Kotaku Thinks Call of Duty Fans Don't Want Fair Matches, But That's Not True

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SBMM Doesn’t Match You With Players of Your Skill 5
Credit: Activision

With the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II has come an avalanche of criticism and a ton of praise. One of the biggest games media sites in the world, Kotaku, recently published an article covering the launch of the game entitled "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Fans Can't Believe They Have To Play In Fair Matches" that has definitely got people talking.

The thing is that CoD fans don't want that, but it's very common for people to think critics of the game's skill-based matchmaking system (or SBMM) do just want to crush people they're better than. This comes down to the SBMM system in the game never being explained or talked about by Activision.

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Unfortunately, unless you've yourself played a ton of Call of Duty over the years with an eye towards SBMM, it's an easy system to not understand, almost as if by design. So, in this article, we'll explain why Kotaku's idea of Call of Duty fans not wanting fair matches isn't true.

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SBMM Doesn’t Match You With Players of Your Skill

SBMM Doesn’t Match You With Players of Your Skill
Credit: Activision

Most people who think fans don't want fair matches in Call of Duty don't understand what SBMM does in Call of Duty, like the Kotaku article.

SBMM, in Call of Duty, does not pair you up with players at your skill level. It's quite a bit more complicated than that, and it actually has to do a lot more with your performance in recent games.

What SBMM in Call of Duty does is maximize engagement to try and get the most people possible to buy microtransactions. So, whether you're a great player or a total novice, the game is going to try to make sure nobody, at any skill level, is going to lose too hard too often.

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If you're just a solo player, you'll know the above all too well. You'll have a string of games where you're absolutely dominating, almost like your enemies aren't even shooting back, and then you'll be the one getting spawn-trapped without a prayer of being able to escape.

What's more is there are a ton more knock-on effects to what SBMM actually does in CoD. For one, the higher skill you are the worse ping you'll have, in general, and being higher-skilled doesn't mean your teammates will all be high-skilled, either.

SBMM Doesn’t Match You With Players of Your Skill 2
Credit: Activision

What happens is the game will pair you very generally with people, for a huge variety of reasons, it thinks you're approximately close to in skill. Naturally, there will be large gaps in any given lobby. So, then, the system will break the lobby into teams depending on skill level. This often means a high-skill player will get put on a team of 5 low-skill players, essentially dooming everyone on the team to a bad experience, though one the game considers balanced.

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If you're a low-skill player, or maybe just below average, if you ever party up with a friend better than you, don't expect people of your skill level, because you'll be getting absolutely crushed 9 times out of 10, as you just won't be able to keep up with people your friend matchmakes with.

What's worse is that whether you're high-skill or low-skill, you won't be able to improve, thanks to SBMM, either. Chances are no matter what your skill level actually is that your in-game experience will feel the same because the SBMM system is always working behind the scenes to smooth everything out.

In short, don't expect to play for a long time and get better at the game and start winning more matches or performing much better than before, because the games you're going to load into the outcome of have usually already been decided by SBMM behind-the-scenes.

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SBMM Wasn't Actually in Older Games, That's Not True

SBMM Doesn’t Match You With Players of Your Skill 3
Credit: Activision

Another big claim people make, and was made in the Kotaku article, is that SBMM has always been in games and that older games didn't play better because they didn't have SBMM.

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This just isn't true.

In Call of Duty, for example, there has long since been this idea that SBMM has always been in the game so complaining about it today is dumb. The problem is that people often don't take the time to learn about what SBMM was actually like in older CoD games.

In the older CoD games, there was definitely a system. If you just loaded up the game for the first time, you wouldn't find yourself in a lobby of 10th Prestige MLG veterans and so on and so forth. The thing is, though, that the biggest determining factor in older CoD matchmaking systems came down to ping, which players you had the best connection with.

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This makes a lot of sense when you remember that older CoD games didn't have the luxury of dedicated servers, so you'd be connecting directly to other people and not to a central server, so ping was, very much, king.

Today, it's an entirely different system, and to compare it to that found in older games is simply disingenuous or incorrect. Ping has almost no bearing on who you're matchmaking with, and that instead comes down entirely to the game's very thick skill-based matchmaking.

Call of Duty Without SBMM Is Fairer for Literally Everyone

SBMM Doesn’t Match You With Players of Your Skill 4
Credit: Activision

Outside of some light SBMM to create a space for disabled gamers to enjoy the game or to keep brand-new players away from the sweats until they get their footing, CoD without SBMM is a better CoD for everyone.

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What would it be like with a largely random matchmaking system? Well, for starters, of the many millions who play, the vast and overwhelming majority of them aren't super good at the game. This isn't an insult, it's simply reality: Not many have the time to dedicate to improving at a video game.

This is to say that random matchmaking wouldn't be broken by millions of sweaty, cracked gamers dominating lower-skill players. What's more is that every game would be different and dynamic. Naturally, if you were of average skill, you'd perform decently in most games, while sometimes you'd stomp or you'd get stomped.

The beautiful thing, though, is that your fate wouldn't be decided for you. You could randomly load into a bunch of games and do really well, and you could randomly load in and have to work hard just to compete. But either way, as you played more of the game and got better, you'd be able to see your performance, on average, getting better.

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You wouldn't have to worry about having a bad time playing with anyone better than you, and you wouldn't have to worry about being punished with unfair matchups and bad connections when you got better.

Ultimately, if you're a hardcore proponent of SBMM in Call of Duty, you're probably not just an average or below-average player, which there's absolutely no shame in, but you just don't understand the mechanics of the system.