These are some much needed changes

If you are an average Overwatch player, and odds are quite high that you are, you've most likely finished your Season 2 placement matches with a Platinum rating (2500-3000). As it turns out, pretty much everyone else has as well given that the Gold and Platinum ranks contain a lot more players than they should, while Bronze and Silver ranks contain way fewer than expected. What this means in gameplay terms is that a lot of players placed way higher than what they truly deserve, after which they entered a massive plummet towards their proper rating, all the while decrying the cruel fate that got them stuck in 'Elo Hell'. Not exactly a fun situation for everyone involved, now is it?

Since this is obviously a massive issue, especially for those of you that truly belong in the Platinum rank, you'll be glad to hear that Season 3 of Competitive Play will be correcting this problem. If you're wondering how exactly that's going to happen, wonder no longer as Overwatch's Scott Mercer just released a rather lengthy post covering the topic. Have a look, and if you're just interested in the short version, direct your eyes to the bolded part:

"Right now on the PTR, we’re starting to test out changes for Season 3 of Competitive Play. While there’s one big change to Season 3, there are also some behind-the-scenes adjustments to how we’re calculating Skill Rating and Skill Tier placement that I wanted to discuss with everyone. 

The largest visible change to Competitive Play will be to the off-season between Season 2 and Season 3. Based on community feedback, we’re going to shorten the off-season downtime to just one week, with Season 2 ending at 00:00 UTC on November 24, and Season 3 beginning on December 1. Additionally, during the off-season, we’ll display an in-game countdown to when the next season begins. 

Before explaining the changes to Skill Rating and Skill Tiers, let me explain some of the goals for matchmaking in Competitive Play. First and foremost, we always want to provide the fairest matches that we can. Fair matches of skill between the teams provide the greatest chance for you to have fun in Overwatch. At the same time, we’d also like every new competitive season to feel like a fresh start. These two goals end up being somewhat contradictory. If we completely reset everyone’s Skill Rating (SR) at the start of a new season, then players of all skill levels would end up playing against each other and having poor quality matches until the system could reevaluate each player’s skill. Because of this, we don't fully reset your SR when a new season begins, and instead use your SR from the previous season as a starting point.

 Another area of Competitive Play we’re trying to improve for Season 2 is how we distribute everybody into their Skill Tiers (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, etc.) based on their SR. When Season 2 started, we had WAY more players in Gold and Platinum than we initially intended, and way fewer in Bronze and Silver. This was the result of how we calculated your initial SR for Season 2. We tried to partially reset player SR at the start of Season 2, but the results were not as we expected. Instead, below-average players started Season 2 at a higher SR than they should have been given their performance in Season 1. This meant that as they played in Season 2, their SR would often drop to a lower value, which didn’t feel great. It also meant that there was a much wider variation of skill in the Gold and Platinum tiers than we wanted. This is something we want to avoid in Season 3. 

As a result, we’re testing a different way of determining your starting SR for Season 3 on the PTR. We’re leaning more towards trying to keep things fair rather than giving everyone a fresh start. We’re also going to initially tune your SR to be slightly lower to start. In turn, fewer players should start the season having their Skill Rating drastically drop despite having close to even wins and losses. 

This change will mean that some players will not start in the same tier for Season 3 that they were placed in for Season 2, and that your SR gains from winning will be a little higher at the beginning of the season. After you play enough matches, however, your SR gains and losses will go back to normal. 

We’ll be looking closely at the results of players placement on PTR and see if our goals are being met, and might make further adjustments during this testing cycle that might require a reset of placement matches. If that’s the case, we’re try to provide advanced notice whenever possible. 

In the meantime, we really appreciate your feedback, and thanks for everyone who is helping us test on PTR!"

I've given this a try on the PTR and it really does seem like the system is much more pessimistic about your rating, but it does allow you to climb relatively easily! Since the PTR uses a fairly old character snapshot I'm assuming its using my Season 1 rating of 75 in order to decide where I belong, so my initial placement in the middle of Platinum after 7-3 sounds perfectly fair. By comparison, in Season 2 I went something along the lines of 6-3-1 and ended up a few points shy of Diamond, so you can definitely see the new system is a lot more conservative. While this sudden shift in rating may break a few hearts, it is a most welcome change nonetheless.

Hopefully the next issue on the chopping block will be the win/loss streaks, because let's face it, a single player on a bad day shouldn't somehow drop through 50% of the playerbase in ranking! Whether Blizzard will actually do something about that or not, I have no idea, but we won't have to wait for too long in order to find out as Season 2 ends on November 24th, and Season 3 starts on December 1st. Bring on those sweet, sweet golden weapons!