Warzone pay-to-win matchmaking? CoD leaker reveals “horrifying” SBMM details

Theo Salaun
Pexels / Activision

Call of Duty: Warzone is very secretive about matchmaking, but there are a lot of conspiracy theories. Now, a self-proclaimed former Activision-Blizzard employee claims that there is actually a matchmaking system based on… microtransactions.

It’s one of the biggest matchmaking theories around. Normally, CoD fans discuss skill-based matchmaking (SBMM), but many have also speculated about money-based incentives as well.

While SBMM can be manipulated to give bad players easier lobbies and ensure they’re happy enough to keep playing, there have been rumors since 2019 of a different system. Based on a public patent and pro player theories, people have suspected CoD’s developers are gifting easier lobbies to people who bought extra content.

In an AskReddit thread about people who are “no longer bound by their NDA,” a since-deleted post dove into the microtransaction matchmaking system. Not simply claiming it exists, the user leaked precisely how it worked.

Warzone matchmaking: not SBMM?

reddit activision warzone matchmaking microtransactions

As the comment explains, Activision owns “a fully functional matchmaking algorithm” that considers “skill, purchased microtransactions, and preferred weapon.” In practice, this system rewards people for buying cosmetics by putting them against lower-skilled players who like the same items.

As someone responded to the post, this system is “horrifying.”

Essentially, the underlying assumption is that if a lower-skilled player gets killed by a purchasable version of a weapon they like — they will be tempted to purchase that skin for themselves.

And that assumption is reportedly proven true, as the user claims that “this system has been tested in the final release of a game” and led to more microtransaction purchases. This would basically reward people who spent money and, more troubling, punish players who don’t buy cosmetics.

Warzone Reactive blueprint
Call of Duty
Warzone and CoD’s multiplayer games have lots of fancy blueprints.

Of course, it is impossible to verify if this comment is legitimate as it was posted under the veil of anonymity and involves NDA-protected information. We have reached out to Activision for comment and will update if they respond.

During the original patent controversy, Activision PR claimed that such a system existed but had never been used in-game. This would go directly against what this leaker has claimed to “know for a fact.”

Whatever the case may be, the details are very interesting for fans of the game. Warzone specifically has dealt with a variety of concerns surrounding SBMM and microtransactions (which people believe are prioritized over a working anti-cheat). It will be interesting to see if Activision deal with those questions once they’ve publicly responded to the discrimination lawsuit.