Overwatch Dumbed Down: 81% of Players Placed Gold or Higher

While a Gold medal in the Olympics is a matter of national pride, a gold medal in Overwatch isn't much more than a participation award. The currently breakdown of competitive tiers are a mockery of the term 'competitive'. We truly live in an upside down world when someone in the bottom 19th percentile places in "Gold".

Competitive Season Skill Rating Distribution (Season 4)

Awarding someone who plays at the bottom 19th percentile a gold medal is not only intellectually dishonest, but the "feel good" vibe it gives players actually stifles their growth. I think it's fair to say that most casual players don't dig too deep into rank distribution, so these labels are what most people use to gauge their own skill. That mercy player who exclusively uses the pistol may think they uncovered a hidden gem by achieving "gold" rocking the pistol, not realizing what "gold" actually means. Rankings are supposed to be a way for players to gauge their own skill but if everyone gets "gold" medals it doesn't mean anything. The design of the rating distribution system in Overwatch reveals that Blizzard seems to care more about making their players "feel good" than being honest about their skill level.

What's particularly awful about Overwatch's rating system is the incredible amount of skill rating inflation on the platinum and higher tiers that Blizzard created. Just take a look at the staggering difference in rating distributions between seasons 2 - 4:

Source: MasterOverwatch.com's Skill Rating Distribution S2. Season 3 Stats Mirror Season 4

While Diamond represented the top 11% of players back in Season 2 it's top 29% in Season 4. That's a staggering difference. Diamond should be an aspirational rank - not something nearly a third of players achieve. A Diamond Overwatch player in Season 4 is equivalent to a Silver 1 League of Legends player. While Season 2's rankings were far from perfect, I would argue it was much more honest, at least on the platinum and higher end of the spectrum. It's simply absurd that a below average player (45% percentile) is considered "platinum". In League of Legends that same player would be Bronze 1.

One of the biggest issues with Overwatch's "everyone gets a gold medal" rating system is that it doesn't exist in a vacuum. Ratings like Gold, Platinum, Diamond, etc have context outside of Overwatch both in the real world and in other video games. Just take a look at the rank distribution in League of Legends for example:

Source: OP.GG

I'd argue that the ranking system in League of Legends is much more intellectually honest. Ratings like "Gold" and "Platinum" have value. Only 25% of players are ranked Gold or higher and only 8.21% are ranked Platinum and above. Overwatch ought to put player feelings aside and simply be honest with their community.

Overwatch's "make everyone feel special" design philosophy is also evident in the game's ranked rewards system. Instead of distributing ranked rewards based on merit the way League of Legends does (Special skin for gold rated and above players), Overwatch gives players the option of purchasing a golden weapon skin using a currency called "competitive points" which ANYONE can earn regardless of skill level. While Blizzard does award bonus competitive points based on skill rating, the lowest skilled bronze players can still unlock these golden weapon skins without ever improving. I currently have enough competitive points to unlock 4 golden weapons, but i didn't even bother unlocking them. These skins have zero value as a competitive reward when any schmuck can get them. Having merit based end of season rewards gives players motivation to climb the ladder and improve, something that the game should encourage. League of Legend's success proves that players don't need to be coddled and merit based end of season rewards work.

Most players don't care that Symmetra is autistic or that Tracer is gay. We just want an honest competitive mode for a game that we love.

Edit: Scott Mercer posted on the Overwatch Competitive Forum on Battle.net showing completely different Season 3/4 statistics than the ones sourced from Masteroverwatch. The stats he posted shows Bronze 6%, Silver 22%, Gold 34%, Platinum 23%, Diamond 10%, Master 3%, and Grandmaster less than 1%. These are stats for peak rank achieved. The SR inflation between S2 and S3/S4 remains indisputable as SR of 3,844 was enough to put someone in the top 50 worldwide season 2 while rank 50 in S4 is ~4600. Given that "gold" is awarded to those even at the bottom 29th percentile continues to validate my belief that Overwatch coddles its playerbase.

Been playing MMOs since I first got my hands on Ultima Online when I was 12 years old. Played so many games from Star Wars Galaxies to MapleStory to DAoC to World of Warcraft. Long time League of Legends player too! I'm also Known as "ReMo" and "Remotay"

  • Dan

    They should've used a unique medal name, rather than bronze gold silver system. This way players avoid the stigma of being "bronze" (boo hoo...) and overwatch players still know their comparative ranks.

    Not everyone needs a medal.

