How does Overwatch's matching algorithm work?


How does Overwatch's matching algorithm work?


This is quite a common question a lot of players are not familiar with. In this article we will explain in details how exactly does the matchmaking in Overwatch works.

Lets start from the beginning.

Once you purchase the game, you start at level one and with a hidden MMR – Matchmaking Rating. In order to participate in ranked games you need to get to level 25, which takes some time playing. While leveling to 25, based on your performance during games, your hidden MMR changes with every game. The better you perform, the higher MMR you get. 

This is quite important preparation step in order to participate in ranked – Competitive play. If you play focused during the leveling process and you give your best, it will reward you while starting playing ranked.

What happens after you reach level 25?

This is the first step required in order to participate in ranked play. At this point you have your hidden mmr either increased or decreased, based on the leveling period. However, the quick play mmr does not affect that much competitive play MMR, but it does affect it slightly. After your account is leveled and ready for ranked comes the most important step for ranked play – your first Placement games.

How does ranked play in Overwatch works?

After you reach level 25 ranked play is unlocked for you in game.

You have to play 10 placement games in order to determine in which division you belong. After you complete your placement games, you will be placed in one of the 7 skill rating tiers:

  • Bronze – 500 to 1500 skill rating.

  • Silver – 1500 to 2000 skill rating.

  • Gold – 2000 to 2500 skill rating.

  • Platinum – 2500 to 3000 skill rating.

  • Diamond – 3000 to 3500 skill rating.

  • Master – 3500 to 4000 skill rating.

  • Grand Master – 4000 to 5000 skill rating.

No matter where you got placed, you can increase or decrease your skill rating and division while playing the game.

First placement games importance.

This is probably the most accurate mechanic to determine what’s a player skill.

Note a couple of things:

  • Performance during placement games is the most important factor to determine your starting skill rating and division you will be placed in.

  • Does it matter what if you win or loose the placement games? Yes, it does but not as much as performance during the games does. Even if you win all the 10 placement games, but you underperform you will still get placed in lower divisions like bronze, silver or gold. However, if you give your best and perform good during games there is quite a good chance you will be placed into higher divisions even if you loose some of the games.

What happens after I complete my placement games?

You will be placed in one of the 7 skill rating divisions – Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master or Grand Master based on your performance.  Have in mind that the first couple of games after completing placements will have a huge impact on your MMR and overall division placement. 

Blizzard decided that everyone might have bad games during placements, so even if you did not played best, in the first few games after them you will have the chance to improve your overall placement. During this games your Skill rating gain and skill rating loose is quite huge. You might get up to 100 skill rating per win and loose up to 100 skill rating. This is again based on your performance during those games. 

How exactly does matchmaking works?

Once you have placed into a division you will be matched with players with similar or close to yours skill rating. This makes the game quite fair for both teams and the overall gaming experience much smoother.

Each team has its own MMR based on the MMR of every player in the group. So for example, if everyone in your team is in gold division(between 2000 and 2500 Skill rating) you will be matched against a team of golden players as well. 

After the game is complete, you will have your MMR and skill rating either increased or decreased so for the next game you will either have a slightly better teammates and opponents or slightly lower ones.

Teams matchmaking

If you play the game solo, you will be most likely matched with and against players who are playing solo as well. But if you are playing with other people you will most likely be matched against people with similar stack. For example if you play duo with someone in most cases you will have a duo team as enemies.

Same goes for three man squad, four man squads , five man squads or even six man stacks(full teams).

This means that the bigger your stack is, the bigger stack you will face as opponents. The enemy stack will be with similar team skill rating as your team’s. This way the game fairness and player experience will be kept on most competitive level.

Skill rating queue restrictions

In order to have best player experience there are some restrictions with what players you can team up. For the skill rating ranges from 500 to 3000, you can only queue with people with no more than 1000 skill rating more or less than you. For the ranges of 3000 to 4000 the maximum difference you can queue with goes down to 500 skill rating. 

Above 4000 skill rating the queue restriction goes to 250 SR. This is quite a good way in order to maintain the teams at similar levels and have the perfect matchmaking and performance for both teams.

It simply would not be fun and fair if you are 3 GM players and 3 bronze players playing against 6 master players because the overall skill level of 6 players in similar division will be higher than a mixed team from lowest and highest divisions at the same time.

How much skill rating you gain or lose per game?

It depends on many factors and its not constant gain or lose. It depends on:

  • Win streaks – the more wins in a row you make the more skill rating you will gain after each win. The maximum win streak skill rating gain is capped after 5th win in a row and you can get up to 100 skill rating per win.

  • Losing streaks – absolutely the same mechanic as win streak – if you start losing games in a row, the skill rating you will lose after each lost game will increase. 

  • Performance during games – the better you perform, the more skill rating you will gain or you will lose less points per game.

  • The amount of games you have played on your account. As mentioned above, the games you play right after your placement games will affect your skill rating much more than if for example you have 100 ranked games played on your account.

What is skill rating decay and how does it affect MMR

In order to maintain a fair and equal gaming experience in high end gaming tiers, Overwatch team has implemented skill rating decay over 3000 skill rating. In order to maintain your skill rating above 3000, you need to play at least 5 games every 7 days. If you do not, your skill rating will start decaying with 50 rating a day for every day after the 7th day. This means if you were 4200 skill rating and you do not play for 11 days in a row, your skill rating will get down to 4000. 

However Skill rating decay only affects the skill rating, not your account MMR, meaning that even if you decay it will be much easier for you to get back to the skill rating you were previously.

This means that if you have decayed from 4200 to 3500 for example, every game you play will be against players from your previous skill rating (4200), and if you win a game you will win up to 100 skill rating until you are back to the MMR you belong. 

You will also lose a lot less skill rating, but your mmr will go down. So for example if after you decay from 4200 to 3500 and you lose 10 games in a row, your MMR will get down to 3500 as well, you will start only get matched against players on 3500 skill rating and your skill rating gain and loose will get back to normal. This is quite good catch up mechanic if you did not had enough time to play for a period of time.

How is the Performance in game measured?

This is quite a common question and its quite complicated system in game which determines exactly how good you play in your current skill rating bracket. The in game performance is measured based on all the players, playing same hero as you do on the skill rating range you are in at this moment.

A good example for this is: You are currently gold division(2000 to 2500 skill rating). You are playing Tracer. Your performance will be compared with the performance of every other Tracer player in gold division and based on this your MMR will be affected either positively or negatively. It is similar for every skill rating range.

What is Overwatch top 500?

  • Top 500 is the highest possible tier that a player can achieve during a ranked season. This is the most competitive playing environment as well.

  • How to get into top500? You must be among the top 500 players in your region on your platform. Top 500 is separated for every region – Europe, Asia and Americas and Is different on PC, PS4 and Xbox one.

  • Top 500 is different for every region and is based on the skill rating required in order to be among the first 500 players.

  • Top 500 requires you to have at least 50 games played during the current competitive season.

  • Top 500 has its unique end of season reward – a seasonal themed in game spray and in game top 500 icon.

  • In order to obtain end of season Top 500 reward, you need to finish the season within Top 500 skill rating range. This means that even if you were in Top 500 during the season does not guarantee you that you will get end of season rewards.

  • You can track the current season Top500 skill rating requirement in game, and if you are into Top 500 you can see what exactly is your standing.