With Infinity Ward pushing skill-based matchmaking (SBMM) hard in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer, some might be wondering whether this is the future of online multiplayer. While the actual devs themselves might be the only ones who can answer that depending on the game they’re making, we here at MP1st decided to seek out what the gaming personalities think of it.
We’ve reached out to YouTubers, community members and more regarding SBMM, and below are their responses. The people we’ve contacted are respected members of the Battlefield and Call of Duty community and have a lot to say about the subject (understandably so).
Without further ado, read on.
(Note: Opinions shared have been edited for spell checking, grammar and punctuation, but aside from that, was left as is).
MP1st Staff James:
SBMM is one of those things we always hear people cry about, and while I don’t think the current system is perfect, I’ve always felt it somewhat made sense. As a player who’s always wanting to get better, I prefer the idea of being matched with people of my skill level, even if it means I’ll be losing my matches. I’m someone who prefers the challenge, versus stomping on a bunch of new players who from their perspective see it as unfair. SBMM is really there just for that, to ensure that new players are having a great time, though that is an issue in itself.
In recent years, games like Call of Duty have added SBMM, which hasn’t exactly faired well with the fans. This is completely understandable because let’s face it, COD is more of a casual, mainstream shooter, just as is Battlefield. People want them to be their go-to games and relive whatever stress that they may have. So while I like the idea of SBMM, I don’t exactly agree that it should exist everywhere, or at least a better system should be in place. Will it kill games? Well that just depends on the game. Looking at the recent Modern Warfare, it’s clear that the system is making players turn their backs on it.
If SBMM would come to BF (Battlefield) it would kill off the server browser. since those don’t go hand in hand together If they wanna add SBMM, add it for ranked/try hard play, but keep the normal /casual modes ping-based.
Skill-based matchmaking makes sense at a competitive level, but when it comes to the general public, it only works with low player counts.
If you think of various sports: football, futball, MLB, other leagues; they have various levels of experience and skill. It makes matches more interesting, it generates competition and it helps people grow. It gives them an opportunity to become top in their skill level, then move to the next. However, it’s very difficult to apply this concept successfully to larger people (player) counts, such as recent games that are trying to figure out how to implement this idea. With larger games, specifically games that involve large numbers of random players, players that are competitive, players that are considered casual, SBMM just doesn’t work. A game can only control certain aspects of skill, but the player is always going to bring randomness. For larger game modes, say 16v16 and up, it just doesn’t work to try and force people into certain matches, based on what the game developer deems is “skill.”
Skill levels come in all shapes and sizes. I have players on my scrim rosters that have negative KDR (kill/death ratio) but end up in first place for score because they are insanely good at reviving my team. There are players that might only get 3-4 kills in a competitive match, but maybe they watched a flank the entire match and communicated to the rest of the team when enemies were coming in, protecting an entire side. I also have players on my teams that will go 5 KDR in scrims, and I know I can count on them to just frag. How do you define which of them has skill? I see games try to come up with all sorts of ways to determine skill.
All in all, SBMM can work in some circumstances. Things like small matches, sponsored competitive matches or events, but I just don’t ever see it working with the core of most games. That is the casual, random gamer that just wants to hop on and play for a bit, in a large game with random people from around the world.
We can assure you that SBMM isn’t going anywhere anytime soon though. It’s made almost every company that’s implemented it more money than when they didn’t have SBMM. They are a business at the end of the day, and profit speaks louder than the vocal minority of their users on social media. I (Doug Dagnabbit) personally wouldn’t mind seeing SBMM in gaming going forward, as I understand that it can really benefit the casual gamer who only plays every now (and then). I think the gaming community just has to start to understand that the people you see speaking out on Reddit, Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms are the vocal minorities. If the changes the publisher and developers make = more money, they will keep those changes. This is another reason why we won’t be seeing Prestige in upcoming Call of Duty games, as far as we are aware of currently at least. Their Season Pass has done too well for them to scrap in favor of Prestige. I hope that gaming companies can move towards something more in line with what Xbox and Microsoft are doing with their CloudX servers coming to Game Pass Ultimate with no additional charge. That’s taking care of your customers.
SBMM is an essential tool that devs use to ensure the longevity of their games. It gets the most attention in the CoD community but Fortnite, Apex, and almost every game on the planet is using some form of SBMM right now. Back in the old days better gamers would usually be placed in lobbies with weak opponents. If you’re in the top 1% of skill, then almost everyone you meet will be worse than you. For those games it was great. It felt like a reward to be able to play casually all the time and stomp. But for the other 99% it was a plague that ruined their ability to play normally and made the game not fun. This is an important fact because developers noticed that gamers who get smashed over and over again usually quit and don’t play any more. \
Every publicly traded publisher uses MAU’s (montly active users) to show value to their shareholders. If they are losing MAU’s because sweats are smashing them then something has to be done. Thus, SBMM roughly ensures that you play at equal skill levels all the time. To the best of my knowledge these systems work as intended and do help increase player retention. I personally think it was created to quarantine the sweaty players and keep them from ruining casual experiences. The problem with the system is that it doesn’t fit CoD or BF or Fornite or a lot of these BR games. These games are designed around non-competitive casual experiences and are radically different from say Siege or Overwatch. Part of the experience of CoD is trying all the guns and unlocking new stuff. If you are at a high enough skill level, the system will ensure that you have to try your hardest and use the best equipment possible just to hang in the match. There is no room for experimentation, fun, or casual play. Thus, SBMM makes the game experience a lot less fun for hardcore players. Companies seem to be ok with this because those guys will play the game anyway and their numbers are too small to make up for the MTX (microtransactions) purchases of the casual masses.
I wish we could have:
Ranked -> Elo system
Casual -> super loose SBMM or maybe only protected bracket SBMM
You do kind of have to have a safe bracket for gamers who are brand new or perhaps have disabilities which limit play.
For me the most frustrating thing is that lack of clarity from any developer on this. Pretty much every company is of the belief that gamers can’t handle the truth.
Well, there you have it, folks! What do you think of SBMM? Is it something you think is needed given it protects new players or should developers ease up on it so players will be able to run wild for long stretches of a time? Let us know your thoughts below.