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OverwatchJan 21, 2021 4:00 pm CT

How to earn and use the new Priority Pass in Overwatch

In the latest Overwatch Developer Update video, a clean-shaven Jeff Kaplan discussed an upcoming feature for Overwatch matchmaking called the Priority Pass. Designed to help reduce the Damage queue times in Quick Play and Competitive modes, the Priority Pass is being positioned as a reward for players who choose to forego a specific role in order to meet demand.

When you choose the Flex option, the matchmaking tool will select the role for you that will ostensibly help speed up queues for everybody. Once the game has started, whatever role the system designates for you remains the pool of characters you are able to select for the entire match, be it Support, Tank, or in what I imagine will be extremely rare cases, Damage.

What is a Priority Pass?

What you get for choosing the Flex option are the Priority Passes, with multiples awarded each match, with more coming from wins — 6 for a win, and 1 for a loss (down from the 2 the feature launched with). You can currently stockpile 40 Passes at most, to use when you wish. These Priority Passes can be used in the future when you want to cut in line when a desired specific role has a long queue. As the screenshot below shows, spending it may cut your preferred queue time by a good amount, although the recent modification that refunds the Priority Pass if it doesn’t cut your queue time from the estimated non-Pass time indicates that it’s not always working as intended.

The Priority Pass can also be used in groups, although each member looking to join a long queue must use a Priority Pass to gain advantage. In other words, if the Damage queue is long and two players grouped together want to advance in the line, they must both use a Priority Pass; if they’re choosing different roles and only the Damage queue is long, only the player selecting Damage needs to use a Priority Pass.

Priority Pass lets you save time now to save time later

It’s easy to see why Blizzard sees this system as advantageous to everyone; when a good number of people are choosing the Flex role, everyone gets a shorter queue. I’m not so sure it’s going to work as well as intended, though. My main concern is that the reward is multiple Priority Passes for a win, not just one. As a result, for every time someone chooses Flex and wins, there are several times that they’ll use the Priority Pass. Net result for the Damage-only player? Longer queue times as they’re more likely to see line jumpers than they are Flex players.

Obviously there’s a feedback there — as the queue gets longer more players will choose Flex, but then that just ends up pushing off the line jumping to a later day. I’m sure Blizzard also hopes that enough players will choose Flex that the number of pure Damage-only players will drop; one just has to question why previous incentives to play a non-Damage role hasn’t had a similar impact.

Hopefully this new system will have the desired effect, but I remain skeptical. This feature is currently live if you wish to check it out for yourself.

Originally published 11/30/20, updated 1/18/21

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