The removal of SBMM is on everyone's minds.

17:16, 29 Jun 2020

Skill-based matchmaking has been a hot topic in the Apex Legends community for some time now. From players to pros, everyone has their own gripes with the system put in place by Respawn Entertainment in hopes of providing “fairer matches”.

GGRecon’s article on the subject of SBMM in Apex Legends cited the pros and cons of the system, but the more time passes, the more the “cons” seem to have the upper hand.

It’s been a long road for SBMM, with many remaining unhappy with the current system in place. A poll by TheGamingMerchant suggests that 73% of 3683 players asked, think SBMM is a negative addition to the game.

Apex Legends Skill Based Matchmaking
Image via TheGamingMerchant

This research also shows that the higher Ranked level of any one player, the more dissatisfaction with SBMM they felt. So it isn’t just lower-level players who are becoming disheartened – it’s the top-level Apex fans too, if not more so.

In recent Apex Legends news, The SBMM Connoisseur on Twitter has put together an impressive video of evidence gathered from streams, broadcasts and videos of various content creators who are “sponsored by EA”, voicing their opinions on SBMM. Spoiler alert – they aren’t happy.

Jokingly called “Remove SBMM – The Movie”, the YouTube video shows players from Shroud to Zylbrad in a sizzle reel of clips put together from Apex content creators from Youtube to Mixer (RIP) to Twitch, all complaining about the recent state of Apex matches. If the best of the best are still getting swept by Preds, what hope is there for the rest of us just trying to relax and enjoy a Battle Royale game?

The argument that Apex Legends has “two Ranked modes” is sweeping the Apex community online, from Reddit to Twitter, causing fans to debate whether or not SBMM has gone too far – and that pubs now feel just as competitive, if not more, than Ranked itself.

Ranked mode is supposedly THE competitive playlist in Apex Legends, allowing players who want a more challenging pool of enemies to battle it out to be the Apex Champion. Rising through the ranks from Bronze all way to Apex Predator is the goal, facing harder opponents as you climb the ladder. The ultimate end goal is to reach Apex Predator. EA themselves have said “adding Master Tier, Apex Predator becomes top 500 players by platform.” So that’s 1500 max players who are part of this elite group, out of 70 million worldwide players. Which means surely they shouldn’t be turning up so often, so why are there always two Pred teams wherever you land in pubs - the “normal” Play Apex mode?

The SBMM Connoisseur himself talked to GGRecon briefly on the subject, and echoed our sentiment, saying:

There are supposedly only 0.2% of Predators within the player base and yet you will often see 2 or 3 full predator teams in “unranked".

The owner of @Apex_Latest goes on to say, "prior to the duos update towards the end of October 2019 during Season 3, the only form of skill-based matchmaking that existed in ‘Play Apex’ existed to separate brand new players (Level 30 and under) from the general population of more experienced players. This can be described as very loose matchmaking system; which many players believe is how things should be for the casual, unranked playlist."

The SBMM Connossieur also goes on to discuss how teams of players with varying skill levels, suffer also. 

When one friend within this group is considered skilled enough to play in the highest tier of SBMM against 100k-kill three stacks, then everybody else they are playing with must also do the same thing.

The Ranked playlist is being called “irrelevant” by some players. Understandably so, apart from the addition of penalties and a fun skydive stream you can use to scare other teams on drop, Ranked appears to add nothing new to the current dynamic of Apex Legends, given the brutality of SBMM in public lobbies.

The calls to Respawn devs to do something, anything, to address this issue are loud and frequent. The most vocal of these are surprisingly from pro Apex players, who even due to their high skill level, are finding it increasingly frustrating to play the ‘Play Apex’ public game playlist, or even “unplayable” as a few have remarked.

The developer response in the past has been lacking in empathy. Respawn Senior Systems Designer Eric ‘Ghost’ Hewitt, defended SBMM on Twitter, saying:

There is indisputable evidence through data that it helps out something like 80-90% of the community with retention for most of those games... which hurts us 10%'ers, I know.

SBMM exists to help lower-skilled players improve, but at the moment, only seems to serve to bring about the pure annihilation of mid and high-level players at every turn (or every dash into Bunker.)

The concern of the Apex fanbase, and should be that of Respawn, is how can the game maintain it’s longevity, when its players are so irate, and can’t “have fun anymore”- in a game.

Having such drastic SBMM in pubs only causes more smurf accounts to be made. Smurf accounts are brand-new accounts made by (usually) high-level players, seeking an easier experience. If the game thinks they’re a brand-new player, they’ll be put into objectively “less difficult” lobbies of players, allowing them to relax and just play. This, unfortunately, will only serve to, amongst other things, disrupt accurate player count numbers, and ruin the experience for everyone playing Apex Legends.

The SBMM Connossieur also had something to say on this issue, stating "smurfing - which is a side effect of having a strict skill-based matchmaking system in the public playlists - naturally ruins the experience for new players and drives them away from playing the game. This is rather ironic since improved player retention is what skill-based matchmaking aims to accomplish. It should be noted that Fortnite and Destiny (amongst others) have recently removed skill-based matchmaking from all unranked playlists for this exact reason."

Apex Legends Skill Based Matchmaking

So, what can be done to fix the SBMM issue in Apex Legends?

What The SBMM Connoisseur wants, is a full removal of SBMM in public lobbies. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that Respawn will go for that. But what may fly is adding even more skill disparity parameters to casual lobbies SBMM system, or even more levels and tiers to Ranked. If we believe the Ranked system is feeding into the overall skill-based matchmaking system, then making it more difficult for players to progress would help. Or as one Twitter user suggests, tightening the lobby requirements using account level.

Failing all that, Respawn could just go the whole hog and rename the current game modes available. How about “Ranked” and “Ranked Ultra” ….?

Whatever the outcome of the #RemoveSBMM movement, the Connoisseur assures the fanbase it serves to "highlight the issues created by this current form of strict skill-based matchmaking within the Apex Legends community. Our community does not want two ranked playlists."


Images via Respawn Entertainment

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