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tl;dr: Does player level affect matchmaking or is it based on stats?

Recently, matchmaking in Overwatch has been extremely weird.

A few times I've gotten games with huge player level gaps. Recently, I played a match where we had a level 6 and a level 97 on our team.

However, what makes me believe that level does matter is that when I hit level 31 I started getting matched with higher level players. Whereas before I was consistently getting matched with level 2-12 players.

What seems to be the case now is that matchmaking is based on player stats but that still does not explain the huge level differences. A 50% win rate on a level 6 player doesn't compare with a 50% win rate for a level 97 player, at least in my opinion.

Most of the time, I get players in the 30-50 level range, but it's not entirely consistent and it could still mean that players with that amount of play time would have similar statistics.

So does my level affect the players I would be matched with or is it based on something different, specifically player stats? Also, what could cause the huge differences in player levels if there is a connection between time played/levels earned and matchmaking?

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According to Jeff Kaplan,

We match based on skill, ping and group size.

So, level shouldn't matter. To further break down what each of those categories are, this post here describes what the matchmaking system looks for when trying to balance teams.

"Skill" in this context refers to two things: your win rate and your MMR. Your win rate is calculated by taking the number of games you've won and dividing that by the total number of games you've played. Your MMR is an invisible number that goes up when you win and down when you lose and is supposed to represent how good you are at the game. Your MMR has to start somewhere, and while your account is new it will fluctuate wildly with each game played as the system is trying to figure out what number best represents your skill based on your average. As you continue to play games, the system becomes more confident in your MMR and the fluctuating decreases. A good matchmaking system will pair up players with similar confident MMR scores, in theory creating even games every time.

"Ping" is a number, measured in milliseconds (0.001 of a second), that represents how long it takes your console to send information to the host or server and receive a response back from the server. High ping is a direct cause of things such as shots not registering, people teleporting around, getting kills by shooting thin air, and other issues that people generally associate with lag. Thus, a low-ping environment is preferable.

"Group size", in theory, should refer to pairing up premade teams of similar size against each other, mitigating the inherent advantage of premades (communication, consistent roles, confidence in the skill of your teammates, etc.) by giving that advantage to both teams. Bigger premade should = bigger advantage, thus the need for groups of similar size on each team.

Though, it should be noted, the longer you are searching for matches, the looser the constraints will become in attempt to get you into a game.

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    I play with two groups, either with my 13-year-old or with ~5 coworkers. From what I have observed, the people I end up playing against with my 13-year-old are far more incompetent at the game then those I end up playing against with my coworkers. – Steven Burnap Jun 14 '16 at 17:34
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    Still, the whole "skill based on W/L ratio" thing in a team-based game kind of screws things up for people who play a lot in Quick Play games. Is there really no system in place to track you performance in a game, without taking the team as a whole as a factor? Because it does remind me of a certain hellish ELO place... – DGarvanski Jun 14 '16 at 18:37
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    @DGarvanski There is such a system. It's your MMR. Additionally, it may be a team-based game, but your W/L ratio will reflect upon how much you're able to contribute to the win. – DCShannon Jun 14 '16 at 19:53
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    @DCShannon You'd think that, but for payers who play a lot of certain roles (support especially) no matter how good you are things will turn on how capable the rest of your team is. No support can save players determined to go all Leroy Jenkins, and if your team is just going to play badly and get themselves killed, or won't play to whatever your healing mechanism is, or won't try to push through when you use Transcendence, nothing you do is going to help. – NerdyCanuck Jun 14 '16 at 20:36
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    @NerdyCanuck You're talking about a single game. If you're good at support, your teams will tend to win. If you're bad at it, they will tend to lose, the performance of a particular team in a particular game not withstanding. – DCShannon Jun 14 '16 at 21:56

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