According to Blizzard, Overwatch’s player endorsements are working

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As a casual enthusiast of Overwatch, I have witnessed the immediate and extended impact that the player endorsements system has had on the overall game experience. Players went from receiving four to five endorsements in a single match, to just one and two. The ability to endorse fellow players for good gameplay and behaviour is part of Blizzard’s attempts to improve what is simply a very toxic game space. And according to them, the system is working.

Speaking to a packed room at this year’s Game Developers Conference, Blizzard research scientist Natasha Miller revealed that reported disruptive behaviour in matches has been reduced by 40%.

The reduction has been directly attributed to the endorsements, with between 50 to 70 percent of active players now handing them at the end of matches. “We wanted to give them a chance to change their behavior after we penalized them,” Miller said, according to Gamasutra. “How do we go about preventing these behaviors? We did research in the form of focus groups and surveys.”

Miller explains that the one of the two factors that contribute to disruptive behaviour is a lack of an effective consequence. This is then countered by rewarding non-disruptive behaviour, encouraging consistent and positive play that can be acknowledged by both your team and the enemy team:

By performing well within society’s expectations, you’re rewarded. In online communities there aren’t effective consequences. If you’re not consistently getting endorsements, if you slip up, you’re not going to get endorsements and your level is going to slip. This often causes players to want to get that level back and keep going, which offers a path to redemption.

The endeavour was not without hesitation though. On top of levelling up, players with high endorsement levels are rewarded with additional in-game loot boxes. An addition that Blizzard was reportedly unsure of at first. “It was a really big discussion for us,” Miller explained. “We didn’t want to encourage the wrong behavior either. We wanted most of the push to be good to come intrinsically.”

Miller concluded her discussion by affirming the research team’s satisfaction with the results, and indicated that further improvements and additions will be added to the systems in the near future.

The endorsements system was introduced in the middle of last year, along with the feature that allows player to group up according to preferred team roles. Following the launch, game lead Jeff Kaplan reported that according to Blizzard’s Global Insights group, abusive chat in competitive matches was down 26% in the Americas and 16% in Korea. Abusive behaviour by daily -players was also down by 29% and 22& respectively. Whether Miller’s new numbers take those original statistics into account, or if that 40% followed in its wake, is unclear. And while Miller and the team’s efforts are to be applauded, there is still uncertainty in regards to how effective endorsements or even the additional loot boxes can have on improving the community.

Last Updated: March 25, 2019

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