Call of Duty is meant to make you feel like you’re riding the fastest motorcycle on an open freeway, but you’re really riding around on a tricycle with the supervision of your parents. Only, the tricycle is skill-based matchmaking, and your parents are Activision as they continue to restrict any true agency within the Multiplayer side of games like Modern Warfare 3.
For the first time in years, a blog post for Call of Duty was released that detailed how matchmaking in MW3 works. While there is plenty of fantastic information you can learn from within, the post is used to try and convince you that SBMM isn’t that strong. They even go a step further to convince you that it’s good for the player base. Don’t let them fool you.
It might be what’s best for their wallet, but it’s not what is best for the game. Matches used to be more diverse, more fun, and would even allow you to control the outcome if you were skilled enough. Now if you play too well, you get punished. Or if you get smacked by the enemy team, you earned yourself a pity match so you don’t get too frustrated. It’s all carefully curated, and SBMM ensures that players never face too much adversity in a competitive game.
Skill is Still a Massive Part of Matchmaking in MW3
In the blog post that detailed how matchmaking works in Modern Warfare 3, there is a snippet that claims skill is not the most important factor in matchmaking. While technically true, it doesn’t paint the full picture.
Two factors are more critical to matchmaking than skill: Connection and the time to match. So what does that mean for most players? Well, as long as your connection is decent and there is a healthy player pool, there is a third factor that determines where you are placed. Of course, that third factor is skill.
Other small factors such as your voice chat options and input change the process as well, but it’s your account skill that determines where you go after your connection is established. In other words, skill plays a much larger role than the blog post would have you believe. Anyone who has played in lobbies with friends on a different skill level could have told you that. Utilizing secondary smurf accounts to queue with will also show you that skill plays a massive part in the process.
But every game has SBMM to some degree. Even a small amount is probably a good thing for the lower brackets. So why does SBMM take away your free will in MW3? Because the system seems to dictate your matches before they even happen.
Skill is a Factor, But it Doesn’t Always Matter
Your account history is only one part of the SBMM process. Another aspect is your recent matches, which was a significant highlight of the blog post as players have complained about this for years. When you play too well, it feels like you get punished. Or when you get destroyed, there seems to be a pity game so you don’t log off for the day.
We know this because the blog post said, “Skill is determined based on a player’s overall performance: kills, deaths, wins, losses, and more, including mode selection, and recent matches as an overall metric across all Multiplayer experiences. This is a fluid measurement that’s consistently updating and reacting to your gameplay.” Your history won’t let you jump too far down the SBMM rung, but the fluidity of recent matches also “punishes” you at times.
Along with the fluid matchmaking that reacts to your recent performance, the system seems to shake up teams based on the desired outcome for you. No one is supposed to win or lose too much. When you win a few too many times, you might end up with teammates who are impossible to carry. And that’s the idea. In their own words, “all players (regardless of skill level) are more likely to experience wins and losses more proportionately.”
Unless you have a stack of teammates (which is another issue entirely), you lose tons of free will in the current Call of Duty MW3 system. The average player isn’t meant to improve and the top-tier players are placed in a sweaty hellscape where using anything but the meta is frowned upon. Everyone is placed into their own boxes where all outcomes are equal. The game is being played for us.
Despite the way SBMM feels in the last few COD releases, MW3 is still a good entry to try out if you like the franchise in general.