Overwatch 2 director: New ranked system suffers from 'poor comprehension,' will change in future seasons

Mei and Snowball in Overwatch
(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

A lot of Overwatch 2 players aren't happy with the sequel's new ranked mode, and Blizzard is starting to agree. In a new blog post meant to address recent player complaints, Overwatch 2 game director Aaron Keller said improvements to Competitive mode, including "more clarity" around what ranks mean, are coming over the next several months.

We will be implementing some changes in S3 and quite a few more in S4 all aimed at creating more clarity in the system.

Aaron Keller, game director

Confusion over how exactly Overwatch 2's ranking tiers (skill divisions that range from Bronze to Platinum and peak at "Top 500") factor into matchmaking has been driving players up the wall since season one. Some have reported a frustrating level of perceived inconsistency in the skill level of teammates and opponents, metrics that are especially difficult to track because Overwatch 2 actually hides a player's "true" MMR. Your displayed skill division, as it turns out, is a completely separate figure from the invisible MMR number that Overwatch 2 actually uses to match you with similarly-skilled players.

The result is the not-so-uncommon occurrence of matching up against players who appear to be a much higher or lower rank than you. In theory these players do actually have a similar, invisible MMR level as you, but it sounds like even Blizzard agrees this is a needlessly obtuse way to do things.

"The new Ranked mode suffered from poor comprehension," Keller wrote. Citing the experience of facing players with a display rank that doesn't match their true skill, Keller said this has created a "negative impression of the matchmaker" even when it's technically doing its job.

"We will be implementing some changes in S3 and quite a few more in S4 all aimed at creating more clarity in the system. More details on short-term changes and long-term vision will be coming soon."

jared neuss tweet

(Image credit: Jared Neuss on Twitter)

What form these changes will take could vary, but it's probably wise to think small. Earlier this month, Overwatch 2 executive producer Jared Neuss clarified in a tweet reply that there are no plans to revert to Overwatch 1's ranking system, which used a numerical skill rating system as well as medal ranks. "The new system has good goals but the implementation needs work and has to be adapted based on player feedback, like yours."

In the short term, an "improvement" could be something as simple as a better in-game information page breaking down the difference between rank and MMR. If you ask me, it sounds like much bigger adjustments are in order. 

Any public-facing skill tier should always represent at least roughly where you land in the true MMR equation, with some wiggle room to allow for more frequent movement through ranks and to throw off those trying to game the system. Otherwise, what's the point of having a rank? The fact that, right now, a Diamond Overwatch 2 player on paper might actually be at the skill level of a Grandmaster or a Platinum player is plain backwards. It cheapens the entire concept of ranked mode, turning what's intended to be a signifier of skill into an arbitrary number that sometimes goes up and sometimes goes down.

Overwatch 2 season 3 is due to begin sometime in early February.

Morgan Park
Staff Writer

Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.