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Ubisoft’s XDefiant will exclude SBMM in certain playlists: “We believe casual playlist should be fun and no SBMM is the way to do that”

Ubisoft announced they’ll be excluding SBMM (skill-based matchmaking) from casual playlists in their upcoming first-person arena-shooter XDefiant.

For those unfamiliar with competitive PvP (player vs. player) games, SBMM is a system which attempts to place players against other players of comparative skill in the most balanced sense possible, ensuring that each team has a roughly equal chance of winning.

So why would Ubisoft want to do away with such an ostensibly equitable-sounding system? They don’t think SBMM is fun or varied enough for the player base.

“The most important thing to know is—there is no skill-based matchmaking in our casual playlist. We believe that no SBMM is paramount to a fun and varied game experience in the long term,” Ubisoft explained in a blog post on the XDefiant website. “Frankly, skill-based matchmaking means every casual game is repetitive—constantly repeating matches that are just as stressful and matched as ranked.”

Screenshot from XDefiant/UbiSoft

The approach is an interesting one considering it’s one that is diametrically opposed to the matchmaking system of such popular competitive games as Fortnite, Call of Duty and Halo Infinite, which utilize SBMM even across their non-ranked playlists.

In a blog post from April, Activision maintained their stance on SBMM in their playlists, stating, “Our data shows that when lower skill players are consistently on the losing end, they are likely to quit matches in progress or stop playing altogether. This has an effect on the player pool. A smaller player pool means wait times for matches increase and connections may not be as strong as they should be. This can compound over time to create a spiral effect. Eventually, when only high-skilled players remain because lower skilled players have quit out of frustration, the result is an ecosystem that is worse overall for everyone.

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“Game data indicates that having some limitations on the disparity of skill across the players in a match makes for a healthier ecosystem. We also understand that many high skill players want more variety of experience, but often feel like they only get the ‘sweatiest’ of lobbies. We have heard this feedback clearly and will continue to test and actively explore ways to mitigate this concern.”

Overall, players seem to be split on whether or not SBMM is conducive to their overall experience in competitive games, particularly when it comes to social playlists.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2/Activision Blizzard

Players against SBMM contend that constantly playing in “sweaty” or hyper-competitive lobbies is both physically and mentally taxing and that instead of rewarding those who play well, it does the opposite by increasing the difficulty of opponents or teaming players with markedly less-skilled players after a decisive win to an egregious degree.

“Being punished for doing well in a match makes doing well not fun,” Reddit user Purple-Lamprey said in a COD thread. “That’s why I hate SBMM in casual, you have no reason to do well, No bragging rights, no rank.”

User Bleedblxck reinforced this notion, saying, “It’s awful. I have no idea why this is in any non-ranked game mode for any game. Ranked is where you go to prove skill, earn a number, and build a profile/reputation. Casual is exactly that, casual. I want to get on for a hour or two after work and relax and play some COD but I can’t because it feels awful to work 9 hours then come home and get my ass smacked ‘til it’s dripping raw by a game designed to make matches ‘even.’ I’ve very seriously considered quitting gaming this last year or so because online shooters are being taken too seriously. What ever happened to gaming for fun?”

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Those in favor of SBMM on the other hand, argue that the skill-based matchmaking system prevents elite players from excessively stomping on new players and allows newer players to enjoy a game when they first start playing, especially one that’s more established.

FriendGaru said, “I am, at best, a mediocre game player. While I like getting better at games, I have no interest in enduring crappy game experiences in the hopes that one day it will become fun. And to put it bluntly, getting absolutely dunked on to such an extent that I have no hope of winning just isn’t fun for me. I have too many other things in my life to spend hundreds of hours “gitting gud” in order to enjoy a game. Consequently, if a game isn’t fun to play at low skill levels, I’m simply going to move on to something else. Decent SBMM is pretty much a prerequisite for me to even give a PvP game a shot.”

Call of Duty/Activision

User JusaPikachu agreed with the sentiment, stating, “Yeah anybody that argues it isn’t a net positive for multiplayer games is arguing in bad faith at best. The majority of arguments boil down to they are mad they don’t get to shit on people. Which, yes, feels great but only for the small percentage of people who are better than the majority. SBMM is the correct direction for multiplayer games to go.”

Do you think it’s a good thing that Ubisoft’s XDefiant will exclude SBMM in certain playlists? Do you think SBMM in competitive games like Fortnite, Call of Duty and Halo Infinite makes them more fun or less fun?

Ubisoft’s XDefiant will launch on May 21st on PC via Ubisoft Connect, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X and S.

Written By

Ninja Gaiden was my rite of passage at an early age. After finally beating that game (and narrowly dodging carpal tunnel) I decided to write about my gaming exploits. These days I enjoy roguelikes and anything Pokemon but I'll always dust off Super Mario RPG, Donkey Kong Country and StarFox 64 from time to time to bask in their glory.

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