Call of Duty: Warzone skill-based matchmaking, explained

SBMM Warzone
(Image credit: Activision)

Want to know more about Warzone SBMM? The skill-based matchmaking system isn't particularly clear in Warzone. There's no official skill rank on your Warzone profile, but that doesn't mean that you aren't being grouped with players with similar ability. And while the SBMM system doesn't seem to conform to how other games handle skill levels, that's not to say that there isn't something in place. 

So far, Activision has kept away from dedicated ranked modes and most players appear to be happy with this decision—though some think features should be implemented to encourage competitive play. Regardless of which side of the fence you're on, Activision claims that Warzone doesn't have skill-based matchmaking. We're not convinced, however, so here's everything we know about SBMM in Warzone. 

Does Call of Duty: Warzone have SBMM?

Signs point to yes, despite what Activision has said publicly. Call of Duty's many developers usually don't like to disclose any details about skill-based matchmaking. In a rare move, Infinity Ward told CharlieIntel that Warzone has no SBMM because of the high player count.

That’s still the official word, but there is good evidence that Warzone does indeed match players based on skill. Or, at least, it tries to. Warzone YouTuber JackFrags recently released a deep dive into the game's seemingly light SBMM standards.

JackFrags pulled the data from 105 solo battle royale matches and found some consistency between the average skill of his lobbies. Since this video is fairly new, it's a good up-to-date representation of the average matchmaking experience. Paired with similar results from an examination done by YouTuber TheXclusive Ace around the game's launch, we have a pretty clear picture.

How exactly does Warzone SBMM work?

Win more with these Warzone loadouts

(Image credit: Infinity Ward)

Best Warzone loadout: The gear to choose
Best M4A1 loadout Warzone: Top all-purpose AR builds
Best MP7 loadout Warzone: Effective SMG setups
Best Grau loadout Warzone: Strong AR builds
Best M13 loadout Warzone:  Attachments to choose
Best Kilo 101 loadout Warzone: Boost the punchy AR

As far as we can tell, kill/death ratio is king. Warzone has no visible ranking system like CS:GO or Rainbow Six Siege, so the game's matchmaking appears to hinge around a player's current average K/D. This is also the way that unofficial stat-tracking services like SBMM Warzone would assign their custom lobby rankings—though the site has now been taken down by Activision due to privacy concerns, among other things. 

As JackFrags points out in his video, it's impossible to know for sure exactly how strict Warzone's SBMM is. He makes an educated guess that Warzone prioritizes skill first before considering ping and time waited. From the evidence available, it's fair to say that your chances of finding unevenly skilled lobbies is greatly affected by the number of people playing in your region. If there are fewer people online, the game gets less picky about skill levels and mainly focuses on building a full match of 150 at a low ping.

This makes sense when you consider Warzone’s incredibly short wait times. It's no small task to gather 150 people together for a single match. Even a game as popular as Warzone probably can't afford to accurately matchmake players and keep queue times short. It's not uncommon in Rainbow Six Siege to wait 3-5 minutes for a ranked match of 10 players. No matter what time I'm playing Warzone here in California, I never have to wait more than 90 seconds.

That seems to be the tradeoff that Activision is comfortable making with Warzone, though a growing number of players say they want an official ranked mode that takes skill-based matchmaking more seriously.

How does it compare to Cold War and Modern Warfare?

Again, we can’t know for sure, but Warzone appears to follow the same philosophy as other Call of Duty games. As you can read about here, examining Cold War’s matchmaking results in similar findings. Kill/death ratio is the main stat that the game cares about when looking for similar players, but it's willing to compromise to speed up the process or favor a low ping. The same goes for Modern Warfare 2019, which may explain why Warzone also follows the same formula. After all, Warzone began as a side mode to Modern Warfare.

Stat trackers can be a valuable tool, just don't obsess

If you'd like to see the machinations of Warzone's SBMM for yourself, there are some useful stat-tracking tools that plug right into the game's API. The most popular in-game tools are Warzone Companion and Warzone Tracker, both of which can be installed easily through Overwolf (a handy all-in-one app for other game trackers). 

Just don't obsess over skill levels too much. Having that much data at your fingertips can be a thrill, but seeing enemies with high K/Ds can psych you out and negatively affect your performance before the game even starts. I went through the same thing with Siege's tracker tool and I eventually uninstalled it. That said, live stat tracking can be a crucial tool to identify cheaters in your lobby. If the top squad has somebody with an impossibly huge 12 K/D, you probably have a cheater on your hands.

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.