SBMM in Call of Duty Doesn't Help the Average Player

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SBMM Hurts the Average Player More Than It Helps
Credit: Activision

The idea for skill-based matchmaking (or SBMM) in CoD is hotly contended, sure, but for those who are at all sympathetic to it, the argument is that it's there to help average players or lower-skilled players not to get rolled by better players. This isn't what happens. So, in this article, we'll explain exactly why SBMM in Call of Duty doesn't help the average player.

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SBMM Hurts the Average Player More Than It Helps

SBMM Hurts the Average Player More Than It Helps
Credit: Activision

The idea is that SBMM will protect the average player or lower-skill players from being matched up against much better players that'll just destroy them and, perhaps, encourage average or lower-skill players to just quit. However, the system isn't really good at doing this.

See, a big part of SBMM is recent performance. So, even if you're an average or below-average player, if you have a really good couple of games, the system is going to match you up against much better players, and you're going to get destroyed. Not to mention that if you party up with higher-skill friends, your lobbies are going to instantly become much harder.

Ultimately, the system isn't designed to stop any player of any skill-level from being matched up against better players, it's designed to keep it so no player is consistently getting easy lobbies or extremely sweaty lobbies and rather it makes it bounce between the two.

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Obviously, this doesn't really benefit lower-skill players in the same way it doesn't benefit higher-skill players. In fact, it keeps everyone in a neverending cycle of predetermined wins and loses that makes it impossible to know if you're improving or any good.

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If you think about the numbers, most CoD players are average or below average. That's how it always works: most people don't have the time, energy, or inclination to improve, so if you're just finding games based on ping and randomness, most players will be roughly the same skill-level, which would seem to be a better way to stop mismatches.

SBMM Also Doesn't Stop Matchups With Skilled Players

SBMM Hurts the Average Player More Than It Helps
Credit: Activision

Another big reason people defend SBMM is that it supposedly stops high-skill players from dumping on lower-skill ones, but really, this isn't true either. See, the thing is, if you put in the time to become high-skill at CoD, most of these people want to become skilled so that they can rack up kills, get powerful killstreaks, and sit comfortably at the top of the leaderboards.

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The problem is that by definition you can't drop 70, 100, 150 kill games, even if you're high-skilled, if you aren't facing up against lower-skill players. If you're facing up against people generally similar to your skill-level, it'll just never be possible to have that kind of performance in-game.

Take a look at the CoD pros, and look at the kill/death ratios of pros in pro games. It hovers around 1.0 because, naturally, everybody is equally highly-skilled, so it's not going to very likely for one player to be able to kill a bunch of other equally-skilled players in the same life.

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All of this adds up to the fact that high-skill players will inevitably try to defeat the system to get those high-kill games, and they'll do this by trying to run in big parties to break the matchmaking system as much as possible, they'll create new accounts, and some will even perform badly in matches intentionally to get put into easier lobbies.

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Players Need to Be Able to Improve in Call of Duty

SBMM Hurts the Average Player More Than It Helps
Credit: Activision

A player's skill isn't a static value. In fact, basically, all gamers start off playing a game as low-skill players. After all, every game has its own unique feel, mechanics, maps, etcetera, that you'll have to learn in order to become good at a game. In time, if you keep at it and try to improve, you will improve. It's inevitable.

If SBMM were extremely light and matches were largely determined by ping, most games would be filled with gamers that aren't especially good at the game. So, you'd start off getting destroyed, then quickly you'd match the average players, and eventually, if you kept at it, you'd become higher-skill and could regularly expect in most games to do better than most people.

However, SBMM instead is a vicious cycle. As you perform well, the game puts you into tougher lobbies, and as you do badly, you get shuffled into easier lobbies. So, you'll never really know where you stand in terms of skill. Whenever you win a game, you won't necessarily feel like you were better, you'll feel more like that SBMM gave you a free lobby because you got crushed the last few games.

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And when you lose, it's tough to know if and where you made a mistake if you can't know if the enemy team is filled with people just like you you could have reasonably outplayed with a different decision or if you were just matched up with god gamers who were 100x better than you and were using totally different strategies and mechanics.

Ultimately, it's just a recipe for creating bad habits and never having a good diea of what's going on or how you should play. This helps to force everybody to stay at around the same skill-level they start off with, beyond getting better from, learning maps, that kind of thing.