Blizzard Entertainment just rejiggered Overwatch Competitive Play for Season 2 at the beginning of September, but the company is already preparing for the third season. In a post on the official forum, Overwatch principal designer Scott Mercer outlined a number of new changes for the upcoming season, notably involving the Skill Tiers.
In Season 2, Blizzard added seven Skill Tiers to Competitive Play, sorting players by Skill Rating: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master, Grandmaster. According to Mercer, the system for choosing where you began in each tier was putting players too high.
Mercer admitted that part of the problem is due to how Blizzard wants matchmaking to work. Matchmaking is supposed to find the fairest matches, based on the skill tiers, but doing a complete reset at the beginning of a season would have weaker players going up against hardcore vets. To prevent this, Blizzard doesn't fully reset your Skill Rating at the beginning of a season, instead using your Skill Rating from the previous season as a starting point. Since you can never fall out of the highest tier you achieve - with the exception of the Master and Grandmaster ranks - Overwatch had too many Gold and Platinum players.
"When Season 2 started, we had way more players in Gold and Platinum than we initially intended, and way fewer in Bronze and Silver," said Mercer. "This was the result of how we calculated your initial SR for Season 2. We tried to partially reset player SR at the start of Season 2, but the results were not as we expected. Instead, below-average players started Season 2 at a higher SR than they should have been given their performance in Season 1. This meant that as they played in Season 2, their SR would often drop to a lower value, which didn't feel great. It also meant that there was a much wider variation of skill in the Gold and Platinum tiers than we wanted. This is something we want to avoid in Season 3."
"We're testing a different way of determining your starting SR for Season 3 on the PTR. We're leaning more towards trying to keep things fair rather than giving everyone a fresh start. We're also going to initially tune your SR to be slightly lower to start. In turn, fewer players should start the season having their Skill Rating drastically drop despite having close to even wins and losses," he added. "This change will mean that some players will not start in the same tier for Season 3 that they were placed in for Season 2, and that your SR gains from winning will be a little higher at the beginning of the season."
Blizzard is also lowering the downtime between season to a single week. Season 2 of Overwatch Competitive Play ends on November 24 and Season 3 begins on December 1.