Overwatch Hero Survey (September 2019)

Firstly, thank you to the 1200 players from /r/cow who took the time to fill out the survey.


I encourage folk to check out the github repo and examine/fork & modify the code.


  1. I’m only human; the survey and analysis may contain bias or errors.
  2. The survey might tell us what people think, but it doesn’t really tell us why.
  3. It also lacks a little context: e.g. do people find hero X unfun to play against because the hero’s kit is inherently flawed, or is it because of the meta?


I’m curious about how the community perceives hero fun (playing as and against a specific hero) vs. balance and whether we can spot any patterns in the responses.

Future survey improvements

If I run the survey again in future, I plan to:

General responses

Q: Which game modes do people play the most?



Pretty self-explanatory. Roughly 40% of respondents play non-competitive game modes.

Q: What rank are they?



This confirms what I’d expect to see – the members of /r/cow tend to be higher ranked players compared to the general population. Hero choices and win rates change as players climb the ranks, so this will have a bearing on the answers.

Q: What roles do people play?



Respondents were able to select multiple roles. The results are weighted much more towards Tanks & Supports than Damage (aka DPS), which I wasn’t expecting. This colours the survey results somewhat, so bear that in mind.

Q: Which heroes do people main?

Rationale: Mains and favourites may well differ. While certain heroes are attractive choices due to their strength or skill curve, people may play a hero in competitive to keep the peace (“don’t choose Torb or I’m staying in spawn!”)




Firstly, the wording of this question was a ambiguous – I didn’t explicitly ask for the highest overall play time in their prefered game mode or the most-played hero over the last season or two. I.e. respondents would’ve anwswered based their interpretation of the question. My hunch is that most people took the question literally and chose their most-played hero, but I can’t be certain.

Secondly, Damage heroes (aka DPS) have to compete with many more heroes in their own role, so their playtime is somewhat diluted. E.g. For much of the game’s life, Ana had to compete with Lucio, Mercy and Zenyatta whereas Junkrat had to compete with a large cast of damage dealers.

There’s a number of heroes that were released at launch or shortly thereafter that sit low in the responses. That being said, heroes like Torbjorn, Symmetra and Bastion have always been situational.

Q: Which heroes are our favourites?

Rationale: Again, favourites are not equivalent to main heroes. E.g. I used to main Tracer, but she’s been weak for over a year. Tracer remains my favourite hero, though.



We appreciate many of the older heroes

Older heroes tend to dominate in the favourite category. Ana is the runaway favourite; she’s 50% more popular than the next challenger!

Wrecking Ball is the highest placed favourite ‘new’ hero by quite some margin (I’m not including Ana as a ‘new’ hero as she’s been around forever).

Finally, you can see certain heroes are higher in the pecking order vs. the playtime results. This is to be expected, as while we might love playing a certain hero, it’s not always a viable pick.


I can’t really avoid mentioning Brigitte. I’m not sure we can easily interpret this result; players may dislike her for any number of reasons:

I have a few friends who stomped their way up the ranks as Brigitte – you’d think that’d count for something?

When choosing favourites, meta’s not better

It sticks out to see just how low Orisa, Reaper & Mei place. All of these heroes have been viable for months and continued to gain in strength with the introduction of Sigma. Given that Orisa is currently meta but remains unpopular, perhaps the developers might consider a re-work of sorts?

Despite a number of heroes being borderline throw picks (Tracer ever since Brigitte arrived on the scene) or a form of masochism (Ana vs. double shield, Reinhardt into Mei/Reaper/Doomfist), the romantics among us still love these heroes.

The problem children

I’m a little surprised to see Torbjorn, Symmetra, Bastion & Mei so clearly at the bottom. /r/cow used to host endless discussions regarding one-tricks ruining the game. Either the reworks to Torbjorn & co largely fixed the problem, or our survey respondents are a different crowd and don’t play as those heroes.

It’s also odd to see Soldier: 76 ranking so badly, as he does much better under Q: Which heroes are fun to play as? My best guess is that he’s an afterthought – while it’s fun to play the ukelele in quiet room, why even bother when there’s a 130dB death metal band drowning you out?

Hero responses

Q: Which heroes are fun play as?



There’s a few discrepancies vs responses to the above question (Q: Which heroes are our favourites?), but we can make an educated guess as to why.

Oh, egads! My Mercy is ruined!

While Mercy’s in the top half of respondents’ favourites, she is considered distinctly un-fun to play as for the majority. My guess is that a subset of players really love playing Mercy, whereas other players are much less thrilled by the prospect. One person’s flying angel is another’s heal-bot. There’s nothing wrong with that – you don’t have to please all of the people all of the time.

Orisa trots home in last place

Unfortunately, Orisa continues to skulk around the bottom. In addition to respondents stating Orisa is un-fun to play, Orisa also lacks the niche appeal of Mercy. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Orisa is neither mainstream like Justin Beiber nor a golden nugget like John Prine. In this analogy, Orisa is Bunker Muzak.

Other interesting placings

Baptiste does considerably better here vs. his favourites result. This suggests Baptiste is fairly fun to play, but hasn’t quite ousted our comfort picks just yet.

As previously mentioned, Soldier: 76 is still hanging in there, somehow.

Q: Which heroes are fun play against?



Most fun to play against

To start, let’s do a run-down of the Fun to Play Against Gang. They’re nearly all ‘old’ heroes (released with the game plus Ana). There are a few exceptions which I’ll come to, though.

For ‘new’ heroes, Ashe sneaks into the top 10, and Wrecking Ball sits dead-centre in the results.

