In a competitive game such as Overwatch that has a large esports scene and general
player base, balance changes are often necessary to maintain a healthy game state and keep players interested in the game through changes in gameplay. In Overwatch, balance changes in addition to hero pools(banning of certain characters for a set period of time) at the highest level have a massive effect on gameplay overall. In order to test these proposed changes, the player base has access to the “PTR,” or a server in which you can play the game with the new proposed changes before they are official. Doing this allows them to gauge player interest in the changes and whether or not they make it to the live patch (which is the version of the game).
As a team-based game of healers, damage dealers, and tanks, Overwatch requires an
innate balance between the three roles, as each role has two players playing that role for a
team of six. In previous changes, tanks and shields created by tanks were nerfed severely,
significantly boosting the power of “damage” heroes and those meant to support them. As a
result of previous changes, this experimental patch focuses on reducing the overall power of
those characters and the healers that enable them. While changes such as this may seem
initially good for the game and characters, certain changes can have many implications on
competitive play. In this case, one of the changes was made to the primary “sniper” character in the game, called Widowmaker or “widow” for short.
The changes included increased ammo cost and decreased scoped damage falloff. What this means is that not only does she have to reload more, but at a certain point her impact in the game has much less value. Widowmaker is one of the few characters to be able to kill many other damage-dealing characters instantly, making her a valuable asset on certain maps (areas of play). On certain maps, Widow is a mainstay and very powerful in enabling team plays by killing important low health targets such as most healers. By removing this ability on traditionally long maps, her impact in those games significantly decreases as she has to focus more on tanks rather than sniping from a distance, which rewards skill. Mirror duels between Widowmakers on each team are even mainstays on the few maps she is viable on, as taking out the enemy sniper gives you the freedom within the team. Instead, you enable the character to focus on closer targets and remove them from the game as there is less of a threat of an opposing widow, making these changes worrying for how the meta will develop as barrier shields have been considerably weakened.
Overall, I would personally not like to see these changes make it to the main game as many other characters have been weakened significantly in previous patches, and reducing
effective counters to such powerful characters can be unhealthy for the game overall.