How Overwatch's Competitive Mode Works

By Nathan Grayson on at

If you’re too skilled for the mortal riffraff in Overwatch’s regular modes, you’ll be excited to hear that the PC version just got a competitive alternative. It’s got rankings, golden guns, golden balls—all that good stuff. So, how does it work? Let me explain.


You can’t just jump into competitive and start climbing the ladder. You’ve got to pass muster in a couple prerequisites first. For one, you’ve gotta be at least level 25 before you can even play competitive mode at all. If you’re not, well, Quick Play is still fun! Just remember, those three entire people playing Reaper on your team have real edgelord feelings and real edgelord dreams. Don’t be too hard on them.

OK so, let’s say you’ve made it to level 25. That means it’s time for placement. When you begin competitive mode, you have to play 10 placement matches which will decide your initial Skill Rank. It can be anywhere from 1-100, and it’s rooted in overall wins/losses (as opposed to your own personal accomplishments in each match).

Once you’re placed, your Skill Rank will go up and down as you play more and more matches. If you beat a team made up of players with a higher average Skill Rank than yours, your Skill Rank will change more. So don’t be discouraged if you come across a team of high-level juggernauts. It’s an opportunity!


Competitive mode matches unfold in a best-of-two format. On escort, assault, and hybrid maps, you spend one game attacking and one defending. The team that manages to accomplish the most objectives overall wins. If you push the payload past a certain area, you score a point, etc. Control maps, meanwhile, are best-of-five, and first to win three rounds takes the whole (presumably gold) enchilada.

In the event of a tie (say, because both teams pushed a payload to the end of the map), you enter sudden death, with attack and defence decided by a coin flip. Attackers get two minutes to capture a point. If they pull it off, they win. If they don’t, defence wins. People, er, don’t love the randomness of the coin toss system, and it will likely change sometime in the future.

Golden Friggin’ Guns

While TRUE COMPETITIVE GAMERZ need only the satisfaction of watching a number ascend ever upward into the heavens of mastery to sustain them, some people want rewards. In Overwatch’s case, that means cosmetic items.

Completing your placement games nabs you an icon and spray for the season, which is, you know... whatever. The real meat of the system, though, lies in Competitive Points, which you can use to purchase golden weapons. You earn competitive points both by playing matches during the season and based on your ranking at the end of the season.

There are also special rewards for making it into the top 500 players on your platform. Specifically, you’ll get a special icon that will helpfully let other players know they shouldn’t fuck with you and an animated spray that corresponds to the season you earned it in.