Thanks for all the feedback about Season 4 of Competitive play and the changes we made. I wanted to first talk about how the distribution of skill rating looks across our competitive population. There’s always been a lot of speculation about this due to the lack of complete “official” data, and there are actually some very distinct differences between the perceived population based on third party sites and our complete data.

The data below is based on season 3 data (season 4 is too new), and the maximum (not current) skill rating of the player during the season. The values below are also rounded, so that’s why it doesn’t quite add up to 100%.

Bronze - 6%
Silver - 22%
Gold - 34%
Platinum - 23%
Diamond - 10%
Master - 3%
Grandmaster - <1%

Some interesting notes:
- Median maximum skill rating is not 2500, it’s actually a little above 2300. So if you have a maximum skill rating of 2350, you have a higher SR than 50% of the population!
- If you do a breakdown based upon the more volatile current skill rating, there’s even fewer players above 3000 SR than listed above. Only around 8% of the population was above 3000 SR for season 3 at any one time.

With this information in mind, let’s talk about skill decay. As mentioned in the competitive blog, only having to play 1 game per week didn’t make your current skill rating very accurate or meaningful. Current Skill Rating should reflect your skill rating as an active player. We also show your Season High Skill Rating in your profile, and that won’t change during a season due to inactivity decay. While you have to play 7 games in a week to avoid any decay, we wanted players to have flexibility within the week. Play in one long session on a weekend, or several smaller sessions during the week, as long as you play seven games it’s fine.

We felt like 3000 Skill Rating was a good breakpoint for the decay rules, as it was around 10% of the competitive population (see above). If you do decay, it only affects your current displayed skill rating. This decay does not affect the internal matchmaking rating we use, so we can still place you in fair matches. When you do come back and actively play matches, you’ll also typically gain more SR from a win until your displayed skill rating and internal matchmaking rating have again reached “equilibrium”.

If you’re curious about when you need to play a game to avoid decay, you can see that by looking on the on the right hand side of the information screen of the competitive play card.

Behind the scenes, we’re going to be making another change to our matchmaking that deserves its own discussion. The simple and primary goal of our matchmaker is creating fair matches. To do that, it evaluates potential matches by synthesizing an expected win %. The matchmaker is normally really good about creating matches with a win % that is close to 50%, but if the participants in the match are either at very high or very low SRs then it gets quite a bit more difficult. There simply aren’t many players at the extremes of SR to find. This is especially true in our lower population regions AND they’re playing at off peak times such as 04:00 in the morning AND the players queue in a large group. Normally in these situations, we wait to try and find a good match, but eventually compromises have to be made so the players in question don’t wait forever in queue.

Well, we’re not going to compromise as much anymore. The matchmaker will no longer create a match above a certain win percentage threshold, and we’re going to turn this new behavior on very soon. When we do, you could possibly wait a very long time or even not find a match at all in extreme cases. To find fair matches quickly, try to play during prime hours for your region. It also easier to match you if you’re solo or in a smaller group. In a future patch, when we think we can’t find a match based on the current matchmaking population then we’ll warn you that the wait might be a very long time. We didn’t want to overreact and create a strict rule such as “You can’t queue as a group above X Skill Rating.” There are some locations and times that can handle high skill groups and still find fair matches for them. We’ll start with this new threshold not being very aggressive, but we can adjust dynamically if needed. When we do add the UI, we’ll also make the check more aggressive.

Moving forward, we are currently looking at our win/loss streak bonuses and SR volatility, tuning and improving our expected win % calculations, and other elements of the matchmaking system. Competitive Play and Matchmaking are two systems that we’re constantly working to refine over time, and as always your feedback helps us tremendously. Keep it coming, and good luck in season 4!

Great stuff and thank you very much for the post. Is there any chance that (next season) we'll see some changes to the placement matches? A lot of people are very confused on how they work, and I know complete transparency isn't possible, but some ideas would be nice. I know the idea is to place people lower than what they belong and have them climb up, but placing people drastically below where their last season left off just to face a frustrating climb is almost as bad as dropping from a high elo. Just some more info on the though process and how it works would be helpful.

We're pretty happy with how placements work right now, but we're keeping an eye on them all the same. As we mentioned last season, we do lower your SR a bit initially but you also gain that SR back as you play. We're trying to provide players with a positive initial experience of gaining SR at the beginning of a season without the matchmaking chaos of a more complete reset. It's not perfect, but we like the results so far.

To clarify one thing, your initial MMR that we use to match you in placements isn't simply based on the final result of the previous season. How you played in seasons before the prior one also factor into the calculations. Of course, how well you do in your placement matches also matters.

Posted by Ungod

An example of what I was hoping for would maybe be, does the placement system put you against teams that you do have a significant chance of losing against, or even with, and then judge your performance?
We're always trying to put you in fair matches that we think you have a 50% chance to win, and do it quickly so you're playing Overwatch instead of staring at a queue timer. We never intentionally seek to put you in an unfair one.

I've seen comments like "I just won three games in a row, so the matchmaker put me in a bad stomp to get back to a 50% win rate". It doesn't do anything like that at all. It just keeps on trying to find fair matches. If you do win more than you lose, your SR will slowly go up. As that happens it'll also put you up stronger opponents that match your new SR. That's not so you lose, it's to keep your matches fair.

There's one other thing to remember, though. The results of a match that the matchmaker thought was perfectly fair don't always result in a match that is hard fought every meter of the payload and you win by just holding them off from reaching the final checkpoint at 0:00 time remaining. Matches with teams of equal skill result in 3-0 stomps more than you think. Maybe an early fight snowballed out of control due to staggered spawns, maybe a player decided he was going to try to pickup a new hero that match, or perhaps your's cat decided to play with your keyboard right before you used that Graviton Surge and it wildly missed its mark. We're all human, and we don't perform at the perfectly same level all the time. It's one of the reasons competitive games are so much fun to play and watch.

Posted by Verethragna

When exactly does the bonus SR end? It was at around 15 matches for me,(or 400 SR gain), so does it count matches, losses, or SR gain?
Thanks for the post btw.
It's a bit fuzzy, but for most people it's around 40-50 total matches played.

Posted by CoffeeGirl

This is fantastic news, however the issue of trolls, leavers, and smurfs/derankers/throwers...has not been addressed. Would this be looked at in the future?
Oh, handling leaving is still high on our list of things to improve. It's just a very, very difficult problem to solve in a way that the solutions don't cause more problems than they solve, or that couldn't be potentially exploited for SR gain. We have to be way more "mean" that we'd normally like to be to prevent exploits and discourage even worse behavior.

As Jeff mentioned back all the way back at Blizzcon, we're still working to improve our player reporting to better identify and handle trolls and intentional throwers. Players intentionally deranking to misrepresent their skill (which does create unfair matches) is also definitely on our radar.

While I know a perfect Overwatch utopia of positive, communicative, teammates who'll gladly play the tank or support when needed is a not completely realistic final goal, there's still definitely room for a lot of improvement.

Game Director Jeff Kaplan has since posted on the new official forums with an updated skill rating tier on February 20th, 2018.

Skill Rating Decay no longer applies since the introduction of Role Queue.