In an ecosystem riddled with loot boxes, season passes and other forms of microtransactions, it is of no surprise that Activision, one of the largest videogame publishers out there, apparently explored the option of exploiting these devices in their multiplayer games. Per Glixel, Activision was granted a patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that proposed a “system and method for driving microtransactions” in multiplayer videogames.
The patent outlines a fairly basic matchmaking system, matching players in multiplayer matches based on their internet latency, skill level and other factors. The catch here is that the matchmaking (driven by a “microtransaction engine”) might encourage some of these players to purchase in-game items—for example, a novice player of the game may find that they are set to play against more veteran players, with the junior player being encouraged to buy in-game items to bring them on equal footing with the more experienced players.
It all sounds very “pay-to-win,” or even just “pay-to-keep-up.”
The proposed system can be used to pinpoint what players might want to purchase, with the patent itself offering the following for-instance:
In a particular example, the junior player may wish to become an expert sniper in a game (e.g., as determined from the player profile). The microtransaction engine may match the junior player with a player that is a highly skilled sniper in the game. In this manner, the junior player may be encouraged to make game-related purchases such as a rifle or other item used by the marquee player.
The patent also mentions that the matchmaking system would drop players who purchased these items into specific matches where these items would be effective, basically attempting to signal these players that their purchases were worth it—by inspiring this feeling, players may be encouraged to buy even more items.
Activision responded to Glixel’s story by affirming that this technology is currently not included in any of their videogames, such as Destiny 2. Still, the patent was just granted on Oct. 17, and with the current trend of triple-A videogames like Shadow of War and Battlefront II embracing unpopular microtransactions, Activision utilizing such a system would not be too surprising.
Recently, Activision’s rival EA shut down Visceral Games and their iteration of a Star Wars project, citing “fundamental shifts in the marketplace.”