The second phase of the closed beta for Overwatch won't return until the middle of February, Game Director Jeff Kaplan has confirmed on the game's official forums.
The development team had shut down the beta for the Christmas period, with plans to restart the process at some point in January, having had the opportunity to examine the play data accumulated from the initial phase.
"When we brought the Closed Beta offline last December, we did so with the intent to use the downtime to address player feedback, work on some core features (like progression!), and adjust the balance of the game," explained Kaplan.
"Our goal was to have all of that work completed before bringing the Closed Beta back online, and our hope was to have that goal complete by middle to late January. While progress has been great and the team has been working super hard to get everything implemented on time, we're not quite ready to bring the Closed Beta back online just yet."
"We’ve been pretty open about the fact that we could slip into February from the beginning, but a big reason for this delay is that we really wanted to add one more big feature to the next beta patch."
That additional feature will be a new game mode for Overwatch, to compliment the Payload and Point Capture modes that had been tested during the initial period. The team aren't ready to share precise details on the nature of the new mode, but it will arrive with the second round of beta testing, along with some new maps.
"Rather than try to rush a beta patch out this month (which would mean the new game mode would have to be put off), we’re going to take a few extra weeks before bringing the Closed Beta back", he continued.
"By doing so, we can make sure we can include the new game mode along with the new maps. This will also allow us to do some additional polish to the game’s progression and reward system. Though all these features will still technically be a work-in-progress during the beta, we’d like them to be at a certain quality bar before releasing them for testing."
"This was an easy choice for us to make, and hopefully this post can help you understand why we made it. I don’t have an exact date for when the Closed Beta will resume, but right now we’re looking at mid-February (and we don’t intend to slip out of February).
"We’ll do our best to provide at least one week’s notice before we’re ready to get this beta party started again, so definitely keep an eye on our official channels. We love making this game with you guys. It’s been so much fun and you’ve been incredibly supportive of us. Thank you all so much for your patience and we hope to see you in-game soon!"