Overwatch's Rankings Feel Weird This Season Because Tiers Are More Accurate

Last week, Overwatch's third competitive season kicked off. Approximately five nanoseconds later, forums flooded with everything from furtive questions to irate rants about placement.

The short version is, some people didn't feel like their initial ranks corresponded with their performance in placement matches or their ranking tier last season or, well... anything. Some high-tier players found themselves jumping from Diamond to Master, or Master to Grandmaster — hard to complain about that — but some Gold and Silver players plummeted to Bronze. Regardless, the central complaint was the same: people couldn't figure out why their rank was so different from last season, and they got worried about the implications (rank decides the skill level of people you come up against, after all).

Ever since the season began, this has been THE big discussion topic in many corners of the Overwatch community. It's all over the game's official forums, as well as YouTube and Twitter. Here's the thing, though: Blizzard actually explained what's going on a while back. They said what was gonna happen and why when they first announced season three back in October:

"Another area of Competitive Play we're trying to improve for Season 2 is how we distribute everybody into their Skill Tiers (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, etc.) based on their SR. When Season 2 started, we had WAY more players in Gold and Platinum than we initially intended, and way fewer in Bronze and Silver. This was the result of how we calculated your initial SR for Season 2. We tried to partially reset player SR at the start of Season 2, but the results were not as we expected. Instead, below-average players started Season 2 at a higher SR than they should have been given their performance in Season 1. This meant that as they played in Season 2, their SR would often drop to a lower value, which didn't feel great. It also meant that there was a much wider variation of skill in the Gold and Platinum tiers than we wanted. This is something we want to avoid in Season 3."
"As a result, we're testing a different way of determining your starting SR for Season 3 on the PTR. We're leaning more towards trying to keep things fair rather than giving everyone a fresh start. We're also going to initially tune your SR to be slightly lower to start. In turn, fewer players should start the season having their Skill Rating drastically drop despite having close to even wins and losses."

The end result, Blizzard said, is that some players won't start season three in their season two tier, but that Skill Rating gains will be greater. That's exactly what's happening right now.

Thing is, Blizzard made these changes in hopes of making Overwatch's competitive mode feel more fair. However, right now it seems to be having the opposite effect. But this is Blizzard's attempt at laying down a new bedrock for current and future seasons alike. Hopefully, this kind of initial shake-up will never need to happen again, now that people are more distributed throughout tiers. It's all jarring right now, but the underlying system will hopefully, in the long run, be more fair and less frustrating. Fingers crossed, anyway.


      That was a great reaction. Goes to show that the game is still able to recognise your performance from games even though you've lost some of them.

        Then there's no point in trying to win. Just select DPS and go for kills.

          Pretty much this.

          After losing nearly all of my placement matches while sticking to the 2 dps, 2 tank, 2 healer 'requests' from some particularly uninteresting cretins, I still placed higher than my housemate who won most of his matches.

          I play whatever I want in ranked now... No more encouraging peoples' delusions that they can dictate that others do whatever they want.

          Last edited 08/12/16 5:12 pm

          Performance isn't only based on dps, though. It takes into account stats across the board - healing per second/accuracy/damage per second/damage blocked/ult efforts/hero-specific stats and then quantifies your performance versus your team, the enemy team and then rates you against everyone else. If you're a strong performer in a team that loses then you'll lose less rating compared to someone who's rated higher than you who contributes a sub-standard effort in a losing match. DPS and kill:death are merely one factor out of many.

          Last edited 09/12/16 11:15 am

    Season 3 for me has been one of the most competitive and close matches I've ever experienced. No stomps or being stomped, all real nail biting matches that are hard fought and require proper co-ordination to succeed.

    I understand some people might not be happy with their initial placement but i feel the matchmaking is finally starting to match people appropriately.

    Edit: Worth noting I play in a 6 stack 90% of the time.

    Last edited 08/12/16 11:04 am

      strange so many people I know are having the opposite, I have only had like 4 games like that out 30 odd. Weird.

        Just edited with a note I play in a 6 stack almost all the time, not sure if that has anything to do with it.

          hah yeah that would do it, but congrats on how well you are doing! yeah its amazing how well the game can play when people communicate, hehe.

          Playing in a 6 stack is obviously going to get you better games, because the system tries to match you up with other 6 stacks to make it fair. So you're playing against another team that's also communicating and using strategy.

          Try playing single queue for awhile and you'll notice a dramatic drop off in the number of quality games, since playing with randos is a crapshoot.

    hardly. this season feels more unbalanced. Of the 30 odd games I have played. I have won maybe 10. Between leavers, 10 year olds, no mic, no tactics and massive toxicity everything just feels awful.

    Of all the games I have played I have four 'real' games, ones that were evenly matched, ones which felt like the teams where equal. They were exciting, interesting and challenging. Four games out of thirty. All the others felt lopsided. One way or the other.

    Then there the whole awful thing in which friend can no longer play with friends because they played a healer in placements. Three people I played season two with, who were lower than me for whole season, two of them got diamond this time (good for them), while their best friend who played all the same games but played a healer, ended up in silver. So now they cant even play together. The funny thing is the healer guy had a better rank than the other two last season.

