile of new skins, and a four-player PvE brawl. "We now have some of the underlying tech and systems in place to proliferate subtitle support to other parts of the game. The team is very passionate about adding subtitle support."
As an online FPS, Overwatch may not seem like the sort of game that desperately needs subtitles, but there's an enormous amount of information conveyed in its sounds. Audio cues are used to signal both friendly and enemy ultimate abilities, for example. As the original poster pointed out, subtitles would bring "viable information" to the game: "A character might say 'There's a turret over there.' Or 'There's a teleport over there'... How would deaf people know?"
The Overwatch animated shorts are also lacking subtitles, and in some ways that's an even more egregious oversight, since Blizzard puts so much effort into establishing a coherent backstory for the game's setting and characters.
Kaplan didn't say anything about when subtitle support would be rolled out for the full game, but having publicly committed to it like this, you can be sure he'll be held to it. Kaplan also revealed yesterday that Blizzard currently has three new maps in development, and all of them "are looking likely for a release this year."