The days of "level playing field" matchmaking might be rarer soon.
YouTuber YongYea has dug up a pair of EA-commissioned research papers from last year that broadly demonstrate players are less likely to quit online multiplayer games if they win and lose games in certain patterns.
As a result, the researchers recommend "fair" matchmaking against players of equal skill sometimes be side-lined in favour of a hidden system that attempts to manipulate the outcome of the next game so a preferred win/loss pattern is maintained.
That is, players who are winning too much against similarly-skilled opposition will be matched against stronger opponents so they are more likely to lose, while those losing will be matched against weaker opposition so they can rack up a win. Theoretically, none will be any the wiser.
The goal is "engagement", which of course is the holy grail for multiplayer game creators because it gives them more of a chance to sell in-game items to players.
"Current matchmaking systems... pair similarly skilled players on the assumption that a fair game is best player experience [sic]," one paper's abstract reads.
"We will demonstrate, however, that this intuitive assumption sometimes fails and that matchmaking based on fairness is not optimal for engagement."
EA has already tested this hypothesis on millions of players in one-versus-one scenarios in an unnamed game (possibly FIFA's Ultimate Team?).
EA isn't the only publisher tinkering with matchmaking: last year Activision patented a matchmaking system that is designed to push microtransactions by pairing up players of disparate gear and experience levels.