Overwatch’s latest grand experiment in balancing and matchmaking is now live for everyone. From now on, all core playlists will require you to queue up for a certain role before finding a match. By September, 2/2/2 team comps will be the only team comps that will exist. You can queue for all three roles at the same time if you wish. However, once you are locked into a role you can’t switch. In theory, this should allow for better matches and more accurate placements for Competitive mode.
Naturally, this isn’t entirely the case in practice. Though to be fair, role queue is still in beta. Things are going to be chaotic until all the kinks are worked out. That there are three individual roles to queue for only adds to this chaos. On the other hand, it is rather odd that the initial placement system doesn't appear to be working. If you have exclusively played a certain role and want to try a new role, Overwatch will assume that the roles that you never touched is on the same level as a role that you have practiced for years.
As an example, let’s say that someone has consistently been a Grandmaster level Tank since release. If they want to try DPS now that role queue exists, Overwatch’s matchmaking is going to think that they’re a Grandmaster tier DPS. Even if there’s no relevant data for role queue to determine initial placement, it’s still going to assume that you’re equally competent across all roles. In some cases, that might be an accurate assessment. For the vast majority of the player base, it seems doubtful that this is close to realistic.
Now you may ask why this is relevant. After all, if someone is not playing up to a certain standard, they’ll eventually lose enough to be placed at a comfortable bracket. This is true, but in that process they’re not learning how to play the role if they’re getting annihilated every time they leave spawn. In addition, they’re also “ruining” a lot of matches along the way. People will be toxic, they will be annoying, and their frustration will have a ripple effect. It’s hard to blame the player base either. The person queuing up for an unfamiliar role likely just wants to try to get better at Overwatch. Their teammates rightfully want someone who is competent. It defeats the purpose of having a role queue if the game is inflating initial role ranks.
If Overwatch has enough data to determine what your initial rank should be, then the new matchmaking seems to be working perfectly. If you’ve been playing Competitive regularly, you’ll likely end up at around the same rank that you were before. Since there’s no longer a race to pick roles, Hero selection is a bit more nuanced. The fact that every team is guaranteed to have two healers, two Tanks, and two DPS Heroes is oddly comforting. Of course, that doesn’t mean that every match is going to feature Overwatch League levels of teamwork, but role queue has proven to be a step in the right direction.
The role queue update has some interesting practical effects as well. The global 12% nerf to Ultimate ability charge rate seems to be the most beneficial of these effects. Unfortunately, it disincentives switching Heroes to a punishing degree. On the bright side, mechanical skill and teamwork matters a lot more now. Sitting at a choke point and charging Ults to win a fight is still an option of course. Sigma feels rather fair too, at least when viewed as an individual Hero. A bit annoying when paired with Orisa perhaps, but hardly game breaking. He’s not oppressively strong, and he’s quite vulnerable to someone just walking into his face and shooting him. Unfortunately, there's a lot of shields in every match thanks to Sigma, but this was to be expected.
It’s rather early (and sensationalist) to say that role queue “saved” Overwatch, but it did address some core problems with the game. As of now, the most pressing issue would be how people are ranked on roles that they have no time on. There is no silver bullet to solve this issue (especially not a global hard rank reset), but if it can be addressed then the game might experience a resurgence of sorts. Simply being able to try different roles at a comfortable level opens the door to a more engaged player base. Regardless, there’s going to be a period of chaos that everyone will have to put up with while placements are finalized. That much is unavoidable, but it’s a small price to pay for beneficial progress.