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Overwatch: Changes on the Horizon for Competitive Play Mode


Overwatch: Changes on the Horizon for Competitive Play Mode

As anyone who plays Overwatch can tell you, when the game launched in May this year there was a notable absence in the game modes: Competitive Play. Competitive Play was present in the beta but hasn’t shown its face since. Well, that wait is finally over–Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan announced earlier this week that the Competitive Play mode will be launched at the end of June. Here’s what you need to know.

Overwatch: Changes on the Horizon for Competitive Play Mode

Kaplan started his announcement by briefly touching on what’s in the pipeline for later this year. We can expect a revamped Spectate mode for both broadcasting and observing, as well as new heroes and maps.

Season Length

During the beta, season length operated like Hearthstone–a one-month cycle where progress would be reset at the end of the month. If you visited any Overwatch discussion board during this time you’d know how the overwhelming majority of players disliked this. Players wanted to stay at their skill rating for a longer period of time. Kaplan makes note of this, specifically referencing that this request was “at the time the number one upvoted thread on Reddit.”

Overwatch: Changes on the Horizon for Competitive Play Mode

In response to this, Blizzard has changed season length to two and a half months. There will a small break period between seasons to give Blizzard time to apply balance changes, if so required. The seasons will be based off of real-world seasons in the northern hemisphere. The first official Competitive Play season will start at the end of the month and will be appropriately named “Summer.”

Sudden Death

Sudden Death occurs when each team has won a game apiece on an escort, assault or hybrid game mode. The teams will then play one round on a random objective, determining the final outcome of the game.

Blizzard wants Sudden Death to be a rare and special game mode, that occurs when two teams are competing very closely. After looking at the math for Sudden Death they found that statistically there’s a 50% chance of Sudden Death occurring. The reality is Sudden Death occurs in 35% of games played and Blizzard feels this is too high.

When it’s a very close match, it’s a cool moment to have. It’s a coin toss, which team is better?
Jeff Kaplan

Kaplan noted changes would be made to reduce the chances of Sudden Death occurring but didn’t provide details. One change that was specified is that Sudden Death will now resolve on the map you’re playing on. For example, if you were playing escort on Dorado and the match resolved with a result of sudden death, instead of playing control on a random map, you’ll now play control on Dorado.

Kaplan also noted that assault maps, specifically Hanamura, Temple of Anubis and Volskaya Industries, are too dependent on a handful of team fights. These maps are currently being tweaked to try increase the chances for a more even and consistent fight that isn’t solely dependent on winning one big fight.

Progression vs. Skill

The original Competitive Play system that existed in the beta leaned heavily towards progression with ranked tiers. Diamonds were used within your tier to monitor your progress as you progressed to the next tier. Blizzard received lots of critical feedback on the beta progression system; players expressed that the system felt too much like a grind and less like a skill representation.

We had challenger, advanced, expert… and once you’re within a tier, you can’t drop out of that tier.Jeff Kaplan

Players overwhelmingly wanted to know where their skill compared to other players.

Blizzard listened to player feedback and the tier system is now a thing of the past. The new system will now directly correlate MMR (Matchmaking Rating) to skill rating. The rating system is numbered between 1 and 100.

When you’re about to start a placement match in Competitive Play you’ll see your skill rating, all other players’ skill rating, and an average skill rating for both teams. This also applies to when you come out of the finished match. Another nice touch is the ability to see if players on either team are partied. People have been asking for this level of transparency since the beginning of the beta and it’s nice to see Blizzard responding to that feedback.

Overwatch: Changes on the Horizon for Competitive Play Mode

“How fair of a match is this that’s about to happen?” – Jeff Kaplan

The reality is not every match will be perfectly fair. In a game with between 9-10 million players (and still growing), perfectly balancing every match isn’t possible. Blizzard has compensated for this by creating a system where the underdog stands to gain more and lose less (MMR).

So basically if you’re about to start a placement match and the opposing team has a significantly higher MMR, the amount of MMR you stand to gain is increased over what you would stand to earn by facing a team with a similar MMR. The reverse of that is if you will lose a lot less MMR when being defeated by a team with a much higher MMR.

“This is the competitive system that we think players who are attracted to competitive play really want” – Jeff Kaplan


Great news everyone! There will be no Competitive Play rewards based around power gain. Okay, so maybe it’s not great news to everyone, but personally I can’t help but be thrilled with the decision. I want Competitive Play to be based around player’s skill with their hero, strategy when selecting/adjusting their team composition and how well you react to the other team’s decisions. Not how many hours you can log in the game. A system with power gain rewards inevitably leads to players who can’t log the long hours being at a disadvantage.

“Rewards are always controversial when it comes to anything competitive and anything PVP based” – Jeff Kaplan

So what are the rewards? Rewards will strictly be cosmetic changes, sprays, and player icons. The players with the highest skill will be able to unlock certain unique rewards before anyone else, giving them the ability to show off. Golden guns for example:

Overwatch: Changes on the Horizon for Competitive Play Mode

“There is a very cool, customized, golden gun system that you guys are going see. We think once you see things like Reindhart’s golden hammer you going to be pretty blown away” – Jeff Kaplan

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