Overwatch’s skill rank decay changes are a good thing for competitive play

Players now have to complete seven games to keep their season rank from decaying.

Image via Blizzard Entertainment

Blizzard introduced a few slight changes to the way the ranked ladder works for Overwatch’s fourth competitive season on Feb. 28. Three main factors differ from last season: Rating decay, top 500 adjustments, and respawn changes. All are aimed at making competitive Overwatch more competitive, but one adjustment has Overwatch players split: The skill rating decay rate.

Sure, it’s going to suck to watch your Overwatch skill rating decrease if you take a week off from competitive play. But that doesn’t mean the season four adjustment is a bad thing—it’s actually a really smart way to encourage competitive participation in Overwatch.

Last season, players ranked as diamond or above (with 3,000 or more SR points) had to play at least one game a week to maintain their number. If they weren’t able to meet that requirement, their SR would start to decay. This season, players ranked above 3,000 will have to play seven competitive matches a week to keep their rating from decaying. Playing one match pushes the decay timer back by one day, and players can bank up to seven matches per week. If you can only play Overwatch one day a week, you can still pack all seven matches into those 24 hours and your SR will be safe. If you can only play one match per day, that’s cool too. As long as you hit seven within seven days, your SR won’t decay.

And that’s a lot of Overwatch. Competitive matches are longer than quick play matches, often drawn out with multiple rounds. Lots of Overwatch players aren’t happy about that change. A lot more Overwatch players are going to see their SR decay. Folks are upset.

It doesn’t feel good to see your hard-earned SR rank decay if you’ve taken a vacation from Overwatch for a week or more. But Overwatch is a competitive game. You’re playing in a competitive ladder. And that ladder works best when players are active. Blizzard’s Overwatch SR decay plans are a good thing for encouraging more competitive play. It’s not a punishment to less active Overwatch players. It’s making the game more competitive, and the positives outweigh the negatives.

Many players complained last season about players maintaining several high-evel accounts and hogging precious top-500 slots merely by playing one game a week. This SR decay adjustment is taking direct aim at that, making the top 500 list more exclusive. Players will have to continue fighting through the ladder to maintain their slot. Really, the only top 500 Overwatch accounts likely affected by this change are the smurf accounts: Folks who reach top 500 are probably playing much more than seven competitive games a week. The Overwatch players most affected by the change are those outside of the top 500.

The biggest complaints are from folks who feel like they can’t meet this number because of priorities outside of Overwatch. And that’s fair! Some people don’t have the four to five hours a week to dedicate to seven or so games of Overwatch. Those people will see their SR decay. Should they not?

Ultimately, SR is just a number that’s not based on your hidden matchmaking rank (MMR). Should you decay down to 3,000 from masters, you’ll likely still be placed in matches with masters players. If your skill aligns with those players and you’re able to win games, you’ll quickly acquire the points needed to push yourself back up. Some players lose motivation when their SR decays, seeing the full scale of the climb back to whatever number they peaked at.

Yeah, losing feels bad. Seeing numbers go down feels bad. But this isn’t quick play. Acquiring and maintaining a high SR simply requires some dedication. If it didn’t, it would be quick play.

For Overwatch to remain competitive and healthy, the competitive ladder needs to be active. SR decay encourages that competitive nature. Blizzard’s system for SR isn’t perfect. But to get closer to perfect, it needs more data. More data means more players playing more. To keep your hard-earned SR, you’ve got to play for it. You’ve got to earn it.

Stop worrying about decay and SR and just play Overwatch. If you’re good, you’ll be rewarded.