It's Time For Overwatch's Sombra ARG To End

Published: September 10, 2016 1:00 PM /


Sombra Newspaper

Overwatch has been riding a wave of success since its release 100 days ago (105 if you want to be that guy). While Overwatch racks up victory after victory on its way to a 15+ million playerbase, there have been a couple speed bumps for Blizzard's new behemoth. The most recent is the slow-burn reveal of "Sombra," the speculated 23rd hero in the form of an ARG that really needs to end soon.


For those of you with better things to do than refresh discord chats and Reddit threads let me get you up to speed. Since Overwatch launched there have been hints throughout the game pointing to a character known only as "Sombra." On the Dorado map, Reaper occasionally says "Where's Sombra when you need her?" There are files and terminals mentioning Sombra and a newspaper with the headline "¿Quién es 'Sombra'?" The bulk of this information seems to point to Sombra being eventually revealed as a new hero.

Many Overwatch players initially believed that Sombra was Ana, the mother of Pharah, who was eventually revealed as the first hero to be added post-release. In Ana's reveal video, the Sombra ARG began, with frames of the video containing numbers that were decoded to give players the first real clue. I could keep going here, but QuizzicalPixel on YouTube has produced an excellent recap of the ARG thus far.


That was about a week ago. Since then the Moment in Crime website's percentage has been steadily rising. Many believed that when the percentage reached 23% (a recurring number as Sombra would be the 23rd hero) something would happen, but now that that threshold has come and gone, the community seems at a loss. Many are preparing for a ~40+ day wait for the site to reach 100% and the game to proceed. Those with even less hope believe Sombra will be officially announced/released in two months at Blizzcon, November 4-5th. 


The Long Wait

This "settle in boys" attitude is the clearest sign that it is time for the ARG to end. Either with a sudden jump in the Moment in Crime percentage, another glitchy forum post, or Jeff Kaplan just making a new video for us.

The hype is dead. After the skycode mistake, the Twitter hack hoax, and the fact that every subsequent clue just seems to result in another Spanish phrase, the people who used to be fanatics are burnt out. 

An ARG like this is designed and intended to build hype and bring the community together. In the beginning it did that; the Discord Detectives churned through clues and we got excited. The thought process of the community could be summed up as "surely she's going to be released soon, why else would they start hyping it now?"


Sombra File

Teasing Sombra was not a whimsical decision by Blizzard. Clues have been there since the game launched on May 24th. If it was just some newspapers and files for world-building, that would be one thing, but Blizzard started the clock when they released Ana. An ARG says to the community: "Something is happening, it's happening soon, and if you're smart enough, you can find out what." The Sombra ARG, however, has rewarded a ravenous community with more waiting and the odd intentionally vague Spanish phrase.


Look to Your Past Achievements

This disconnect with the community has happened before with Overwatch when the Summer Games Event was announced. Some gamers were disgruntled over the distribution method of these items, which heavily incentivized shelling out real money to acquire these special cosmetic items that could not be purchased with in-game currency. The event was heavily analyzed and criticized by gamers and journalists alike, with the grind and apparent cash-grab from Blizzard in the crosshairs. 

Jeff Kaplan tried to address these complaints, but it came across as a little hollow. Blizzard's argument was that it was strictly cosmetics that don't affect the game designed to be something truly special and unique, and that those complaining were a tiny minority ...  which is never a great way to address complaints, by talking past those complaining.

Okay, fine, an in-game event that is somewhat exploitative for the completionists out there. But the Sombra ARG represents a much larger schism between developer and community.

The ARG would only ever target the super-hardcore part of the community. The 1% who will break down trailers frame-by-frame, who are into ciphers, who are so thirsty for more information they will analyze the sky texture looking for clues. All this stuff will pass by the silent majority that Kaplan invoked to defend the Summer Games, so why is it being handled so poorly?

They took the community's excitement for granted. By rewarding hard work with little to no payoff, they burnt out the motivation they had to keep hunting, to continue speculating on who or what Sombra will be.

It was a neat idea Blizzard but just end it already.

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