Competitive matchmaking in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is currently under close scrutiny, as players are noticing that the skill based matchmaking system (SBMM) in the game is problematic following a recent patch. YouTube content creator TheXclusiveAce has released an informative video that looks towards relevant metrics like level, kill-death (K/D) ratio, and score per minute.
His findings on these limited data point towards the K/D ratio being far more heavily weighted than either level or score per minute. When placing a player into a lobby for a match, TheXclusiveAce claims that the recent K/D ratio, not your long-term stats, mostly determines the kind of opponents you will face.
TheXclusiveAce goes on to explain how in the long term, much of the enjoyment from playing the game is removed when equally skilled players are matched, because the game in unique compared to other First-Person Shooter titles due to the inclusion of kill streaks and the rewards the come with them.
One implication of this type of system that is not addressed deals with how easily such a system could be abused. If only the most recent K/D ratio is used to determine the kind of opponents one will face, in upcoming matches, the system can be fooled by loading into a match and throwing the game. In subsequent matches, that player would be paired with individuals with truly low K/D ratios and would be able to dominate them completely. This ruins the experience for many of those other players who are now wondering why they are facing such a skilled opponent.
This kind of abuse is known as smurfing, and while it may seem farfetched, it is quite common in virtually every competitive video game. Some players create smurf accounts for unethical purposes such as rank boosting. Others do it for the experience of wiping out many players of far lower skill, and while smurfing often requires a new account to fool the matchmaking system, the current SBMM in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare seems to allow for this kind of abuse to occur daily, and would be working as intended according to the developer if TheXclusiveAce is correct in his research conclusions.
Smurfing can be a serious detriment to the player base of a game because players matched up against others who are far more skilled may find it incredibly. Epic Games recently banned a smurf account belonging to Aydan “Ghost Aydan” Conrad who abused the matchmaking system in Fortnite to attain a new world record for eliminations in a trios match. If professional esports players are willing to abuse the system for their own benefit, there is no reason to assume others would not do it in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
TheXclusiveAce may be correct in his research, but since his data is from a small selection of a few accounts between him and another content creator, it is impossible to say right now. However, perception is key in these kinds of games. If players perceive their matchmaking experience negatively, it will only push them away to games that have more balance and consistency in how they're treated.