Overwatch's Top 500 Has An Alternate Account Problem

During a recent stream, professional Overwatch streamer aimbotcalvin pointed out four different accounts in the game's top 20 competitive ranking list that he said belonged to him. Viewers got angry and said he was hogging slots that other deserving players could occupy. "Earn it," he replied, laughing.

Aimbotcalvin isn't the only Overwatch player with multiple alternate, or "smurf," accounts. To hear some players tell it, Overwatch's top 500 is more like a top 200 or 300. In the past few months, it's become a commonly-held belief on places like the Competitive Overwatch subreddit and official Overwatch forums that many top 500 players have smurf accounts they have leveled up the ladder in addition to their mains.

In theory, the top 500 is meant to be reserved for the 500 best individual players in any given region. You earn a special icon for it, as well as more competitive points (which go toward cosmetic items) than lower-ranked players, but near the top, it's mostly about prestige.

During a stream two days ago, aimbotcalvin, who streams for major league esports organisation TeamSoloMid, flippantly admitted to having multiple smurf accounts in the top 500, pointing out specific accounts that he claimed were his. Because aimbotcalvin is such a well-known figure, some saw his admission as confirmation of something they'd suspected for a long time.

Aimbotcalvin's confession has sparked conversation from casual players and pros alike, with some contending that players like aimbotcalvin are squashing the hard-earned fruits of other players' labour. On the Overwatch forums, a player named Gaze said that aimbotcalvin has definitely earned his spots, but that doesn't mean what he's doing is right.

"There are people who also deserve that prestige, but don't have it, because Calvin and others who choose to have multiple accounts are using their skill to hold multiple spots," they wrote.

Pro player Emongg agrees with this line of criticism. During a stream yesterday, he mentioned the discussion following aimbotcalvin's admission and said he plans to neglect his smurf accounts so that they will fall out of the top 500 on their own, thanks to competitive mode's rank decay system.

"I'm gonna start decaying my other accounts out so only one account stays in top 500, so I don't take up too many slots," he said. "That's what's gonna be happening soon."

Other pros and top 500 players don't agree with Emongg. McGravy, the team captain of pro team Envision, echoed aimbotcalvin's merit-based view of things. "If you are good at the game, it is not hard to get top 500 even with smurfs taking up 100+ spots," he tweeted. "If you are complaining, you are bad. End of story."

Top ranked Mei player Jardio, meanwhile, took aim at the notion that advancing through the top 500 takes a lot of time. "Do people not realise the gap between Top 500 and Top 300 is like... 3-4 wins?" he said on Twitter.

Overwatch forum user SilverSkyway contended that it could be worse: Players like aimbotcalvin could be running around at lower ranks, stomping new players like ants.

Instead, aimbotcalvin is at least tussling with players his own size. "He tries at every account he plays," SilverSkyway wrote.

Top 500 smurfers aren't breaking the rules, exactly — Blizzard allows multiple accounts as long as you purchased a new copy of the game and aren't, say, sharing the account with another player. But they are taking advantage of Overwatch's ranking system in a way Blizzard probably never intended and, at least on paper, swiping a handful of other players' chances at gold and glory.

As a solution, some players have suggested some kind of account verification system involving ID or a phone number so that it would be more difficult for players to have multiple accounts in the top 500. Something like that, however, could inconvenience regular players, which would probably make it unappealing from Blizzard's perspective.

It's impossible to know exactly how pervasive this issue is. Unless every player with a smurf account in the top 500 admits to it, the best anybody can do is speculate.

Still, just from a numbers standpoint, it seems fundamentally off that one player can occupy one-fifth of a game's top 20. Short of changing the rules, it's not clear what Blizzard could do about it. Perhaps the discussion will inspire the Overwatch team to finally take action.


    So he has different accounts in which he has legitimately earned top rankings?

    What is the problem here?

    I agree with him. If you want him to be removed from the rankings get better than him and take them from him.

      If the world's best player decided to make a hundred accounts to flood the top 100, it would be the same problem. Because the world #2, world #3, world #4, etc. wouldn't even get a listing, they'd be pushed off the list by a single person who's a bit better at the game than them and has a lot of time on their hands.

      The top list is meant to show top players, not top accounts. His skill level doesn't change based on what account he's logged into.

