The third Competitive Play season of Overwatch is nearly with us, and it seems like Blizzard is finally reaching a point where its happy with the structure of the game's seasons. While Season 1 and 2 both introduced pretty drastic changes in terms of ranking systems and gameplay tweaks, there's little that's new for Season 3 - just a readjustment to your starting rank after completing the ten placement matches.
For that reason we expect the transition into Season 3 to be a lot smoother this time around, but if you're relatively new to the game - or skipped much of the last season - we thought it was about time we updated this rather old Competive Play guide to better reflect the state of the game as we approach the end of 2016.
If we've missed anything that you'd like to see featured in this guide, please let us know in the comments so we can make any additions or corrections that are necessary. You'll also find links to all of our huge hero guides a little further on down the page, so do have a look through those if you need to refresh your memory or improve your current play!
On this page:
Overwatch: Competitive Play guides
What are the pre-requisites for Competitive Play?
There's only one thing you need to do in order to unlock Competitive Play in Overwatch and that's play enough Quick Play matches to reach a Career Profile level of 25. Once you've done that, you'll need to complete ten placement matches which will determine your starting rank. See our Overwatch: Season 3 guide for more information on how the ranking system will work this time around.
What are the rewards for participating in Competitive Play?
If you participate in Overwatch's third season and complete your placement matches, you'll receive a new Player Icon and Spray. Note that these rewards will be added to your account at the end of the competitive season in question.
Depending on how high you rank in any given season, you'll also receive some extra points that can be put towards purchasing the game's Golden Guns. Take a look at our Overwatch: Season 3 rewards page for precise details of what's available this time around.
How does Skill Rating work?
Once you've completed your 10 placement matches, you'll be placed into a certain ranking bracket. This is used to match you up with teammates of roughly equivalent skill and - of course - opposing players of a roughly similar skill level.
As you win or lose matches you'll gain or drop points accordingly. Win enough games and you'll move up into a new ranking bracket and achieve more points at the end of the season as a result.
Overwatch Hero guides
Overwatch Hero Tier List:
How does the Competitive Points currency work?
Each time you complete a Competitive Play match you'll be rewarded with the new Competitive Point currency. This currency is used to purchase the Golden Guns which you can view in the gallery below.
What differences are there between Quick Play and Competitive Play?
When you sign up for a Competitive Play match, two teams will be assembled and set against each other on a given map. Once the first match has concluded, the teams switch sides and play the same map again.
While there are no structural differences when it comes to playing each map, your team will receive one point for every checkpoint or objective that they manage to claim/reach. The team with the most points after two rounds wins.
This system ensures matches can be decided across two matches, rather than a long-winded three, and with players complaining they have to attack or defend twice. It should also keep people engaged if a particular round isn't going amazingly well.
Note as well that in Competitive Play mode, you can only have one of each Hero on any given team, at any given time.
What happens if people quit a Competitive Play match?
Your team's a bit stuffed, as it turns out. Unlike in Quick Play mode, a player who leaves will not be replaced by someone else hanging around in the wider player queue. It won't help the rest of the team in the short term, but the image below (courtesy of Reddit), suggests hefty penalties for habitual quitters.
The team who finds themselves down a player can quit without incurring a Leaver penalty if they wait for 60 seconds, but the match itself will still register as a loss. A shame.
How long will seasons last in Competitive Play?
Overwatch seasons tend to last for three months, although the final week of the period is typically given over to preparing the system for the subsequent season.
With the third season beginning on December 1st, you can probably expect things to run until around the end of February 2017.