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Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 Beta Sparks Vociferous SBMM Debate Once Again

The long-running debate about Skill-Based Matchmaking (SBMM) has once again sparked into life after the recent PlayStation-exclusive Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 beta.

SBMM is a system designed to put players in lobbies made up of similarly-skilled players. “SBMM” usually trends across social media when a new Call of duty game comes out, with players on either side of the debate offering their take on why it’ll either kill that year’s Call of Duty or why it’s good for online play.

Disgruntled players sometimes try to combat SBMM by deliberately losing in a bid to matchmake against lower-skilled players in subsequent lobbies. It's a tactic called 'reverse boosting', and it seems some people who played the Modern Warfare 3 beta over the weekend were doing just that.

When it comes to COD, some players say SBMM has no right being in casual playlists. Ranked play, these critics say, is where SBMM should be used. Of course, not everyone is against the idea of SBMM, with some pointing out it is hypocritical for high-skill players to demand the right to play lower-skilled players instead of those at their own level.

Activision has never explained Call of Duty's SBMM, but it has always taken a dim view of third-party websites and apps that let players try to game the system. In 2020, Treyarch developer Martin Donlon tweeted to debunk the myth that previous Call of Duty titles did not have SBMM. "SBMM is one of many many tuneable parameters in a matchmaking system," Donlon said. "It's funny watching people talk about it like it's a big switch that can only be turned on or off." This tweet was subsequently deleted.

Earlier that year, former Call of Duty developer at Sledgehammer Games, Michael Condrey tweeted to say SBMM was "never directed into COD from me", adding "analytics, [skill-based] matchmaking, monetisation, [dedicated] server coverage, [are] all driven from ATVI central tech and production teams".

"Frustratingly little influence on those corp decisions despite their impact on our games and the COD community."

Earlier this year, EA-owned developer Respawn published a blog pulling the curtain back on Apex Legends' skill-based matchmaking. In the post, technical director Samy Duc dived deep into the inner workings of the battle royale's matchmaking system, explaining in granular detail why players end up facing the players they do.

“We don't purposefully put you in harder matches to slow you down if you're winning a lot, nor do we intentionally put you in easier matches because you're on a losing streak,” Duc said. “We try to put you into matches where you'll have a fair chance of winning - and those are matches at your current skill level.”

Back to Modern Warfare 3, and Jack "CouRage" Dunlop, prominent American Call of Duty YouTuber and streamer, has led the complaints, tweeting to his 1.9 million followers: “Man, COD pubs are insufferable with how high tuned SBMM is.”


Man, CoD pubs are INSUFFERABLE with how high tuned SBMM is.

If you use ANY gun but the ACR or UMP, then you just get farmed by slide cancelling gigasweats and it's only day 2 of the BETA.

— Jack “CouRage” Dunlop (@CouRageJD) October 7, 2023

Activision has shown no sign it will suddenly drop SBMM from Modern Warfare 3, or any upcoming COD for that matter, which means this annual debate will likely ramp up for Modern Warfare 3’s November 10 release, go quiet, then ramp up again when 2024’s Call of Duty launches its beta.

Perhaps more pertinent is the concern about potential cheating in Modern Warfare 3 after clips showed aimbots and wall hacks on PlayStation 5. IGN has asked Activision for comment.

If you want to play Modern Warfare 3 early, check out the Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer beta global release times.

Wesley is the UK News Editor for IGN. Find him on Twitter at @wyp100. You can reach Wesley at wesley_yinpoole@ign.com or confidentially at wyp100@proton.me.

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