Perfection isn’t possible but, a real attempt could be made to fake it.
With the exception of egregious issues like the Mercy mess up where people shift in about a week or a bit under most of the times it takes a month or more before you get people to a point where most have decided (correctly or incorrectly) x or y is the most effective and have shifted their play.
With the combination of stats, player feedback, and developer analysis much of the time you should be able to tell where the tide is turning by the time two or three weeks passed. Then, you could decide on how to engage (if you engage at all). Sometimes that might mean slightly adjusting the balance on something as it’s actually out of balance. Other times it might mean publishing the official stats for hero x or y or using an alt account to highlight a strategy people aren’t using much that works (The data the staff has would likely include composition data and would likely occasionally highlight things that aren’t widely known that work).
For example, Symmetra’s been widely considered to be useless for much of her history by a wide variety of people and the people that play her have been falsely reported and been harassed. The thing is, if you look at Sym’s winrate you’ll notice that it’s been positive for much of this time. Due to some comments early on about the winrates of Torb and Sym people have been ignoring that entirely. The thing is a portion of the Sym’s were one tricks that didn’t swap. As a result, the winrates for them were not solely inflated by only playing the hero at the ideal time.
If the developers had chosen to engage and pointed out some of her actual internal stats it could have significantly changed how people treated the people playing the hero. It’s likely that Sym was either near universally holding an average to above average winrate or that Sym was absolutely stomping on specific maps.
At the current rate with Sym, I think we’ve got a high chance that the current PTR buff or the next one is going to jump Sym from being considered _useless _ to nerf it now!!!111111
Obviously, you wouldn’t want to be always interfering in what people felt as that would devalue the external feedback by excessively manipulating it but, if the feedback is to far off due to something getting repeated over and over that’s inaccurate it’s not worth much either.
Ideally, you’d want to be adjusting things right as players realize that x or y might be a problem. If you adjust too fast people will feel that the changes are random and if you go too slow you hit the present issue. Most people don’t want to read a story about a great detective where they figure out who did it hundreds of pages before the great detective does. The same thing is true for balance changes. If I figure something out before the development team does by months on a regular basis (Happening occasionally isn’t a problem people get lucky/unlucky even a broken clock is right twice a day) I’m not going to be a happy camper.
This also would not always work out. Sometimes strategies appear that are completely unexpected and will flip things around entirely. Other times players will gradually get better at x or y and it’ll slowly become a problem ( I think Hammond will probably hit this in the next few months). But, if you look at most of the meta changes the game had at least since I started playing most are the response to significant balance changes or hero additions in full or in part. Winston was starting to get used more back in 2017 before his buff and Ana’s nerf but, those two changes significantly impacted his rise.
Balance matters more in Overwatch than it does in some other games because it’s got a sizeable competitive section, because you have a relatively limit number of players on each team, and because the appeal of various characters fluctuates wildly based on both the characters mechanics and the characters other components.
For example, I came to Overwatch from TF2. TF2 had some definite balance issues at times and if I ended up in a match on the Community Server against some of the better players I was limited in what hero I could select because some heroes were simply stronger for me than others. The thing is the heroes I could select had similar gameplay to some of the ones I couldn’t select. In Overwatch, that frequently isn’t true.
I’m not trying to say balance is easy in the slightest because it’s not. My issue is the balance team on balance is they are batting at around the same % I am and I’m batting below 500 and they have far more resources and time than I do.
I also run into issues with them from a design perspective. I started playing Overwatch primarily on Ana, Lucio, and Mercy (At this time Overwatch had four supports that healed). All three hit significant changes within six months for issues that were near non-existent in the environment I played in and none of the changes had any consideration for that. Sometimes you’ll have to make changes that hurt one group of players or another but, an effort should be made to minimize it or not do it back to back to back especially when a category doesn’t have that many heroes and the prior attempts haven’t necessarily done well. Ana spent a year + in the dumpster as the drop in her damage was too much when coupled with the buff to Winston and the buffs to Mercy that hit a bit before that was then followed up with Mercy’s rework. Lucio was not significantly dented in the areas where he was truly dominant and the design on the changes may have helped produce GOATS. Mercy’s rework was massively overpowered and upended the support meta for much of a year.
TLDR: Balance isn’t easy but that doesn’t mean poor results are okay. The balance team should be significantly better than forum commenters most of the time and should be faster than the less extreme individuals reactions.