Blizzard announced during its "State of the Game" BlizzCon panel in November that Heroes of the Storm would be getting a new matchmaking system before the end of the year. Where the original system, based on the one used by StarCraft 2, focused on speed rather than match quality, the new way of doing things reverses those priorities, which Blizzard said should lead to a more consistent rate of "quality" matches.
The tradeoff is a potentially longer wait for match creation, as the system attempts to put together players with similar matchmaking ratings (MMR). Queue priority will be given to players who have been waiting the longest, which will help keep waits to a (hopefully) reasonable rate, and if the matchmaker determines that your wait time has become "excessive," it will broaden the parameters of its search, meaning that you could end up facing an opponent slightly above or below your ranking despite the changes. Blizzard added, however, that most players are unlikely to experience this, as it will primarily affect "those at the extreme ends of the MMR spectrum when searching for a match during off-peak queue times."
Changes have also been made to party matchmaking, and even to the loading screen, which will now more effectively communicate who you'll be fighting with and against, and to make it "easier to understand how a low-rated player managed to find their way into your game," if and when that happens.
Blizzard warned that there may be a hitch or two from time to time, as the system is still quite new, but said it will continue to monitor matchmaking data and make adjustments as necessary. It also put up a list of "known challenges and future improvements," which includes things like improving team compositions in Quick Matches, and preventing players from being matched with people on their Blocked Communication list.
"This is only the beginning of the changes we have in store for Heroes of the Storm matchmaking, and providing evenly matched games is still our highest priority," Blizzard wrote. "We’re going to keep monitoring data from live games, and will continue to make improvements with future updates."
Unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly, the changes to the matchmaking system do not include the addition of a "spectate friend" feature. Game Director Dustin Browder said earlier this month that the option won't be coming anytime soon, and it seems he wasn't just trying to set everyone up for a surprise reveal.
Get the full lowdown on the new Heroes of the Storm matchmaking system at Battle.net.