Blizzard has some major changes planned for Overwatch’s Competitive Play rankings system when Season 3 begins in December.
In the Public Test Region (PTR) on PC, Blizzard is testing some changes to rankings. Explaining those changes in the forums, principal designer Scott Mercer has this to say: “First and foremost, we always want to provide the fairest matches that we can. …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 …use your SR from the previous Season as a starting point.”
Previously, there had been issues with players being put in higher tiers than they probably should have been. Without using SR form S1, people would be put into Gold/Plat in S2, and then steadily drop to their realistic placement– while they could boast they’d started in Gold/Plat, as Mercer puts it, spending the whole Season dropping rank “didn’t feel great”. This also, of course, left “a much wider variation of skill in the Gold and Platinum tiers than [Blizzard] wanted.”
Their new strategy is to use previous SR more heavily, and to start you at a slightly lower SR. While some people will start in a different tier than they had in S2, this should allow higher SR gains at the beginning of a Season as you rise into your “proper” place– a more satisfying solution for those that will rise in ranks naturally, and one that will keep less skilled players at their proper place without the negative “sinking feeling”.
TL;DR: In Overwatch Season 2, Blizzard overestimated everyone, and many watched their ranks drop most of the Season . For Season 3, they’re going to lowball everyone’s SR so that skilled players can jump through the ranks early in the Season , and unskilled players can stay where they’re put rather than have to watch their rank drop.
These changes are available to play in via the PTR now. When these changes go live, they will be accompanied by an in-game countdown of the Off-Season between season 2 ending (00:00 UTC, November 24) and Season 3 starting (Dec 1)– now only a week of Off-Season, shorter than the time between Seasons 1 and 2. This is all also in the wake of some very significant hero changes being introduced to the PTR.