Over a week has passed since the opening of Overwatch Season 3 of Competitive Play. The new season started only a week after Season 2’s end, and brought a whole slew of changes into the new season.
As many have mentioned on the Overwatch forums, YouTube, and Twitter, the changes to the ranking system in Season 3 may not be the end of Overwatch Skill Rating and Skill Tier placement issues that have been frustrating players since the game’s launch.
Season 2 of Competitive Play saw a complete rework of the ranking system used in Season 1. Skill Tiers were added during Season 2, giving players a clearer picture of where they stood against competitors. These changes were an improvement over Season 1. Several heroes were also balanced, which made other aspects of the game seem much fairer.
Even with all the changes from Season 1 to Season 2, more problems arose with the way players are sorted into Skill Tiers. At the start of Season 2, the Skill Tiers were introduced, but the distribution of players among those tiers was extremely skewed. More players than intended were sorted into the Gold and Platinum tiers. This caused several players to drop quickly to lower tiers as they played through the season.
Blizzard addressed this issue in October when they announced the changes to Season 3 of Competitive Play:
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.
To solve the problems players experienced with Skill Tiers in Season 3, Blizzard took a different approach to initial Skill Ratings for the new season. Instead of wiping the slate clean at the start of Competitive Play, during placement matches players paired with competitors and teammates of a similar Skill Rating from the previous season. That means if a player had been Gold Tier during Season 2, their teammates and competitors for the placement matches of Season 3 would be (supposedly) pulled from that same tier or a similar Skill Rating.
“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,” Blizzard said of the new Competitive Play skill calculations.
While these changes had good intentions, many players experienced a harsh initial Skill Rating and Skill Tier in Season 3. Due to the balancing of players among the tiers, less people sorted into the Gold and Platinum Tiers. Despite the move towards fairness and the forewarning given by Blizzard in October, many players have spoken out against their newly calculated Skill Tiers and Rankings.
What’s important to keep in mind about these changes is that Overwatch Competitive Play is still
relatively new. Season 3’s start has been smoother and a much better experience than in the first
season. As players continue to provide feedback, the developers of the game will surely continue
to adjust the way Skill Ratings and Skill Tiers calculate.