Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 drops on October 28, though if you preordered it, you’ve likely already gotten some time with the campaign. But ahead of the game’s full release, which will give folks full access to the multiplayer component, some are decrying the game’s skill-based matchmaking (SBMM).
Modern Warfare 2 is Infinity Ward’s latest entry in the Call of Duty franchise. A reboot of 2009's eponymous title and a direct sequel to 2019's rebooted Modern Warfare, this new shooter sees you hunting down various high-profile military ops to prevent global catastrophe by…shooting them in the face. It’s a solid game with some impressive visuals that Kotaku staff writer Claire Jackson said gets pretty sluggish after a boring start. Although there are some problematic elements in the game’s campaign, that isn’t what has the community riled up. Nah, it’s the not-even-out-yet multiplayer component.
Popular streamer Timothy “TimTheTatman” Betar is seemingly at the center of the discourse around Modern Warfare 2 and skill-based matchmaking. In an October 23 video, he said that while he’ll “be here” when the game launches in full this weekend, he’ll only stream the game for “a day.” He’ll still grind it off-stream for the camos but clarified he can’t stream Modern Warfare 2. The reason? Skill-based matchmaking apparently sucks the enjoyment outta the multiplayer experience because he’s playing against highly skilled players that body him, and he isn’t having fun with the established “meta” and the “good guns” folks regularly use. His solution? Create two separate playlists: a Quick Play one not based around SBMM and a Ranked one that is.
“If SBMM wasn’t a thing, I would stream multiplayer,” he said. “SBMM—I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, man—is, I dare say, killing video games.”
Skill-based matchmaking is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a feature usually employed in multiplayer games that pairs you with other players around your skill level. Only level 10 months after a game launched but still wanna check out the multiplayer component? No problem. SBMM should—heavy emphasis on the “should” here—match you with other folks that are also level 10. Getting better at the game and leveling up at a rapid clip? The game’s SBMM should—again, with heavy emphasis on the word “should”—recognize this progression, placing you with others that are equally improving their skills. It doesn’t always work out this way, but that’s the general idea behind the methodology.
However, much like TimTheTatman, folks online aren’t—and haven’t been for a minute now—too happy with the feature’s implementation in competitive games. A cursory glance at Twitter pulls up multiple people decrying skill-based matchmaking. Some have brought up how competitive shooters back in the day, such as Halo 2, apparently didn’t have SBMM and were still great fun. (A former Halo designer was quick to counter that point, though.) Others have said they straight-up hate the feature. A few, like gaming collective FaZe Clan, have questioned whether skill-based matchmaking belongs in Call of Duty games at all. Most seem to agree, however, that SBMM is ruining the game for them in some capacity. But, of course, SBMM has been in games for a long while now.
Kotaku reached out to Activision and TimTheTatman for comment.
There’s some irony to the complaints here. If one player has hit prestige, frequently ending matches with some insane kill-death ratio, then they should obviously be placed with other equally dominating players. They shouldn’t be given the opportunity to jump into non skill-based lobbies to crush folks still learning the ropes. It’s like a heavyweight boxer packing a ton of muscle taking on a lightweight half their size. I mean, come on, that’s clearly an unfair advantage. If you wanna be the best, you gotta beat the best, right? Like Twitter user headfallsoff aptly asked in response to the dizzying SBMM discourse: “What would Goku think”? Well, I think he’d be pretty disappointed.
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