Least fun to play against

Next, we’ll consider the un-fun crowd. Much of the ‘new’ cast of heroes are perceived to be un-fun (with exceptions).

Overwatch’s older ‘problem children’ remain. I fully expected to see Symmetra, Mei, Bastion and Widow lurking around the bottom. I’ll come back to some of these fellows in a further question, though.

I had expected to see Reaper even lower on the fun chart due to his life-steal and other buffs making him an oppressive figure, but he comes in at 10th least fun to play against.

A Brigitte miracle

Finally, while still placing in the bottom third, the post-rework Brigitte is approaching mid-table in the fun to play against stakes. For me, this is a borderline miraculous result. A sincere well-done to the devs is in order, as Brigitte is no longer the enfant terrible of Overwatch.

Q: Which heroes are more fun to play as than to play against?

Rationale: Optimising for the fun of one player at the expense of 6 others might tell us something about why certain heroes are strongly disliked by the playerbase.

E.g. Doomfist might be satisfying to play, as it’s rewarding to pull off combos that have high mechanical skill requirements. However, the players on the receiving end may feel helpless and demoralised.

On the other hand, players may enjoy fragging out on Zen, but this is tempered by Zen’s sphere-like hitbox & squishy nature.

How to interpret this chart

For each hero, larger values on the x axis (increasing to the right) tell us a particular hero is more fun to play as than to play against. The reverse is also true; smaller values tell us the hero is more fun to play against than to play as.



Oh Mercy

Mercy is the hero that is considered far and away more fun to play against than to play as. This makes a lot of sense when we consider the results of a previous question (see: Q:-Which-heroes-are-fun-play-as?) – Mercy mains aside, most of the playerbase doesn’t enjoy playing Mercy. Coupled with the fact that Mercy poses no real threat to most of the cast, this makes a lot of sense (unless you’re Neptuno popping Valkyrie).

CC & one-shots

Two thirds of the cast are considered more fun to play as than to play against. It is absolutely no surprise to see many of the following heroes considered to be significantly more fun to play as than to play against:

… and so on. There seems to be a distinct pattern here – CC & one-shots are fun for the person dishing them out, but less so when the roles are reversed.

Q: Where do heroes fall on the balance scale?

Rationale: Gives us a feel for heroes that are considered weak/balanced/over-tuned (aka OP). This allows interesting questions to be asked later, too.



The over-powered

All of the meta heroes are accounted for in the OP list (Orisa, Sigma, Doomfist etc.)

The weak

Similarly, many of the underpowered choices are predictable: Soldier: 76, Winston, D.va, Genji, Tracer. We’ve seen many threads on forums about these heroes, so I shan’t dwell on them.

Many of the weak heroes lack burst damage or shields. Even the seemingly meta-proof D.va is finding things tough.

Brigitte (again)

Brigitte is once again having a rough time. Brigitte is not only considered un-fun to play as & somewhat un-fun to play against, but she’s also perceived as being incredibly weak. However, the best evidence I have directly contradicts this result: her win rate on overbuff is currently a thumping 57 or 58% – the highest in the game at the moment! Time to hire an image consultant and buy some instagram follows, hen.

Sombra: balanced, yet can’t win?

Sombra is considered to be reasonably strong-ish, but her winrate is in the toilet at 43% overall (the worst in the entire game, though it rises to 48% in Grandmasters). What’s behind the disconnect? Perhaps players find Sombra’s mere presence oppressive, so they lose sight of the bigger picture?

The new meta combined with global ultimate charge nerfs pushed Sombra out of contention due to her heavy reliance on EMP. Either way, it’s worrying that Sombra can’t buy a win at lower ranks and is still perceived as strong-ish. Perhaps Sombra is still strong in isolation and will ghost back into contention with a meta change.

Reinhardt mains should form a support group

Reinhardt is amongst the weakest, but this flies in the face of a marginally positive win rate. I feel this may once again play into how people feel while playing Reinhardt. He may win more than he loses, but it’s a common complaint that he gets pinballed, punched, hacked, frozen, booped etc. to the point where playing him is a masochistic exercise.

Q: Which heroes are fun to play against relative to their perceived balance?

Rationale: I’d expect to see something approaching an inversely proportional relationship between hero strength and fun playing against them (i.e. the more OP a hero is, the less fun it is to play against them).

Are there any weak heroes that significantly buck this trend? If so, it suggests the hero design may have inherent problems.

How is the result calculated?

I’d suggest reading the code in github, but the basic idea is this:

Possible interpretations

I’d say the negative values are way more interesting.




Let’s focus on the negative values. Firstly, poor Brigitte can’t catch a break. I’m going to move on, as I’ve discussed her enough.

The rest of the negatives are pretty much what I expected to see – heroes that are considered to be well-balanced yet un-fun to play against:

The rest

Doomfist is so universally disliked at this point that it’s hard to read much into his negative rating. Blizzard has a formidable task ahead to balance him, as he tends to be useless and niche, or infuriatingly oppressive (especially when played into heroes that rely on their teammates for peel).

The heroes that have the largest positive ratings are our usual motley crew of old heroes: Ana, Lucio, Zenyatta etc. These heroes are well-balanced and score very well in the fun to play against category.

One interpretation of Sigma’s positive score here (despite being considered one of the most OP heroes in the game) is that his kit is not inherently un-fun to play against – Sigma may just need his power pared back via small tweaks.

Over to you

Thanks again for reading. Have you got any questions or suggestions? I’ll be reading the comments, and I intend to run this survey again sometime in future.