If you've ever played competitive Overwatch I'm sure you'll agree that there is nothing more disheartening than entering a losing streak. Not only does it affect your morale and make you play slightly worse, but it also means that each subsequent loss will be chopping an ever-greater part of your precious rating. If you're particularly tilted and continue playing well past your prime you can even lose 1000 rating in a single sitting, purely due to how fast the losses (and gains) ramp up.
Thankfully, this is no longer the case. As a part of the recent Uprising Update the Overwatch devs have greatly reduced the gains and losses for streaks, essentially making sure that you climb or fall down the ladder at a steady pace without any sort of luck elements to potentially mess you up. There is still going to be a streak bonus as the system has to separate smurfs somehow, but it will kick in much later and be much less severe.
If you're interested in all of the details here's Principal Designer Scott Mercer's post explaining what exactly they changed and why:
"As Jeff Kaplan noted in a recent post about smurfing, we do a decent job of quickly determining someone’s skill at playing Overwatch. The faster we can update your matchmaking rating (MMR) to match your “real” skill, the fewer unfair matches get created with a player with inaccurate skill. Another way to look at it is that when we’re incorrect at identifying someone’s skill, then win or loss streaks can occur. One of the tools we use to accelerate a player to their appropriate MMR is a multiplier to the rating change based upon these consecutive wins or losses.
While this streak multiplier has been working well in the “smurf” case, win or loss streaks can also just naturally occur when the matchmaking system has already properly identified skill. After all, the matchmaker is trying to place in you fair matches where you have a 50% chance to win. It’s rare, but sometimes you flip a coin 5 times and it lands on heads every time. So, when these natural streaks occur, the multiplier has been accelerating gains and losses away from your “true” skill. You end up having a larger variance in skill rating over time, which in turn hurts the overall quality of the matches.
Therefore, we’re changing the tuning of the streak multiplier to be quite a bit less aggressive. You now need to win or lose more games in a row before any multiplier is used, and it scales up at a slower pace. Furthermore, we will now try to only use the multiplier in cases where the matchmaking system has some confidence that the player’s MMR and skill are wildly mismatched. In cases of natural, random streaks, you ideally shouldn’t see any acceleration either up or down at all.
We’ll be monitoring how these changes affect overall match quality going forward, and continue to adjust tuning over time to improve the fairness and quality of Overwatch matches. Thanks for the continued feedback, and good luck in your matches!"
Even though I've benefited greatly from winstreaks I am glad to see these changes finally go live. Competitive Overwatch should be entirely about player skill and consistency, and not about getting lucky a few times in a row. This does raise one rather important question though, what are people going to blame next now that the matchmaking system has been greatly improved?