As any player or fan of Treyarch’s newest Call of Duty can attest, skill-based matchmaking (SBMM) is a bitch, to put it gently. Doing well in one game all but guarantees you’ll be playing a game against people drastically better than you. You’ll get stomped, and moved into a lobby where you can get all of your highest killstreaks in the first two minutes. If that sounds like a bad time, you’d be right. If that sounds like your idea of a good time, you’re a masochist, and we can’t be friends. Sorry.
Skill-based matchmaking, on paper, sounds like a great idea. Prevent the brand-new players from getting steamrolled by the players like me who’ve been playing since World at War or Modern Warfare (2007) and have the kind of reactions and innate knowledge you only really get after countless hours in the franchise over at least the last 13 years or more.
In practice, it can work. Games like Rainbow Six Siege and Overwatch both have SBMM mechanics in the game, but they’re far more obvious in their implementation. Both games feature a ranked mode with differing tiers based on how good (or bad) you are at the game. That number goes up and down, and gives you some idea of what’s happening.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War doesn’t do that. Instead, the entire multiplayer facet of the game is ruled by an invisible SBMM system that for the most part defies any attempt to catalogue or define it. Rather than a slow trudge up the metaphorical skill mountain in Overwatch or Siege, Cold War opts to rocket you to the peaks of Everest for one game, putting you far above your skill level, before forcing you into a Leap of Faith to the lowest invisible skill bracket.
Some players and content creators have taken to reverse boosting, tanking their kill/death ratios in order to have fun playing the game, while others are fine with the game as it is, and have simply decided to enjoy the highs and weather the lows like a bad hangover.
Either way, the vocal segments of the community have been calling for the removal or reduction of SBMM in the game since it’s release in early November, with no signs of Treyarch so much as even acknowledging the widespread complaints.
Activision insider Tom Henderson has confirmed that Treyarch and Activision so far have no plans to tone down or flat-out remove SBMM from the game, saying that “It won’t be toned down. You can’t have 1 half of the community trying to back the removal of it and the other half advertising their creator codes for 80 cents a purchase. The only way to get it to be toned down is to work as a community, together. But X for doubt.”
His gaming reference at the end aside, it’s a pretty damning message. Whatever his source, he, and Activision/Treyarch by extension, know that they have the community by the balls. SBMM won’ be going anywhere so long as the community is fractured thanks to content creators benefitting from their partnerships, and unless the community somehow bands together, it looks like the current SBMM system in Cold War is not only here to stay in this title, but will likely be implemented in the same (or, God forbid, worse) way in the following titles. We can hope he’s wrong, but given Treyarch’s silence thus far, I wouldn’t bet on it.
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