Blizzard's Kaplan: Dealing with Overwatch community is 'downright scary and intimidating'

Blizzard's Kaplan: Dealing with Overwatch community is 'downright scary and intimidating'

The director of Blizzard’s smash hit team shooter Overwatch Jeff Kaplan has written an impassioned defense of his team.

In a post on the Overwatch forums, Kaplan said that members of his team were finding it scary to take on more public-facing roles and engaging with the community due to its toxicity.

The developer said that he feels there is no winning against the negative parts of the community and revealed just how intimidated he and his team felt talking and dealing with the community.

Just to give an indication of what Kaplan is up against here, he was responding to a post in which a user suggested that the Overwatch team doesn’t have enough staff, is too small to work on such a title and worried about the lack of updates about upcoming content.

This, admittedly already a low point, descended into a thread about the developers being ‘lazy’, that they take too long making changes to the game as well as being too focused on Blizzard’s eSports initiatives for Overwatch.

“Overall, the community is awesome to us. But there are some pretty mean people out there. All of our developers are free to post on these forums. Very few of us actually do because it's extremely intimidating and/or time-consuming. It's very easy to post the wrong thing and make a "promise" to the community that no one intended to make. Once we say we're working on something, we're not allowed to "take it back". It's set in stone.

“Also, because we are open with you and do not hide behind an anonymous handle (like all of you have the luxury of doing), we often times get personally attacked and threatened.

“Most great developers I know just love being heads down making or playing games. The "public speaking/posting" part of the job is downright scary and intimidating. It often feels like there is no winning.

“As a result, there are a small few of us who do most of the posting here. Two weeks ago, I was offsite all week without posting access (I cannot make forum posts from my phone for security reasons). The week after that, I came into the office 1 hour later than I normally do (I was feeling extremely fatigued and rather than waking up at 5:40am like I do most days, I woke up at 6:30am). The end result was that for 2 weeks I haven't posted at my normal rate. I apologize that it's been a quiet two weeks but that doesn't mean that we -- the OW team -- haven't been working just as hard as we always do and are not dedicated to making this game great.

“Just because there are "a lot of threads" or "a lot of upvotes" about a certain topic, does not mean we're not paying extremely close attention to not only the community feedback -- but more importantly -- the game itself.

“Of course the team talks about Mercy. Of course we talk about Ana. But we talk about all of the heroes. If we post, "we're talking about Mercy" immediately there is an expectation that she is going to be radically changed in the next patch when the truth is, we might just leave her how she is for a while. We're not allowed to post that here without our bosses (and I am talking literally here) receiving emails from some of you demanding we be fired. It's not exactly what I would call a safe environment for creative people to openly express their thoughts and feelings.

“Anyway, we always appreciate feedback when it is expressed in an open, direct and constructive way. Player feedback is what has made this game great. We will try to communicate as much as we can. We love being a part of the community and we don't ever want to view ourselves or be viewed as being separate or removed from that.”

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.