    • Agreed. If they had used a unique medal system / tier system it would have been more acceptable. I still hate their rank reward system though and it fits in with their mentality that everyone ought to feel special. The gold weapon skins have ZERO value to me as a ranked reward. Whether you're top 5% of bottom 1% you get the same gold skins. League had a much better system.

      • Dan

        The gold weapons do make sense to me, as much as I wish it wouldnt, it does serve as an incentive to bring more casual players to at least try competitive if only to get enough points for the skin. I do agree with you, Leagues system is much better. No doubt the desire to get higher ranks would be easily encouraged with a unique skin to show off exclusively for top players.

        • They can remedy this by adding something for everyone else on top of the gold rewards. I agree that it's good to get people to play competitive, but reward high achievement as well!

  • Elin

    Why are you using masteroverwatch's horribly inaccurate statistics instead of the real statistics.

    • It was the only detailed data set I found for both periods (season 2 and Season 4). Even if it's not perfect it was the same source for both seasons. Also data from other third party sites like Masteroverwatch had similar numbers.

      • Elin

        There a sticky at The top of the competitive part of the official forum with the correct statistics they are very different.

        • Thank you for pointing that out. I hadn't seen it. I added an edit at the end. The principal issue of low percentile players getting gold medals is still evident, just not as bad as I initially thought.

  • LAMBDA471

    I always knew there was something rotten about this game. My suspicions just got confirmed even more.

  • Max Alexander Nicol

    It's pretty difficult to fall below gold in your placement matches. I think we will probably see a big shake up in the coming seasons (if not next, the one after).

    As for rewards - they are lousy. Bragging rights is usually a good enough reward for me, but seeing as someone with slight over average skill can reach Diamond with a good grind ... there usually isn't much to brag about unless you get GM.

    Compared to CSGO - where reaching any of the top 5 ranks is something worth celebrating.

    Odd that Blizzard can keep me coming back to Hearthstone with their rewards but I feel little incentive to play OW comp.

    • Snouby

      I know it's pretty late to answer, but it depends on each individual. I stopped playing cs go 1 year ago, launched back the game and i can carry game around LEM lvl even if i troll with a pistol only and this with a shitty aim. Just because your game sense in cs go can let you carry games and clutch.
      Everyone is different, but cs go still ask enormously more hours to be even decent that's for sure.

  • Joshua Woodward

    They want players to feel good so they keep playing the game, and buy loot boxes. This is corporate America, not the Olympics.

    • cal

      what this guy said. if you truly care about your rank you know that gold is the 'dumpster' and you want to aim for master, etc. . blizzard has no obligation to care about the "outside context" of gold, platinum and diamond, just so the top 5% of the players can feel extra good about themselves and look down on silver and bronze plebs who aren't worthy of their status.

  • applesaucefatstick

    unlike League people can legitimately not qualify for a competitive season. Where as in League everyone qualifies. The charts do not account for people who didn't qualify for the season which is actually probably a good number of people. Also the entry level competitive pool is a lot more skilled than the quick play option. Where as in league probably anyone semi skilled might make an attempt. The difference between ranked and un-ranked matches are pretty dramatic. Take any gold level player and throw them into a quick play game and they are most likely going to carry the team to victory. Even a 5 v 6 is still do-able with a high silver / gold player in unranked. Quick play is for noobs. Bronze is noobish, but knows what they are doing. Silver is pretty good at the game. Gold is very good at the game. Platinum is stupidly good at the game. Diamond is this person might be a hacker. Master = we are going to lose. Grand master and above just leave the match before it starts. The percentiles are different, but the amount of skill it takes to go from one rank to another is exponentially less. To give you an example of how good plat is. I once saw a plat level genji block a sniper bullet by anticipation of when the widow maker was going to pull the trigger. A similar test of timing exists in martial arts for 5th degree black belt *anticipating and dodging the sword*. This is also a team game which means you have to carry when someone disconnects. Or when your other team mates can't pull their own weight. As you rank up in some ways it actually gets easier to rank up because you can more accurately rely on your team mates. Also you don't lose your rank if you lose skill rating. Unlike League. Meaning if you get a lucky streak going you might just hit those higher ranks. I think O.W. rating system is a little bit more telling of how much luck / vs skill the game has. The game shows your highest achievement NOT your currently Achieved rating. Also there are many people in the game who "smurf". Or downgrade their skill rating after achieving a high rank for a number of reasons. The ranking system is designed to show sheer ability, and where people have been on the distribution curve. As opposed to showing simply their current standing. Also before you hate on a bliz game. Remember bliz created the game that spawned your game. bliz made WC3 which created DOTA and DOTA created league. Don't diss your theoretical gaming great grandpa.