        Two slow and beaten by a more concise response :-P

        What problem?

        Its just a bunch of Gamertags in a list?

        Does the leaderboard stop you from playing the game?
        I care more about my win ratio than leaderboard position. People check the leaderboard maybe once or twice and then forget about it completely.

        As i said below

        The person has LEGITIMATELY purchased another copy of the game and has LEGITIMATELY levelled that characters ranking through LEGITIMATE play.

        Cry unfair all you want. Its not against the rules. I see it as no different to multiboxing in an MMO.

        And if that player has the time, skill and effort to get 100 accounts into the top 500 without decaying, then he's allowed to do it. Not to mention him spending $4000+ dollars on accounts...

        Better them all be up there than down in Gold actually ruining everyones games by actually smurfing...

          As I said, the leaderboards are about players, not accounts. To properly represent that they need to show each person once, as best they're able to do so.

            But the leaderboards as they stand at the moment AREN'T about players...The Top500 count is only based on the 500 players with the highest SR in the region. That's it. So literally all anyone else has to do is get more SR than that person and they are in the top 500. If they cant do that, they shouldnt be in it. Simple as that. It's no different from climbing the ranks. If the top500 count wasnt there nobody would give a shit. But what the players with multiple accounts have done is neither morally wrong or against the rules. They are simply playing to the best of their ability across multiple accounts. Also, how is this any different from an arcade machine where the same dude gets the top 10 scores on the leaderboard? Is that guy wrong because he's literally the best ever at that game? Who makes the rule up that he's only allowed to get the high score and then has to quit because we need to keep it "fair" for everyone else?

            Under the current system he's done nothing wrong. Also, the entire leaderboard is affected by this, not just top 500...People can have multiple accounts in any rank if they want. Are you suggesting they are also in the wrong here? There are a number of valid reasons why players create multiple accounts, such as they want to play on another character they arent necessarily good at at the appropriate rank, or a streamer might create a more anonymous account so they can play without getting recognised, or a pro player might have multiple accounts, so they can play ladder and tournaments etc.

            You're arguing (from what I gather) that it's unfair on people that the system is like this. So how would you fix the system? Do you have a solution? Tracking all accounts under an IP doesnt work because what if there are multiple people in a house who have different accounts at different SRs? What if someone decides to play on an alt only from an internet cafe or LAN venue? ID verification doesnt work because you a) need to track ID types across the world, and b) how do you verify a child (who is allowed to play)? Also how does this affect SR? Do all accounts get pooled? Do you calculate the top500 based on combined SR or the highest account?

              Alright, I'll explain why it's a problem the long way.

              For the sake of example let's say there's a 50 place leaderboard, and player scores are evenly distributed ssuch that the top player in the number one spot has 100 score, and the player in the 50th position on the board has 51 score (so each place is held by someone one score point higher than the person before).

              In this situation, the barrier for entry to get a place on the board is a score of 52, so that you beat the person in last place with 51, take their place on the table and push them off. This is the way the leaderboard is intended to work.

              However, if the player in position 30 (with score 71) makes ten accounts and gets them all to the same score because that's his natural skill level, the barrier to entry changes. Now positions 30-39 are score 71, everyone beneath gets pushed down 9 ranks and the score needed to get onto the board is now 61. It's now empirically harder to place on the board and nine people who deserved to be on there are pushed off. Now the 'top 50' only has 41 people on it.

              The Top 500 leaderboard isn't a high score list where it's intended that one really good person can flood the whole list, it's a ranking of people within the season. Each person is only meant to have one spot, not one spot for every outcome or result or account.

              Yes, my view is it's unfair on other people. For how it can be addressed, Blizzard has some fairly advanced systems in place for detecting individuals running multiple accounts through years of experience dealing with gold farmers in WoW.

              But even if there's no effective way to detect it automatically I'd still rather see it prohibited by the rules so that there's a clear ethical line in place. I don't believe the people doing it right now are doing it to deliberately fuck people over and I think most of them wouldn't do it if it was explicitly prohibited. It's never going to be 100% effective, but reducing its prominence would at least get a few more people onto the board that deserve to be there.

                Dont misunderstand me, I know what you're saying and understand completely. Thanks for the explanation though, however unnecessary.

