Activision wins patent encouraging microtransactions through matchmaking

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Activision affecting matchmaking with microtransactions 2

Microransactions and loot boxes are a hot topic this fall season in game releases, with more and more examples of them encroaching on the way you actually play a game. Games like Forza Motorsport 7 tie them into progression, while Star Wars Battlefront II’s card system could easily be seen as pay-to-win (at least in its current form). But what about taking it a step further? What if games could be designed specifically to encourage this type of spending by who it matches you up with online? Activision wanted to investigate that two years ago, and just got the patent for it.

To be clear, this isn’t a new system the publisher is looking into. The patent was filed in 2015, but only approved yesterday. It covers a wide range of features, most of which tie into online matchmaking for their many online titles. The usual systems around matching according to latency and skill are there, but things get really interesting when it comes to microtransactions. In short, Activision patented a system that could allow them to match players together with a gulf in microtransaction spending, to encourage more sales.

For instance, the microtransaction engine may match a more expert/marquee player with a junior player to encourage the junior player to make game-related purchases of items possessed/used by the marquee player. A junior player may wish to emulate the marquee player by obtaining weapons or other items used by the marquee player.

Now that’s just preying on psychology while also perhaps influencing the game in terms of who you inevitably play online with. Seeing other players in some fancy cosmetic gear always makes you jealous on some level (Overwatch does this particularly well), but at least that change is cosmetic. What if you just bought a new weapon and want some positive justification that it’s good? The system could account for that too.

For example, if the player purchased a particular weapon, the microtransaction engine may match the player in a gameplay session in which the particular weapon is highly effective, giving the player an impression that the particular weapon was a good purchase. This may encourage the player to make future purchases to achieve similar gameplay results.

This patent removes some of the smoke and mirrors from systems that are already designed to trick players into moving in one direction, but it sounds overtly predatory in the patent filing. Activision has already responded, stating that the patent was filed for investigative means and has not yet been used (or approved for use). Bungie’s community director also got out ahead of the news, stating that no such system exists in Destiny 2.

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But it wouldn’t surprise me if something close did end up making it into games, and if implemented correctly it shouldn’t be all too obvious either. Purchasing and gambling on loot boxes is all about the mental effect it has on you and the drive to purchase more, and systems like this will only further that goal.

Last Updated: October 18, 2017

Alessandro Barbosa

You can all call me Sandy until I figure out how to edit this thing, which is probably never. Sandy not good enough? Call me xXx_J0k3R_360degreeN0Sc0pe_xXx. Also, Geoff’s a bastard.

  • Neji

    So a patent for peer pressure?

    • BakedBagel

      Smoke this doob right now, everyone is doing it ™

    • Hammersteyn

      They want that money.

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    “Haha we wouldn’t actually do it, it’s just R&D”

    I believe you, but others might not.

  • Original Heretic

    What do we say to microtransactions?

  • Gr8_Balls_o_Fire

    Hahahaha BALLS! (to their statement that it has not been approved)

    This WILL be implemented. I’ll bet my bottom lootbox on that.

  • VampyreSquirrel

    lol! “Oh, you haven’t bought any microtransactions in our Pay 2 Win game, lets make you less likely to buy anything by pitting you against the people that have spent thousands on our microtransactions and in turns makes them seriously OP’d compared to you.”

    • Johann

      And when you complain, the OP credit card warriors will tell you to “git gud” while taking out a second mortgage on his house to pay for loot crates.

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      But you don’t have to buy it! You can earn it with in-game currency if you work for it. You only have to play the game for 8 hours a day for a month. Easy peasy you freeloader.

      • VampyreSquirrel

        8 hours a day for a month against OP’d people with bought gear? No thanks.

  • For the Emperor!

    I have decided that when my current PC “expires” and cannot play the newest games, I will stop buying and playing new games. Hopefully it lasts until Cyberpunk comes out though…it would be a shame to miss out on that!

  • Hammersteyn

    Keep buying all that silver you anal glands.

  • Magoo

    Inb4 g̶i̶t̶ ̶g̶u̶d̶ git paid

    • Hammersteyn

      XD

  • Nikola

    I dont understand why is this looked as negative? I think it’s good. If you got people who want to pay to win they can play against other who do the same and waste real money on stupid micro transaction which in turn will make it a level playing field for us who don’t want to waste money on such things and can play fairly against player who also don’t.

    I just feel in the gaming industry especially these days everyone just wines and complains about everything, every little thing how about focusing on playing games and having fun?

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      The patent is designed to match people who have payed money for shiny cosmetics with people who haven’t, which is a subtle way of prompting them to think about spending money on MTs because look how cool their char could look… if they just spend a $1 or 10.

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