    I am sorry but no, this season feels anything but fair. Its most certainly not balanced and its toxic as hell. I ended up with 600 less points than last time, even though all my games I personally did really well in. Three games I had to play healer because everyone else refused to. The worst part is I too cant play with my friends because of this weird level change. Even though each placement game I was getting 2-4 gold medals a game, a few play of the games and cards after most games. yet I was 300 higher than my friends last season.

    Last edited 08/12/16 11:03 am

      i agree. i'm no pro but i finished season 2 around the 2k mark but this season at the start of placement i was on 1400ish.. and after placement i was 1600ish.
      i'm getting steam rolled everytime.. but i'm going to give season 3 a good go this time.

      How many placements did everyone win? What rank was everyone last season? Typically from comments around the place, most people who ranked in Diamond or above tend to stay there after placements. It's the people who ranked in silver/plat/gold who are seeing the change, because there were way too many people in Plat/Gold last season.

      The idea with the change is they want to weed all the people who shouldnt be in plat/gold out, so that there isnt such a ridiculous skill variation in matches at those tiers. If you are good enough, you will climb out of this low ranking. Having said that, I highly doubt the healer friend dropped from Plat/Diamond to Silver just because of placements, especially if they won all of them. This is also not mentioning the fact that it's not just win/loss that determines your SR post placements, it's also your individual performance in those games in relation to other players who also play the same character.

        I started last season 2495, they were 1800-2100. I got to like 2695 by end of season, they got to like 2200-2300. Now two of them are in diamond this season. One who was playing healer in all their matches is in silver on like 1800. (they played all their matches together). I couldnt join them for placements, so solo queued the whole thing and I ended up with gold 2005.

        I won only two placements. Tied one. Lost seven. Two of which were due to PS4 server crashes (a wide spread issue on the day). Two others due to leavers. I mainly played main DPS each game, as in consistently the person doing most kills and objectives kills etc, except a few games were I had to go solo healer.

          Yeah, see the results hurt you there, even though you probably played particularly compared to your teammates, you lost a lot of games in the placements. Combine that with the fact that everyone started in the Gold/Platinum range, it's pretty much what I'd expect considering how the new rankings work. I'm sorry you had such shitty placement matches, it sucks when you lose because of leavers and disconnects etc.

          Blizzard stated multiple times though that if you're in that Gold/Plat/Silver range, you're likely to go down after placements. If the Diamond guys got there because of placements, I'd be surprised. More likely they had a giant win streak and made it up to Diamond pretty quickly. Hopefully things pick up for you and your healer friend soon though.

            Oddly I had decent ranking results for S3 7W 2 L and 1D and lost a fair chunk of points from S2 to come out mid silver. S2 I ranked mid gold and yo-yo'd a lot. Some of it was massive L streaks and disconnects (dropped more than 300 in one day with a couple of DC and losses). I did get to high gold and then finished S2 low gold.

            On the bright side, after my placements I won 4 straight and went straight back to gold. Kept winning and am now in mid gold and finding it pretty easy. I think this season I tend to go 6 wins for every loss. I have found that there are less players in Gold picking characters that really unbalance a team. There is the odd Widowmaker on the second point defense of Anubis but it is fewer and further between in general.

            For solo queue I also started being the guy who picks last to balance the team and getting better at Reinhardt on D and introducing more Winston on attack, except for a handful of scenarios where I want a specific DPS character. I don't think matchmaking is perfect yet. There are still scenarios where one team has higher medals and a lot more experience but it is getting there from current experience.

    I don't know what's going on this season with the rankings but it has been worse for my experience. In season 2 I had many close games where teams could be down to winning in overtime but this season it's been shocking. I have placed gold or silver with 4 medals every game (sometimes with more eliminations than the top enemy) so far, only to have won 20% of my games.

    Yes, some games are pretty much automatic loses because some random decides to leave 3 mins into the first round but generally it's me and (sometimes) one other on fire while our allies try to unsuccessfully snipe with junkrat or tank with D.Va outside of her mech. Because of this, my ranking has been going down since placing and this means my problems are only going to get worse (while my k/d gets even better).

    This season has ruined the game for me and while the arcade maps are fun, it's not enough to keep me going until season 4. I will stick around for the next update but if that doesn't have something refreshing, I'm out.

      If you're having trouble in solo queue, you really need to find people to team up with. Eliminating the amount of randos on your team makes it a lot easier to beat other teams, and keeps more under your control. Unless you play Roadhog/Soldier/Lucio or someone else self sustaining, playing in solo queue at Gold/Plat is going to be hard irrespective of the changes they make this season, as it was last season.

        sadly a common theme this season, is the way the system ended up working friends (even ones who played same placement games) have been ranked outside the playable numerical gap. I cant play with four of my main Overwatch friends now.

          But the ranking caps didnt change. If someone was in Diamond last season, they couldnt play with Plat or lower either. More likely that a lot of people were artificially higher than they should have been. Not saying thats the case in every circumstance and I understand some people will be unlucky, but there were a lot of people who shouldnt have been in the ranks they were last season as well.

    I started near the same rank I started in last season (high end of gold) ... mind you games have been more fun/close, am yet to have a 1 sided game though.

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