Overwatch designer Scott Mercer published a lengthy forum post detailing changes coming to the game's third season of competitive play.
Most changes have to do with off-season duration and skills. Season 2 will end on November 24 and make way for Season 3 one week later on December 1. Developers will implement a timer into Overwatch so you'll be able to count down minutes and seconds until the off-season ends.
Mercer proceed to outline changes to skill ratings and tiers, but not before setting the stage by explaining Overwatch's broader goals as they relate to matchmaking for competitive play. While Blizzard wants to even the playing field to make every match-up fair, they also want to wipe the slate clean every season.
"These two goals end up being somewhat contradictory. If we completely reset everyone’s Skill Rating (SR) at the start of a new season, then players of all skill levels would end up playing against each other and having poor quality matches until the system could reevaluate each player’s skill."
The development team ended up deciding to carry over your SR from the previous season in order to more evenly match up players.
Blizzard also reevaluated how Overwatch sorted players into skill tiers for Season 2, in the hopes of a more even divide for Season 3. At the beginning of the season, more players wound up ranked Gold and Platinum, and fewer got sorted into Bronze and Silver—all the result of the algorithm responsible for calculating SRs. The problem was that below-average players got sorted into higher tiers, resulting in precipitous drops to their SR when they went up against players who belonged in the upper echelon.
"We’re leaning more towards trying to keep things fair rather than giving everyone a fresh start. We’re also going to initially tune your SR to be slightly lower to start. In turn, fewer players should start the season having their Skill Rating drastically drop despite having close to even wins and losses."
As a result, some players will start in a different tier when Season 3 kicks off than where they started for Season 2. Additionally, SR gains from winning will be higher than usual for a short time. "After you play enough matches, however, your SR gains and losses will go back to normal."