Blizzard will take a tougher stance on antisocial and abusive players, promising a range of new features and punishments for its popular online shooter Overwatch.
In a post on the Battle.net forums, Blizzard stated that "play nice; play fair" has always been among its core values. Evidently, it hasn't seen this value embodied to a satisfactory degree in the Overwatch community.
Over the next year, Blizzard will "significantly" invest in the Overwatch in-game reporting and player penalty system, which is regarded internally as, "one of our most important features."
"To this end, effective immediately, we will be issuing increased penalties to players in response to verified reports of bad behavior," Blizzard said. "In Overwatch, that means anything from abusive chat, harassment, in-game spam, match inactivity (being intentionally AFK), and griefing.
"Players in violation will be silenced, suspended, or even banned from the game as a result"
"If you see someone engaging in any of these types of behaviors, report them. Players in violation will be silenced, suspended, or even banned from the game as a result."
Blizzard described these changes as "only the first step" at what it believes will be an ongoing process to create "a truly welcoming environment" around Overwatch. In addition, player feedback will also be used to scale competitive season bans, to implement a new notification process around reported players, and, "functionality that will allow us to more aggressively penalize players who attempt to abuse the in-game reporting tool."
Last week, our senior editor Brendan Sinclair called for more developers to take a firmer position on negative actors within their communities. Inspired by PUBG-creator Brendan Greene publicly butting heads with a well known member of the game's community, Sinclair pointed out that the values evident in a game's community should be taken as a reflection the values of its developer.
"If your players can't be civil, if they can't allow their fellow players a modicum of dignity, if they can't abide by the simplest rules of playing fair and respecting others, remove them from the game," Sinclair wrote. "Just like one bad apple can spoil a whole bunch, one rotten player can ruin the experience for dozens more."
Blizzard has been engaged with large online communities for decades, but the need to bring harmony and balance to Overwatch is arguably more pressing with the impending launch of Overwatch League.
Activision Blizzard's major play for a slice of the eSports market already has seven teams owned by a mix of endemic eSports organisations, traditional sports teams, and investors from the games industry. When it officially starts later this year, the Overwatch community will be under a greater degree of scrutiny than ever before.