XDefiant is doing away with skill-based matchmaking: 'We believe that no SBMM is paramount to a fun and varied game'

Key art for XDefiant, featuring one of the mercenaries from the Phantoms faction.
(Image credit: Ubisoft)

With XDefiant releasing next week, Ubisoft is providing a slightly better look at the FPS game and what we can expect from it. For the time being, the expectation is a wild-west scenario with every person for themselves because, apparently, there will be no skill-based matchmaking in the casual playlist. 

As part of XDefiant's "commitment to transparency," Ubisoft outlined what matchmaking will look like in a blog post on XDefiant's site. "The most important thing to know is—there is no skill-based matchmaking in our casual playlist. We believe that no SBMM is paramount to a fun and varied game experience in the long term. Frankly, skill-based matchmaking means every casual game is repetitive—constantly repeating matches that are just as stressful and matched as ranked."

Instead, casual play will prioritise fast connection times when looking for matches to place players in. The other factors that will determine who you play with and against in casual modes are as follows (in order of priority):

  • Avoided players: Restricts matchmaking between any players that you're currently avoiding. 
  • Party Size: Matches groups against those of a similar size. 
  • Region: Prefers to group players of the same region/language. 
  • Input Device: Prefers players that use the same input method. 
  • Platform: Prefers players who use the same platform. 

However, there will be the occasional team balance once a lobby is populated. "The casual lobby does not use skill to determine who gets into the game, but once everyone shows up, it balances the teams for a fun match," the blog post says.  

SBMM will play a bigger role in ranked play, as it will "prioritise quality matches," according to the blog post. "It is segmented by Rank levels and will only matchmake players within Rank range. It also employs latency and region preferences where possible." So, you'll probably have to wait a little longer to find a match. But as ranked play will be added in a future season, we won't know what XDefiant's version of SBMM will look like for a while. 

The argument surrounding whether SBMM is actually any good for casual play in FPS games is pretty split, with the biggest opponents being Call of Duty players. Many in CoD dislike SBMM because they view it as a system that can hold low-skill players back as it restrains them to bad lobbies, as well as something that encourages boosting and punishes people playing with friends who have a broad skill range. One poll on r/CallOfDuty showed that 84% of respondents thought SBMM was ruining CoD. 

"This idea that only sweats hate SBMM is just wrong," one player says in the thread. "It's about what is the most fair system and SBMM is not fair. Most online PVP games do not have SBMM, and they are not sweat fests. Players who are worse at the game are supposed to underperform; the average player performs averagely, and a good player performs well. People just hate the idea of removing SBMM because streamers also want it gone." 

On the other hand, some players enjoy SBMM just because they enjoy playing against people of a similar skill level, even if this gets messed up every now and then after a particularly good run. 

At the end of the day, no one will ever be happy because the grass is always greener on the other side. So we'll have to wait and see whether CoD players appreciate XDefiant's approach to matchmaking when it releases next week.  

Elie Gould
News Writer

Elie is a news writer with an unhealthy love of horror games—even though their greatest fear is being chased. When they're not screaming or hiding, there's a good chance you'll find them testing their metal in metroidvanias or just admiring their Pokemon TCG collection. Elie has previously worked at TechRadar Gaming as a staff writer and studied at JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs about Smash Bros. or any indie game that crossed their path.