The Public Test Realm is a platform that Blizzard uses to test out upcoming content for their various titles. Generally speaking, whatever players see in those early patches usually makes it the main game client a week or two later with little to no change.
The next Overwatch PTR update is going to be somewhat different however. Blizzard are going to use it to test out a few weighty hero changes, some of which may not make it into the shooter. This is according to Principal Designer, Geoff Goodman, who said as much in a new forum post (via PC Gamer):
“I wanted to drop in and talk about our upcoming PTR patch that is due out very soon. We are going to try something a little different this time, so you might be surprised when you see the patch notes for it.
This time around, the PTR is likely to be around a bit longer than before, so we’re taking this opportunity to try out some more significant hero changes, and the push more significant iterations throughout this PTR cycle. The PTR patch changes you guys see are unlikely to make it through PTR unchanged, unlike previous PTR cycles.
We want to try a bunch of things and see what’s fun and working, and iterate more quickly from there. In this way, we get to have you guys involved earlier in the process.”
My first thought was that Blizzard would use this PTR to test out a Symmetra rework. Apparently that’s not happening though, at least not yet:
“There aren’t any Symmetra changes for this patch. Her changes ended up being much more significant and require more time to finish up, but she’s feeling pretty great internally so hopefully we can get her out there pretty soon.”
Well that’s disappointing. I am genuinely curious to see how Blizzard are going to change Symmetra to make her more relevant overall.