Call of Duty: Warzone, the new battle royale mode released today for Modern Warfare players and as a standalone, free-to-play download, has several features that set it apart from other titles in the genre. For folks who care less about the moment-to-moment gameplay and are hungry for those chicken dinners/victory royales/championships, one seeming omission from Warzone is proving particularly attractive: a lack of skill-based matchmaking.
While Infinity Ward and Activision haven't released any detailed information about exactly how Warzone assembles its 150-player lobbies, the folks at popular Call of Duty news site CharlieIntel report that Warzone does not employ skill-based matchmaking:
Again, in regards to matchmaking, Infinity Ward's studio head Pat Kelly told us that there is no skill based matchmaking in any large player count modes in Modern Warfare, and that will include Warzone. https://t.co/0pJyMvyNMA— Call of Duty Warzone News (@charlieINTEL) March 10, 2020
Within the communities for Apex Legends and Fortnite, skill-based matchmaking has become a contentious issue. For some, the idea that players in a battle royale game should be matched to players of a similar skill level is antithetical to the way they want matches to feel. If you're a player of average skill, being placed into a game with zero care taken to find similarly skilled opponents means you'll likely run into both low skill and high skill players in any given match. The better you are at the game, the reasoning goes, the more likely you're going to feel like skill-based matchmaking is a punishment: instead of regularly finding low and average skill players to mop the floor with, each fight stands a greater chance of being a hard one for you to win.
Back before Fortnite had its soft reboot at Season 11 as Chapter 2, Epic announced it would add skill-based matchmaking and bots in the next season and faced immediate pushback from fans. It was recently disabled in Fortnite's Team Rumble playlist.
With Apex Legends, Respawn Entertainment says that it has always employed skill-based matchmaking at some level since launch. During Apex's third season, though, ire toward skill-based matchmaking reached a fever pitch. With the launch of the following season, Respawn addressed the matter and promised it would "continue to improve [matchmaking] over time."
Some Warzone players are still frustrated by the omission of a solo game mode, as many feel that squad modes lead to situations where players have to compensate for less skilled teammates (and opponents of skill-based matchmaking say squad-play only exacerbates the issue it creates).
Since we're right at the launch of what is now Call of Duty's third take on the battle royale genre, we don't have a great idea of what Infinity Ward's methods for matchmaking are or will be in the future. Players also haven't yet played enough to form a solid opinion of how fair Warzone feels as-is—and since win frequency must be a huge factor in battle royale player retention, Infinity Ward and Activision are almost assuredly watching those figures closely.
Perhaps the Plunder mode, which moves away from the last-squad-standing norm of battle royales, will end up being Warzone's biggest strength, in which case these comparisons to other titles' matchmaking methods won't be as constructive. Either way, Warzone is a latecomer to the genre, and might do well to avoid making the same decisions that players have pilloried other battle royales for in the past.