Activision’s recent patent for using matchmaking systems to drive microtransaction sales raised an interesting side-discussion - the importance of great matchmaking. From the sound of Activision’s patent, its happen to let quality game balancing fall down the crapper in exchange for a more effective method of selling you premium guns.
I’m sure most of us can agree, from a competitive point of view, matchmaking is sacrosanct. If you want a game to be taken seriously, you don’t mess around with game balance in an effort to shift microtransactions. The generally accepted functions of matchmaking are to provide an evenly balanced match between two competitive teams, preferably with the lowest latency possible. Matching a bad player with a veteran for the sake of a cheap sale throws this right out of whack. Ultimately though, does it even matter?
Felix isn’t so sure. I was chatting to him and he can see merit in moving away from traditional matchmaking. His argument is that it can be fun to go up against a terrible team or play, absolutely steamrolling them in the process.
That’s one way of thinking, but if there’s a surefire way to make an online game get old, real fast, it’s in providing the player with a stream of matches that are too easy or too hard. No one wants to face the crushing disappointment of defeat, time and again. Nor, surely, do they want to feel like they’re turning up to a pre-school for a kickabout and thumping in shots repeatedly off a toddler’s face. Or maybe you do, I’m certainly interested to find out.
I do just think there’s a sanctity to matchmaking that breeds long-term player. The closer I am to a 1.0 win rate in any game, the better the job the matchmaking is doing. Winning 50% of my matches seems like a fair deal, as well as consistently placing me against players that will help me gradually improve my play, rather than constantly batter me into submission.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to every game. For the most part I love the balanced games Rocket League and Siege can provide me, but I’m really not too fussed what goes on behind the scenes during a Conquest map on Battlefield 1. The individual impact of one player can be comparatively small in this scenario, so it doesn’t horrendously upset the balance to throw in a first-timer with a squad of crack shots.
So, the big question, how important are quality matchmaking services to you? Do you prefer to just go on endless win streaks? Or are you after the challenge that can only come from facing similarly skilled enemies? Let us know your thoughts!