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In other league systems I'm aware of, you gain points by winning, and lose points by losing. On average, if you play against similar-skill opponents and you win and lose the same number of matches, your score will not improve.

In Starcraft 2 leagues (if I understand correctly), you actually gain points from playing two games, losing one of them and winning another. So, at the end of the season, the top-ranked players will be those that played the most, and not necessarily those that are the best or won the most games. Why was this ranking model chosen despite this drawback?

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I suspect your premise about gaining more points for winning than losing is slightly off. Generally speaking, once your point level stabilizes due to finding your actual skill level, your points will remain the same relative to others playing the game if you don't get any better/worse.

However, the total number of points everyone has will trend upward due to the Bonus Pool. This does mean it rewards playing more often, but only to a certain extent in a certain time period (a few games per week, I suspect). Once you've exhausted your bonus pool, your ranking points will again more-or-less stabilize based on your skill.

One of the reasons this was done was to encourage people to actually play the game. Since everyone's points are constantly going up, you have to play to keep up with your peers. If this artificial inflation of points due to the bonus pool wasn't in place, the player at the very top would - in theory - not have much reason to play; he's the best and his points will stay the highest until someone usurps him. This way, he has to keep playing to maintain his status. As with any fair matchmaking system, the more people playing, the better, and I think Blizzard is trying to encourage more people to play.

However, none of this is cut and dry so there's no one reason for any of these decisions; likewise it's not at all obvious whether this system is superior to the traditional ranking system you mention.

That said, here are some good articles on the subject:

Note also that the points you see displayed and used for your ranking may be separate from the underlying statistic used for matching you up against other players. The two stats should converge on relatively the same thing, but the Bonus Pool adds the extra incentive to play more often.

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The analysis post was a very interesting read. Thanks for that. –  Davy8 Aug 7 '10 at 18:53
    
They have a "bonus pool" which is kind of like rested exp in WoW, correct? –  Doug Aug 10 '10 at 23:04

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