overwatch placement matches

How Overwatch Placement Matches Work and Why They Are Unfair

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With the fresh release of Overwatch’s Competitive Season 7, I decided to test how the placement matches work first hand.

There’s been so many rumors going around regarding how they take into account your personal performance in the 10 placement matches, along with your previous season rating, and so on. In a nutshell, what I’ve noticed is that none of that seems to be accurate.

How do Overwatch placement matches work

In order to start playing the Competitive mode in Overwatch, you need to meet two requirements:

  1. Be at least level 25 on your account;
  2. Complete 10 placement matches.

The way the placement matches work is that you get queued up with players of your current rating (0, if it’s the first time you do it), and after 10 games that are noted as Win or Loss, you get a rating based on that.

For instance, finishing 10 placement matches with 5 wins and 5 losses could rate you somewhere at around 1400-1500 rating. If you’ve played Competitive before, we’ll cover how placement matches work for that later in this post.

overwatch placement matches skill rating
Now, I have finished Season 6 with a rating of 1800-ish, which yes, is quite low, but that’s merely because I only did my placement matches during that season, and a couple other Competitive games outside of that.

Since I haven’t been playing Overwatch as much until now, I really wanted to gather more experience trying out all the heroes, especially the ones in the current meta, before going more serious into Competitive.

As a side note, an absolutely great way of testing heroes you wouldn’t pick otherwise is through the Mystery Heroes Arcade mode.

Not to brag, but I’ve gotten pretty good on about 5 heroes or so, of which most are part of the meta, and if not, at least they’re relevant in Competitive, so I decided to do my placement matches in the current Season 7.

To my surprise, I finished Season 7 placement matches with 8-2 (wins-loses), and as I was heading towards the last one, I was really curious as to what my Skill Rating would be, since I’ve gotten Play of the Game in about 5 out of 10 games, and pretty much at least 3 gold medals in every single one of them.

Naturally, having thought that 8-2 wins and the personal performance would be taken into account, I was expecting quite a boost in SR. But nope, after all the above, I ended up with slightly higher than 1900 SR – silver bracket. Amazing.

This is exactly the type of thing that happened to Elvine as well, as you can see in his tweet.

I’m not sure if you know the app Oversumo, but it’s pretty good at tracking your account’s statistics and MMR, as well as your performance on each hero. For the PC version, you can use MasterOverwatch.

According to this, despite my SR being 1900-ish, my MMR was Master (3500+), and while most of my performance was Platinum+, I also had a Grandmaster performance on one character.

How is this relevant, you might ask. Well, allegedly, if your MMR (matchmaking rating – hidden) is higher than your current SR (skill rating – visible), then you’ll gain more points for winning a match, and lose less for losing one.

So you must imagine my surprise when I was winning literally 25 SR for a victory, and losing 24 for a defeat. Yup, one point difference for a Silver SR / Master MMR.

Why are Overwatch placement matches unfair

Well, you see, the concept of placement matches basically means that every season you get tested to see if you perform better or worse, and as a result of it, get rewarded through higher SR, or having it deducted.

As I mentioned above, since I was 1800-ish SR in Season 6, and since I improved a ton since then, and finished my placement matches 8-2, and a great personal performance, barely gaining 100 SR is, honestly, close to no gain.

The unfairness doesn’t come from this per se, as I didn’t expect to get boosted to 4000 straight up, but it comes from the fact that the previous SR isn’t “taken into account”, but is merely carried on to the next season. Yup. Meaning that your “placement matches” aren’t that anymore, but simple hidden-SR games that either grant or deduct points to your previous season’s rating.

overwatch placement matches unfair meme

The reason for which this is unfair is that, if you haven’t started Competitive as a very good player from the very first game, you’re likely to end up stuck at a low SR, with very few gain per win, especially if you solo-queue.

Furthermore, the unfairness of it also comes from the fact that a lot of players who run into this issue resort to smurfing. Smurfing means purchasing a brand new different account on which they start out from scratch, with 0 rating, so they won’t get dragged down by any previously low SR seasons.

For example, doing your placement matches on a brand new account and finishing 8-2 will grant you about 3000-3500 SR, as opposed to my 1900 (because I was 1800 in the previous season). A bit unfair, isn’t it?

I’m not sure what Blizzard thought when they implemented this system, but considering how serious they take Overwatch, it might just be a measure against purchasing piloted boosts from other players.

This, however, doesn’t account for the fact that some people purchase boosts straight from 0 SR, or simply buy high rated accounts, meaning that actual legitimate players get affected more by this.

How to fix the Overwatch placement matches issue?

Again, while I didn’t expect to get skyrocketed to 4000 or so rating, some actual encouragement should be awarded if you perform very well, and especially if you win. Not in the form of +100 SR, though.

In my opinion, to fix the issue, other factors should also be taken into consideration.

Starting from 0 SR every new season wouldn’t be a good idea either, so it is understandable that your previous rating should play a part in this equation, but not to the degree where it impacts 99% of the end result.

If the personal performance would’ve been factored in correctly, along with the 8-2 win-loss placement matches, I highly doubt the end result would’ve been merely a 100 SR gain, from 1800 to 1900.

Fixing this would also have players think twice before purchasing a new smurf account, as they could recover from being stuck at a low rating on their main one.


With a better algorithm for calculating how placement matches affect your rating in a new season, I’m sure a lot of previously and currently stuck players would be more keen to progress on their main accounts than getting 3-4 smurfs.

Seeing how your effort is rewarded, and how your personal performance improvement is taken into account, should help towards more enjoyable competitive games, especially in solo-queue.

On top of that, a lot of players learn new heroes (*cough* Mercy *cough*) just to be relevant in the meta, and the current reward is so little if the previous season drags you down, that it’s understandable why some players resort to starting new accounts once they’re confident enough to play Competitive.

So, in a nutshell, with the success Overwatch is having, and rightfully so, I’m sure it’d be in everyone’s interest if the current placement match system is changed a bit, as to give improving players the chance to climb the ladder as well.

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