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:
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:
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.
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.