Overwatch features an impressive robust system that is designed to tackle the menace of smurfing in a manner that other developers can learn from.
For those unaware, smurfs are basically high-level players who create new accounts for various reasons. This can be because their main account got banned, they want a secondary account as backup, or are simply interested in a fresh start.
A high-level player on a low-level fresh account means disaster for matchmaking. Smurfs are bound to be matched against newcomers, where they gain a significant advantage over players who have no idea how the game works.
Hence, arrives one of the more popular reasons for smurfing. Players look forward to stomping newcomers in ranked queues to get placed in a better ranking.
As it turns out, Blizzard knew beforehand that it had to place some countering measures for this issue. The matchmaking in Overwatch is able to quickly and accurately decipher the actual skill-level of a player and determine whether they are smurfing or not. If so, they get placed in longer queue times.
A recent thread on Battle.net saw a Master-ranked user inquire about the queue times. He admitted to creating a fresh account and revealed that it takes longer than necessary to land a match. According to many players, the queue times for smurfs can range between 5-10 minutes, or even longer in some cases.
In response, game director Jeff Kaplan explained how Overwatch is designed to combat smurfing:
Our matchmaking system narrows in on your skill level quickly. So even though you have a “new” account, it’s very obvious to us that you are a high-skill player. We also do some things to lessen the frequency that “new” players get matched against experienced players. A lot of our truly new players will complain if they see players higher level than they are (account level, not SR). So at the very lowest levels, we try to match you in a pool of “new” players. But there are extremely few “new” players who are Master skill players so matches are going to take you a long time until you level up some.
League of Legends is a good example of the destructive nature of smurfing. With the monstrous player-base the game has worldwide, it’s impossible for a newcomer to not be matched against high-level players. In fact, you should consider it a norm. Riot Games is yet to come up with any measures to isolate smurfs.