Connection problems due to server congestion are nothing new when a highly-anticipated multiplayer title launches, which happened with Overwatch 2 this week. However, Blizzard blames some of the new game’s initial woes on DDoS attacks, which remain a growing threat.
Enough players had problems trying to log onto Overwatch 2 for the game’s launch that it became a meme. Employees at Blizzard say the company is fighting at least two DDoS attacks flooding their servers.
Blizzard president Mike Ybarra pinned dropped connections on the first attack on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Blizzard’s Aaron Keller said the company would work through the night to deal with a second DDoS incident. They haven’t provided information on the severity of the attacks but said they are making progress toward restoring server stability.
Aside from the usual reports of long wait times or server timeouts, some users reported seeing tens of thousands of players ahead of them in server queues. Former Gears of War and Lawbreakers developer Cliff Bleszinski joked that the server error message had become Overwatch 2’s official subtitle. Blizzard is also aware of problems occurring when some players merge their PC and console accounts.
Distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS) – when a malicious network of bot systems takes down a target system by flooding its bandwidth – are one of the oldest and most straightforward forms of cyberattack, but are nonetheless difficult to prevent. Attackers can send massive numbers of virtual systems or infected Internet-of-Things devices to hit their targets while clouding their origin points using VPNs. They are frequent partially because ordering a DDoS attack from hackers on the dark web can cost mere hundreds of dollars.
The attacks are not only cheap but also growing in size and getting smarter. In June, Cloudflare stopped a DDoS attack that managed to make 212 million HTTPS requests from over 1,500 networks in 121 countries using only 5,067 devices. Typical attacks use many more devices totaling up to far fewer requests. Last month, Akami fought an attack that reached a record 704.8 Mpps.
Overwatch 2 became available to the public on October 4, replacing the original Overwatch, which is no longer available. The game uses battle passes to unlock characters and other content, with successive seasons introducing new characters and maps over time. The game’s PvP is free-to-play, while Blizzard plans to unveil a paid PvE mode next year.