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Overwatch open beta nabs 9.7 million players for Blizzard

It's a good sign for the gaming giant. For comparison, Blizzard's popular World of Warcraft had around 12 million players at its peak.

Blizzard recently ran an open beta for Overwatch, its upcoming shooter. The free taste of the game ran for just under a week, and nearly 10 million players jumped at the chance.

Like Valve's incredibly popular first-person shooter (and hat collection simulator) Team Fortress 2, Overwatch pits two teams of six players against each other to fight over objectives like capturing control points and escorting vehicles. There's a range of 21 heroes to choose from at launch, each with unique abilities and style.

The open beta, which gives eager players a chance to try out the game for free before release and for Blizzard to do a final round of testing, ran from May 5 to May 10 and brought in 9.7 million players. Those players represented a total 37 million matches across 81 million hours of play, Blizzard said in a statement. That puts each player at around 8 hours of game time.

To put those numbers into context, Battleborn ran its own open beta at the beginning of April. The online shooter from rival developer 2K attracted just over 2 million players. The next instalment of the popular Gear of War franchise drew 1.6 million power-armoured bug-stompers in its two-week open beta.

Meanwhile, World of Warcraft, the jewel in Blizzard's online gaming crown, had a peak player base of 12 million subscribers in 2010.

It's a good sign for the company. Though it's wowed players in recent years with World of Warcraft expansions, Diablo III and Starcraft 2, Overwatch marks the developer's first new franchise in close to 20 years.

Part of the game's popularity is its accessibility. While your garden variety online shooter isn't set to be too friendly to new players, Overwatch exemplifies Blizzard's dedication to players of all skill levels. For a more hands-on intro, check out our Shooter Hater's Guide to Overwatch.

Overwatch will be released for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on May 24.