Activision finally addresses SBMM in Call of Duty, admits tailoring for low-skill players

Activision finally addresses SBMM in Call of Duty, admits tailoring for low-skill players
Image via Sledgehammer Games

Written by 

Jack Marsh


30th Jan 2024 16:37

Ahh, skill-based matchmaking. The simultaneous crux and bane of Call of Duty.

SBMM has almost become a necessity that holds together the foundations of CoD but doesn't provide for a stable structure when the pyramid enters its final third, often crumbling and pushing everyone towards the pinnacle point.

So after years of complaints about the system, Activision has now taken a public stance on SBMM in Call of Duty, detailing just how it is used in Modern Warfare 3 and like-minded multiplayer annual releases.

Activision claims SBMM has been in Call of Duty since 2007, former dev disputes

Click to enlarge

Continuing its new trend of transparency, Activision and its subjective studios have now taken to a blog post to detail how SBMM works, claiming that the feature has been in the Call of Duty series for over 15 years.

"Our work in this area dates back as early as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007). Skill is implemented across the video game industry, and we recognize that continuous refinement is required to deliver the best possible experience for our players," Activision said.

"Our data on player outcomes clearly indicates that the inclusion of skill in Call of Duty’s Multiplayer matchmaking process (as it currently stands) increases the variety of outcomes experienced by players of all skill levels. In other words, all players (regardless of skill level) are more likely to experience wins and losses more proportionately," it added.

However, the long-standing usage of SBMM has been disputed already, as the increasingly vocal former Call of Duty developer Brain Bright, who verified the leaked NX1 cancelled title, used a fragrant range of emojis to infer that Activision's statement was bull excrement.

Call of Duty explains SBMM, pledges to alter high-tier lobbies

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Contrary to belief, Activision has explained that SBMM goes off a plethora of factors, with the main two matchmaking requirements being "connection", "time to match", and "player diversity", all of which essentially mean lobbies are formed on a basis of how stable your internet is in comparison to others that search for the same playlist.

Then, factors like "skill/performance" come into play on a third-tier basis, alongside "input device", "platform", "recent maps/modes", and "voice chat enabled" all come into play.

But as far as the skill level, which is where SBMM really activates, Activision confirmed that the system is designed inherently to retain players' attention, especially for low-skill players who will be more inclined to leave games and not come back if they are unevenly matched.

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"Our data shows that when lower-skill players are consistently on the losing end, they are likely to quit matches in progress or stop playing altogether. This has an effect on the player pool," Activision admitted.

They did pledge to re-address the SBMM at the higher end of the skill level though, which is where the "sweats" of the game come unstuck by forcing a CDL show match.

"We also understand that many high-skill players want more variety of experience, but often feel like they only get the “sweatiest” of lobbies. We have heard this feedback clearly and will continue to test and actively explore ways to mitigate this concern," it added.

Skill-based matchmaking is clearly here to stay in Call of Duty though, and any hopes of having an XDefiant-like free-for-all are quickly diminishing.

Jack Marsh
About the author
Jack Marsh
Jack is an Esports Journalist at GGRecon. Graduating from the University of Chester, with a BA Honours degree in Journalism, Jack is an avid esports enthusiast and specialises in Rocket League, Call of Duty, VALORANT, and trending gaming news.
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