                What you're arguing for is for Blizzard to change the rules in order for some people to feel better. Right now there is a clear ethical line in place. If you buy multiple accounts, you're allowed to get multiple accounts to top 500 if you're good enough. That's pretty clear to me. What you want is for them to change where that line is, so that people who legitimately purchased a second account then has a limited account even though it costs the same amount, just so some other random dude can feel slightly better about themselves. Should they really spend time and energy fixing this "problem" for that reason alone? What is actually stopping people from getting slightly better and out performing a smurf account? Surely getting into top 500 when there's currently alt accounts all over the place is a real achievement? Not to mention that because Blizzard is removing performance based SR gains for higher ranks, you could theoretically get on a win streak and push you artificially beyond where your natural skill is...

                Think about it this way. If I'm a top 500 player, and I am proficient at 5 charaters, so I create 5 accounts and only play 1 character I'm good with on each account, and maintain my rank on all 5 accounts, doesnt that make me 5 times better than someone who makes 1 account and can only get to the same level with 1 character? Also, what of decay? The #1 player in overwatch could decay back down to Masters because he's on holiday, and some people would therefore artificially be boosted in rank because he's not playing. Do they deserve to be there?

                The only reason someone is ranked in the top 500 is because they have a high SR number. Therefore, the actual point at which someone becomes top 500 constantly changes as players gain and lose SR, which btw, now has nothing to do with your actual performance in game. How do you know who's truly top 500 if the goalposts for entry keep changing? You could be the worst Hanzo ever, get carried, win the game and still get an SR gain because you won. Does that make you worthy of top 500?

                This is also why people who one-trick get such a bad reputation in OW, because they reach Masters/GM using only 1/26th of the roster, whereas other players get to the same level playing half the roster? If they both have the same score, but one is proficient with more characters and therefore is a more rounded player, who is better?

                  Your argument in favour of multi-accounting seems to be entirely predicated on the notion that multiple accounts are legitimate purely by nature, therefore their entitlement to be on the leaderboard is assumed. I consider that a misdirection. Multiple accounts may well be legitimate behaviour in some circumstances but not all, and the leaderboard is one such place where it shouldn't factor because of its intent as a listing of top players, not top accounts.

                  As I explained elsewhere, there is no benefit to a player for running multiple accounts. Only the highest ranking account matters in terms of prestige or bragging rights, rewards can't be shared between accounts. The only effect doing this has is to push people who otherwise would have had sufficient score to place on the leaderboard off the bottom not because their place was taken by a better player, but because a better player decided to use his natural skill to take up multiple slots on the board. That might fly on a high score list but for a leaderboard it's unambiguously inappropriate to my mind.

                  How the score is calculated is semantic since it's part of what defines the leaderboard. The rules of how to gain score are the same for everyone, whether someone earns that score directly or by being carried doesn't change the fact the leaderboard is intended to show the top 500 players by SR at the end of each season. If the leaderboard were intended to show the most skillful players by some objective measure then your response might be relevant but it isn't.

                  I'm sorry, I just don't find your argument persuasive. Evidently you don't find mine persuasive either, and that's fine. You've heard my argument, I've heard yours, I'm confident that my view on this remains the best approach, ethically and by intent. If you have anything further to add please do, but for my part I'd rather leave this here.

      The idea stems from that level literally being called top 500. If someone has worked their ass off to improve and is objectively the five hundredth best player in his region then that achievement isn’t recognised because there’s dozens or hundreds of alt accounts above him.

      To take a hyperbolic example imagine the best player in the world made 499 alt accounts and locked everyone else out... that’d be a bit of a dick move right? The second best player wouldn’t even get recognition.

      Definitely seems somewhat unfair to me, but personally I’ll never get close to that level so I’ve no real skin in the game.

        Its just a leaderboard, So what?

        If anything the person is more of a fool for buying 500 copies of a game just to fill the leaderboard.

        The person has LEGITIMATELY purchased another copy of the game and has LEGITIMATELY levelled that characters ranking through LEGITIMATE play.

        Cry unfair all you want. Its not against the rules. I see it as no different to multiboxing in an MMO.

          Except for the fact that there's a unique profile picture and more competive points for the top 500, so no, it's not JUST a leaderboard

          It's fine that you don't care about leaderboards, but you're not so insular-minded to not understand how it could be important to others.

