Everything Wrong with Overwatch’s Sombra ARG
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been following Overwatch’s Sombra rabbit hole pretty closely. And by “pretty closely,” I mean that I have a cork board covered with printouts of garbled images, lines of code, ciphers, and discarded coffee cups. I even bought an industrial pack of party streamers to map out the relationship between each clue, because yarn is expensive. But now that the Sombra ARG is technically over, there are no other mysteries to solve. All that’s left for me to do is put away my “conspiracy board” and move on.
It was while I was cleaning up when my editor made a great point. The whole Sombra ARG was, for lack of a better term, a pile of hot garbage. Given, it was garbage that was fun to play in, but garbage nonetheless. He mentioned that, when everything was said and done, the entire experience was an empty gesture to buy Blizzard time to release Sombra on their own. Those weren’t his exact words. What he technically said was, “why did you start another fire, and why did it have to be in my office? And where the hell did you get all of these streamers?” However, I knew what he really meant. We’re tight like that.
Well, it’s BlizzCon time, and you know what that means. Well, it probably means a lot of things, but my thoughts are more “Overwatch-y.” Soon, all of the people who paid $40 to watch a press release (and that’s more people than you’d think) will get the first, official look of what’s to come next in Overwatch. And every one of them only care about one thing: Sombra. Sombra has been teased and teased and teased some more since the game launched months ago. And finally, after a truckload of clues and scrambled messages, the reveal is set for BlizzCon.
So why don’t I care?
I don’t care for the same reason the Overwatch forums are full of salt: the ARG kind of ruined it. And the saddest thing is that it went wrong because Blizzard tried so hard on it. It was their first attempt at an ARG, and to be honest, they knocked the methods out of the park. Every bread crumb was quickly devoured, dissected, and put under every microscope imaginable. Blizzard hid clues in the game, in scrambled images, within official videos, and more. They even registered at least two different domains to throw extra elements into the mix. So what the hell went wrong?
The problem is just as simple as it is frustrating. Every single clue and hint was for the sake of itself. There was no end goal or reward for any find other than just more puzzles. Every discovery was just a puzzle piece for a brand new puzzle and nothing else. Then, to rub salt in the wound, players were eventually made to wait out a 2-month countdown that brought the hype to a dead stop. Players were left feeling played and unsatisfied instead of hyped.
It was all a huge waste of time. This is especially true for the fact that we know nothing more about Sombra than we did before the ARG. And that’s what it all comes down to. Players were given nothing for their efforts. It would have been entirely different if each solved puzzle came with some kind of reveal about her weapon, kit, or even her looks. But glancing back over it all, we can only really say that she’s a hacker. And we knew that already. So, hooray for that.
You see, back when the Sombra ARG was first taking off, a minority of Overwatch players were concerned that Sombra was just going to be announced a BlizzCon. That regardless of how well the community did to solve the clues, Blizzard already had a plan for her. As time went on, this became harder and harder to ignore. The moment Blizzard threw in the countdown on amomentincrime.com, we all knew it was to buy time for BlizzCon. It finished counting a couple weeks ago, and the best we got was a note telling us to wait a week or two (which conveniently brings us to BlizzCon).
Honestly, the best way Blizzard could have fixed this ARG was to embrace the idea that less is more. If they had no plans to release information about Sombra, then the ARG should have been quirky, cute, and (most importantly) quick. Ten percent of the clues would have gone much farther if they stopped there and hinted at BlizzCon from the start. Then, sure, plenty of people would be complaining the ARG was too short and simple. However, I bet most Overwatch players would be extremely hyped to see what BlizzCon has to offer. I know I would have been. I mean, not hyped enough to pay $40, but still.
I’m not made of money.