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MW3: It wouldn’t be another Call of Duty launch without people complaining about SBMM

Modern Warfare 3 isn't even out yet, but some have already brought out the tired old tirades about SBMM.

Image credit: Activision

It must be Call of Duty season, folks! Nothing gets Call of Duty fans' blood pumping like their yearly impassioned pleas to rid the series of SBMM. Modern Warfare 3 is mere days away at this point, which means it's time for the people who buy Call of Duty every year to complain about their favourite topic.

SBMM, short for skill-based matchmaking, has been a staple in the discourse around the series for over a decade, but it gained prominence starting with the 2019 Modern Warfare reboot, which, according to everyone who hates it, turned SBMM evil.

SBMM, or more accurately, EBMM (engagement-based matchmaking), is a system that exists in most modern games, particularly those with live service components. As more and more live games lean harder on post-launch monetisation through microtransactions, publishers want to make sure the largest portion of their player base remains interested for the long haul.

Whatever name you choose to call it, SBMM ensures that average-to-below-average players do not end up in lobbies where they're getting outmatched by more experienced players. The system uses a few tools to constantly shuffle players and regularly update their skill ratings, including, of course lobby disbanding - another thing the Call of Duty hardcore can't stop railing against.

Over on the Modern Warfare 3 subreddit, the CoD faithful have begun their yearly campaign against SBMM. As clever (and popular) as these posts may be, they always revolve around the same arguments anyone keeping up with the exchausting discourse around Call of Duty will be keenly familiar with.

And don't forget your ol' pal Makarov! | Image credit: Activision

One of the more popular ones, of course, is that SBMM prevents low-skilled players from enjoying matches with their high-skill friends, because matchmaking ends up tailoring the lobby to the high-skilled player, meaning everyone in their party would have much tougher competition than they would if they played on their own.

The idea that you'd have to take every match "seriously", putting in your best effort, using the most meta loadout etc. is at the heart of a similar take on SBMM. There's also the fact taht matchmaking can sacrifice ping to put you in a lobby with players of equal skill levels - a big no for many CoD devotees.

Perhaps the core fanbase is a little more motivated to get something done about SBMM this year, because of how desperate Activision comes across with Modern Warfare 3. The publisher, together with developer Sledgehammer Games, have been extended various olive branches to content creators, and the most dedicated players.

This year's game brings back the classic minimap, map voting, and includes a host of mechanical changes that result in a much faster pace, especially when it comes to player movement. There's clearly a push to use the same people who play nothing but Call of Duty (and complain about it) to help market the game to the casual audience.

Even the "new" Warzone is so indistinguishable from the second iteration that launched with Modern Warfare 2 last year that it's practically a callback in itself. Activision's biggest innovations in the MW3 Warzone is how much like the old WZ it's going to feel - including launching with a Verdansk-inspired map and bringing other popular maps from Warzone's past.

We'll see, of course, how much of that pandering is going to pay off. At some point, however, CoD fans will have to stop talking about SBMM.

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