Last year, Overwatch 2 developer Blizzard promised that changes were coming to the hero shooter’s competitive mode, the ranked version of the traditional 5v5 (once 6v6) gameplay. At the time, it wasn’t clear when the changes were coming or what they would be, but as a competitive sicko with 780 hours logged in the mode, I was just happy Blizzard was acknowledging it needed work.
One of the main issues with Overwatch 2’s ranked mode is a lack of transparency—it’s not remotely clear how the ranking system works aside from the fact that it changes after every five wins or 15 losses. You’re trying to climb the ladder, but where the rungs of that ladder lie are obfuscated, so the ascent feels hopeless—and yet, people like me continue the futile climb, returning to the game again and again just to rank down after what felt like a good streak, or stay the same after winning five in a row. This frustrating experience is why I said Apex Legends is one of the few games doing ranked right—because Respawn’s latest changes pull back the curtain and explain, in great detail, why you’ve reached a certain rank and how to get better.
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Happily, it appears that Blizzard is taking a page out of that book, while also returning to its old, Overwatch 1 playbook. We now have extensive details about the upcoming competitive mode reworks, which are set to drop in Overwatch 2 season 9: Champions, and there’s a lot of stuff to be excited about. Let’s get into it.
Overwatch 2 competitive mode rework explained
The official blog post outlining the changes promises Blizzard has “built a better system that’s more accurate” and that will be more clearly outlined for players. “The meaning behind the mathematical complexity of a modern matchmaker” and “clear insights about what impacts your rank” are coming, and I’m elated—this is exactly what we’ve been asking for. The post continues:
One piece of feedback we heard is that just knowing your rank doesn’t say anything about why your rank went up or down. Competitive Updates originally worked to provide updates that reflected your growth as a player across multiple matches, but with the goal to provide greater transparency in each individual match, we’re going back to updating your rank after every match and showing how much progress you gain or lose between each Skill Division.
In Overwatch 1 comp mode, you had a tier (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, and Grandmaster) and a skill rating number (known as SR, which ranged anywhere from 1 to 5,000). The numbers coincided with the tiers, so if you were a Gold-level player, your SR could be anywhere from 2,000 to 2,499. Every game you played adjusted that SR number. Blizzard is not bringing SR back into the fold, and the ranking levels will stay as is (so Gold 1 is the top of that tier, and Gold 5 is the bottom).
But Overwatch 2 will now display modifiers after each ranked match, and how those modifiers affect your new rank promotion progress bar. You’ll now see how much every match affected your rank progress, and how modifiers like win/loss streaks and winning or losing a match against higher/lower-ranked teams factors into that progress bar. “Some modifiers help provide transparency in the matchmaking for each match, like getting a boost when you defeat a team that was more favored to win, while other modifiers show if your rank is calibrating, like going on a huge win streak, proving you belong in a higher rank,” the blog post reads.
Overwatch 2 competitive mode rank reset
As a player who feels like she’s been unfairly trapped in Gold (I often queue for games solo as a support player, which means there’s no real team chemistry), I am ecstatic to report that Overwatch 2 will reset everyone’s ranks at the start of season 9. Naturally, the changes to the way competitive ranks work warrant a reset, but there are also major adjustments coming to Overwatch 2’s overall gameplay (including passive healing and changes to the size of projectiles) which justify it. The blog post reads:
Your journey to the top begins with 10 all-new Placement Matches. With everyone’s ranks being reset, these 10 Placement Matches provide you with a high-stakes opportunity to make big gains in determining your new starting rank. As you progress through placement matches, there will be a predicted starting rank after each match. You’ll only have one chance this year to run your Placement Matches, so pick your best heroes and stay hydrated because these games count for a lot.
And now, Overwatch 2 has a new, higher ultimate rank: Champion. Whereas the top tier was once Grandmaster, superseded only by the global top 500 players, season 9 will introduce the Champion tier. “This is the most exclusive rank in the history of Overwatch,” the blog post boasts.
Season 9 will also introduce new competitive rewards: Jade weapon variants. These have nothing to do with your rank, but are just given out based on your “dedication to competitive play in 2024.” Based on how much I play this damn mode, I’ll have the entire set by April.
I’m very happy to see these changes coming to Overwatch 2’s ranked mode, but it’s unclear how much better the game experience will be. Considering all the gameplay changes also coming down the pike, this upcoming season could be the best since the launch of the sequel—or it could fundamentally change the game so much it feels unrecognizable. We’ll have to wait and see: Overwatch 2 season 9: Champions drops on February 13.