          Multiple accounts undermine the purpose of the leaderboard, people want it to be more representative of its intent. You're right that it's not against the rules right now; the point of the discussion is to have the rules changed so that it is against them in future. Especially since there are rewards for placing in the top 500.

          I'm curious why you're so invested in one side of the debate, considering you don't care about leaderboards.

            I just see it more as tall poppy syndrome.

            This player is better than the majority of the playerbase (As shown on the leaderboards several times) and they dont like it. So they are trying to take petty action against the guy playing legitimately.

            Its no different to those who chuck sooky la la's and abuse the report system when a player does not choose the character they want them to play in online matches.

            Its toxic.

              They're not trying to rob these players of their rightfully earned spots in the top 500, they're just trying to make sure it's one spot per person. This really is quite different to reporting people for playing the wrong class or whatever, this is just making sure there are three people standing on the three-place podium at the end of the race. It's not an unfair thing to want.

                You act like the guy is intentionally trying to flood the leaderboards with his accounts. He quite clearly isnt. He just happens to be really good at the game. Hence his leaderboard position.

                He did not rob anyone of anything. He is better than them. Therefore he is higher on the leaderboard than them. If they want his spot they need to be better than him.

                Simple really.

                  When you watch racing time trials you don't see the one person standing in all three places on the podium because the three top times were set by them, that would be absurd. They just get the one place, based on their best performance. The person who had the next best time comes second, the person who had the next best time after that comes third.

                  The same applies here. Running extra accounts does rob people of places on the board, since giving one person multiple places unduly pushes the score necessary for the lowest place on the board higher than it would normally be.

                  Zombie Jesus has the right of it.
                  In almost any other leaderboard, your best time/score whatever is representative of the competitor.
                  Couldn't have said it better myself. It's far from tall poppy syndrome, nobodies denying him bragging rights, we just want some others to have bragging rights aswell, if anything, it's helping the other tall poppies get their time in the sun too.
                  You seem to love capslocking "LEGITIMATELY", let's see how log its stays legit. I see some sort of account verification on the horizon. If the rules change, and it's no longer legit, what's your stance then?

                  Also.. "Its just a leaderboard, So what?"... so, what's the point in a leaderboard to start with? With this mentality we may aswell get rid of all the competitive aspects, right?
                  Don't mind me, I'll never reach those lofty heights either, but fairs fair, throw one hat in the ring if you're getting in the ring to start with.

                  You act like the guy is intentionally trying to flood the leaderboards with his accounts. He quite clearly isnt. He just happens to be really good at the game. Hence his leaderboard position.

                  Sorry, but can you explain your logic here? I mean, if his highest account is in position #3 worldwide for example, then why does he need accounts in positions 6, 10, 15 and 20? I mean, obviously he's #3 ranked so why does he need to use different accounts to play at a lower rank than his highest? If he's worried about losing games and is using alts to avoid that, then he's not deserving of his #3 slot. After all, it's not an accurate representation of his overall skill - he's pawning losses onto other accounts.

          It's not illegal to bang your siblings..

          Doesn't mean it's not frowned upon

    So what's the issue here? Plenty of games have had people with smurf accounts who play all of their accounts to a top level standard.

    Do people get anything for being in the top 500 or is it just bragging rights? If they don't get anything of actual value then tough cookies, deal with it.

        Fair enough, for the people who care about those it can be a big deal.

        There's still no rule from Blizz against it though so if someone is skilled enough to maintain 5 accounts in the top 500 they deserve it just as much as anyone else.

          This doesn't make sense. It's supposed to be Top 500 players, not accounts. Imagine if Usain Bolt got to run twice in the same race and gets the silver and gold medal. That's unfair and it defeats the whole purpose of the Top 500.

            Its only unfair because that's your perspective on it. If by the rules of the sport, Usain Bolt could run twice, and you knew what those rules were before you started, then he's not breaking any rules, and it's not unfair at all. It's ONLY unfair in your mind because you think some people outside the top 500 should feel better by not having to work as hard...

            Again, the way the ranking works right now, it's top 500 ACCOUNTS based on their SR score, not top 500 players playing the game. So right now, based on the system Blizzard designed, everything's working as it should.

