After XDefiant removed all SBMM in unranked modes, will this year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 6, make similar changes to Skill-Based Matchmaking?

One of the most common complaints with modern Call of Duty titles is the severity of its SBMM.

The feature has proven unpopular with high-skill players in recent years, and is a regular talking point for COD content creators, yet Activision rarely wants to acknowledge SBMM, let alone change it.

But after Ubisoft’s XDefiant turned heads by removing SBMM in unranked matchmaking, could Black Ops 6 be a similar turning point for Call of Duty?

Will Black Ops 6 Change SBMM?

No, it is unlikely that Black Ops 6 will change SBMM implementation for this year’s Call of Duty title.

The feature will most likely remain as it has in previous COD titles, as evidenced by Activision’s recent ‘An Inside Look at Matchmaking‘ blog post.

For those unaware, Skill-Based Matchmaking (or SBMM) is a feature that aims to place players in lobbies that match their skill level.

Felix Neumann and Sevati Dumas in Black Ops 6

While on paper, this sounds like a good thing, high-skill players end up frustrated at the feature, which permanently restricts them to ‘sweaty’ lobbies full of users abusing the most meta of meta weapons.

On April 4, 2024, Activision finally acknowledged the presence of Skill-Based Matchmaking in its games by giving us an in-depth look into how Call of Duty handles finding lobbies in online Multiplayer.

Although the publisher claims that the biggest influence behind matchmaking time is player connection (AKA Ping Is King), it also explained the decision behind SBMM.

“We use player performance to ensure that the disparity between the most skilled player in the lobby and the least skilled player in the lobby isn’t so vast that players feel their match is a waste of time.”

By Activision’s own admittance, this matchmaking style results in players of all skill levels experiencing wins and losses ‘more proportionately.’

For Activision, SBMM Is a Good Thing

However, the company also states that its data shows that lower skill players who are consistently losing games are more likely to leave mid-game, or stop playing altogether.

An important factor in Activision’s decision-making lies here. If Skill-Based Matchmaking is changed, the company risks losing players who could spend money on the game.

As players leave, Activision’s issues will snowball. Fewer players mean longer waiting times, which could cause others to quit the game, too.

Black Ops 6 Police with MP5

Lower player counts mean poor metrics for Activision’s investors, and fans who quit playing Black Ops 6 are less likely to purchase Infinity Ward’s next title in 2025.

Before this blog post, the company had been reluctant to acknowledge Skill-Based Matchmaking, and would reportly avoid answering questions about it at in-person events such as COD NEXT.

We think it’s highly unlikely that we’ll get any changes to SBMM in Black Ops 6, or indeed any future COD titles.

How Does XDefiant Handle SBMM?

Ubisoft’s new first-person shooter XDefiant made headlines by announcing that it would feature no SBMM in unranked lobbies.

Instead, players are grouped together based on their connection and playlist choice, allowing for mixed-skill lobbies.

XDefiant Soldier with Assault Rifle

Players can still get ranked with others at their skill level in ranked games, but those who prefer going against all skill levels might prefer to play casual matchmaking.

It appears that Call of Duty isn’t willing to follow suit in this regard. However, if XDefiant maintains its popularity by the time Black Ops 6 releases, Activision may be willing to reconsider.

For now, the company has made no statements regarding Skill-Based Matchmaking in Black Ops 6. We’ll keep you updated if that changes.

author
Managing Editor
Max has a wealth of experience in the industry and is a lover of all things video games, situated in Manchester, United Kingdom.