Season 16 of competitive Overwatch is set to arrive tomorrow and will bring with it a huge change for high-level players as well as pros competing in the Overwatch League.
Overwatch developer Scott Mercer revealed that come Season 16, Grandmaster players will only be able to group up with one other player in competitive mode, according to an update posted on the official Blizzard forums.
Grandmaster is the highest rank that an Overwatch player can achieve on the competitive ladder, attained by players with a skill rating of over 4,000, typically the top 500 players in any region. It’s not uncommon to be matched with professional Overwatch players, even those competing in the Overwatch League, at this level.
In competitive Overwatch, players also often tend to group up or “stack” with their friends or teammates to have a more enjoyable experience. Mercer explained in his post that the game prevents imbalanced matches due to stacking by “actively [trying] to place parties of similar sizes together to create fair matches.” The developer even added that this feature works “reasonably well” for most players.
The same cannot be said for Grandmaster, however. Because there are much fewer Grandmaster players, Overwatch’s matchmaking system often has a difficult time creating evenly-matched games when there are multiple stacks of three or more players queuing at the same time. That can lead to matches where your opponents are these guys:
Limiting Grandmaster stacks to two players would help level the playing field, as a stack of just two players is less likely to tip the scales much against their opponents, even if they’re all solo-queuers.
“Making fair matches is always more difficult simply because there are fewer players of their skill level to place together. It’s even harder if we allow Grandmasters to queue with larger groups. We believe this change will help create better quality matches for all Grandmaster players,” said Mercer.
While the change only affects the highest tier of Overwatch players, other skill levels can expect similar changes to ensure better balance in competitive matchmaking soon.
Season 16’s relatively small change is in line with Blizzard’s past history of balance updates and changes — which tended to be more about smaller changes spread across a number of patches instead of major upheavals in just one or two. Blizzard may treat Season 16 as a testing ground for future balance updates for the rest of competitive Overwatch’s skill levels, which may very well arrive next season.