              There are two problems with your argument. One is the notion that anything not expressly prohibited is tacitly permitted, which isn't true. Usain Bolt may not be expressly prohibited from shooting his competitors in the legs with a gun, but that doesn't make the action permitted. See also unlawful vs illegal.

              The second is a status quo fallacy: that because its current effect is to show top accounts, that must therefore be its correct form. This ignores the intent of the leaderboard as expresse by all of the material Blizzard has released on it to date, which states the board is intended to show the top players in the region by SR. For example (emphasis mine):

              At some point during each season, we’ll also activate a leaderboard system that will highlight the best players in the Overwatch community—so if you manage to fight your way into the top 500 players on your platform, you'll receive an in-game notification, certifying your competitive credentials for as long as you can hold the position.

              The current behaviour of the top 500 leaderboard doesn't match its intent. When the function of a thing doesn't match its intent, it is flawed and should be reassessed and/or fixed.

                One is the notion that anything not expressly prohibited is tacitly permitted,

                But that's exactly the case. If something is not expressly prohibited then it's not against the rules. You cannot imply something is not allowed because it's not expressly stated in the rules but seems dubious. If something is against the spirit of a particular sport, a rule will then be created to negate that practice. But prior to that happening, you cannot punish a competitor because he did something outside the rules. In the case of unlawful vs illegal, in both instances you need to be breaking or infringing on an existing law. If you do something considered bad and/or dubious, but isnt actually against the law, you cant be punished for it. The Usain Bolt shooting someone is not relevant, because (without looking it up) intentionally impeding another competitor on purpose is actually against the rules. The difference with OW's leaderboard is these players are not impeding other players with any intent. If they cheat, or intentionally throw games etc, then sure, they're breaking the rules and should be punished. Otherwise, if they're playing the account just like any other to the best of their ability, then all good.

                I also never suggested all Alt accounts are pure by nature. What I'm saying is, in the instance that someone has legitimately gotten an alt to Top 500, what rule have they actually broken? And by the way, why should they be effectively punished for putting more effort and time (and money) into the game than someone else?

                Finally, I never said it's what Blizzard did or did not intend. What I'm arguing is that a) the system is currently working as it was built, and b) by extension, nobody is doing anything wrong by simply getting 2 accounts into Top 500. Therefore, if everything is working, is this a problem that needs to be fixed? I agree that based on the quote you provided, it sounds like they did intend for the board to operate differently to how it does.

                I suppose the ultimate question here is, if Blizzard's intent was to track the top 500 players, and knew they would be allowing players to purchase multiple accounts, why did they create a leaderboard that only tracked accounts based on SR score?

          Maintaining a dozen accounts doesn't take any more skill than maintaining one, just time. It doesn't benefit anyone to have extra accounts on the board, only their highest placement matters in terms of prestige or bragging rights and rewards can't be shared between accounts. All it does is push people off the bottom.

            I'd argue it takes a great deal more skill. Showing you can do it on "a dozen" accounts means you've effectively ruled out being carried by your team.

            Doing it on a single account means that you could've gotten lucky a few times and been teamed up with players who carried you.

            Doing it on multiple accounts means that not only are you not being carried but you've also likely been teamed up with sub-par players plenty of times and scored the win regardless. It means you've shown you're good enough to make up for the downfalls in your team's skills.

            I'll qualify that with my assumption that on their main the player is likely teaming up with a group of friends or an e-sports team etc but on the "smurf" accounts they're more likely to join with a random team.
            Getting 5 accounts to top 500 while playing with the same team members every match does indeed prove nothing.

            Incorrect. If I am good with 5 characters which I play 1 only of on each of my 5 accounts, that makes me a more well rounded player than someone who only one tricks on one account. We may be at the same Skill Rating, but I should be classed as the better player because I have a better proficiency across more of the game.

            Therefore, someone who can maintain 5 accounts in the top 500 is much more deserving of it in my opinion than someone who only just scrapes in with 1 account because the first guy got told he's not allowed to have 4 other accounts in the top 500...

    I know that it is a little off topic but I recently read that Usain Bolt is the fastest, second fastest, fifth fastest, ninth fastest and twelfth fastest man in the world. Nothing wrong with that is there guys?

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now