Something to Strive For

Or: Rewards for dedication are severely lacking in Overwatch

Rancor is in the air. Many are calling Season 5 of Ranked Matchmaking in Overwatch the worst since S1’s disastrous coin flips. Due to the total lack of transparency from Blizzard, it is unclear if the Matchmaking algorithm has in fact changed (and led to genuinely worse matchmaking) or if tensions are simply reaching a boiling point. Either way, the potential for disruption in the market for competitive Overwatch matchmaking has never been greater.

The reasons are obvious: one-tricking remains a behavior officially accepted by Blizzard, the punishment system feels toothless, and the Skill Rating algorithm is embarrassingly manipulable. 1/10 Ranked games feel competitive and interesting on a good day.

Even if these glaring failures are rectified, the prioritization of queue time minimization has left striving for the top of the ladder feeling deeply unrewarding. Overwatch, from a fundamental game-design perspective, is the eSport with the greatest demand for constant coordination. Games like CS:GO, Dota 2, and League of Legends reward coordinated executions and smart team play, but Overwatch demands it constantly. True 1v1s are incredibly rare and virtually every fight is decided with crucial contributions from many players. As individual SR presses past 4300, however, wins and losses are decided by carry play and team coordination goes out the window. When a 46-4700 rated player solo-queues into a game, it is virtually impossible that his/her teammates will be able and willing to keep up. Although queue times stay relatively fast with this system, it feels as if the matchmaker asks only the question of which team will more effectively stymie the efforts of their one or two carry-players. There’s no value in a brief queue time if the majority of matches are poor quality.

As a player at this skill range, these sort of games are incredibly frustrating. Although Ranked Matchmaking will never perfectly simulate an organized competitive environment, its power to shine the spotlight on new talent (as in other eSports titles) is directly correlated to the degree of similarity it can achieve. One of the most compelling parts of eSports is its accessibility. There is a sort of egalitarian charm to the idea that anyone can make a name online and earn a chance to be rewarded for their dedication and skill. Overwatch is failing terribly in this respect.

A competitor to Ranked Matchmaking (similar to the offerings of Faceit or ESEA in other games) may be the best path forward. There is tremendous demand for a more meaningful proxy to true competitive Overwatch, both from established professional players and from those who wish for a legitimate arena in which to display their potential. Something as simple as a captain’s draft system or a classical Elo measurement would yield a product far superior to what Blizzard has produced.

Beyond prizes and external motivations, I know that I would personally pay for a subscription just to guarantee a consistently serious and competitive mindset among my teammates. Ranked in its present state is a remarkably poor environment in which to practice the most important skill of Overwatch: team play. I had hoped Blizzard would act faster, but the deterioration of the past few seasons makes one thing strikingly clear: Blizzard’s game development priorities seem to put Quickplay on par with Top 500. For the organic growth of the eSport in the long term, the need for something to strive for is greater than ever.



P.S. My apologies for the delay between articles. I’m taking college courses online now in order to finish my degree (on top of World Cup practice), so my time is a bit more constrained than usual. As always, let me know what you think in the comments and on twitter at @jake_overwatch

5 thoughts on “Something to Strive For”

  1. The frustration with matchmaking has led to even apathy among players of all skill ranges, more people throwing, more 1tricks, and central to your point: less teamwork. Any of the following would seem to be massive improvements (as you have previously suggested): A solo Q playlist, longer wait times, a selective playlist where you can choose your preferred role, and fixing the skew towards one character players; particularly those waiting for a massive rez or 6 man emp after a team wipe.

    I truly hope you’re able to conversate with the higher ups at some point. Good work buddy.


  2. Whats the diffrence between season 4 and 5 other than a more mobile centric meta? is it an increase in the playerbase,,or the many videos who have made recommendations on how to exploit and game the system?


  3. Hey Jake

    I’ve recently started reading your blog after hearing you on Your Overwatch (YouTube) and have thoroughly enjoyed hearing your opinion on these matters. By exposing the flaws and weaknesses of the ow matchmaking system and various other aspects of the game, you have helped me better understand the inner workings of ow and where many of my frustrations come from. Furthermore your arguments are very well supported and your posts in general are written with the uttermost precision. I hope you continue to advocate for higher quality competitive and pro environments on behalf of the ow community. I’m sure with someone like you leading the cause this is a reality we can look forward to in the future.


  4. Well said, I think the matching problems goes all the way down to gold and platinum level. I am no where near 3000 SR, but the feeling is still the same. I want to wish good luck on you and Team USA this weekend. I know Flash Wolves would be tough but go be a wolf hunter out there.


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