Activision Patents System to Make Microtransactions Even More Obnoxious

Allan Goodman
October 19, 2017

Activision is the publisher behind many big games including the Call of Duty series and the Destiny franchise. In short, Activision patented a system that could allow them to match players together with a gulf in microtransaction spending, to encourage more sales.

As reported by Rolling Stone's Brian Crecente, the technology is not now in any games, and according to Activision it is an "exploratory patent". "It has not been implemented in-game". Bungie has also since confirmed this technology is not featured in the recently released Destiny 2. Similarly, microtransaction engine 128 may identify items offered for sale, identify marquee players that use or possess those items, and match the marquee players with other players who do not use or possess those items.

Systems such as loot boxes already use various tricks to encourage players to drop cash, so it's not surprising that game publishers would want to find more underhanded ways to get those wallets open.

For example, in one implementation, the system may include a microtransaction engine that arranges matches to influence game-related purchases. Those junior players can then see those paid-for weapons in action and potentially be urged to make purchases themselves.

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Uncovered by Glixel, the patent's description reveals that a game's matchmaking system can be controlled to make microtransactions-based items more appealing.

But although the patent is described as "exploratory", many players feel that it's only a matter of time until the technology becomes a standard in Activision's games. It's basically a way to reward players who buy content and subtly punish those who don't via the game's built-in matchmaking algorithms. "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". Meanwhile, #Activision reportedly filed for a #patent that tweaks multiplayer #matchmaking and allegedly encourages players to make purchases.

The patent also makes it clear that while the examples used in the patent are all for a first-person-shooter game, the system could be used across a wide variety of titles.

This is certainly distressing news for those who prefer to be matched on skill alone but it's worth noting that this potential matchmaking system is still only a patent.

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