Activision have created a matchmaking system which would attempt to put players in situations where they’re more likely to spend money on microtransaction items. Perhaps it would match you against a great player with a fancy gun so you’d want to buy that gun and emulate that success. Or if you’ve already bought a fancy gun, it might put you in matches where that weapon is especially effective to make the purchase seem better. Welcome to hellfuture! Hurry up and bring your jukebox money. Activision, who publish games from Call of Duty to Destiny and are corporate siblings with Blizzard, swear blind they aren’t using this system in any current game. They have been granted a patent for it, though.
As Glixel report, in 2015 Activision filed a patent for their “System and method for driving microtransactions in multiplayer video games” and it was granted on October 17th, 2017. The patent explains that matchmaking systems use a number of factors to place players together — such as latency, skill levels, and waiting time — and this one would simply add a few extra variables. Or should I say… ¥ariabl€$!?! I should not.
The patent gives a few examples of ways this matchmaking system could wring money out of players. Perhaps it’ll put an expert player and a newbie together so the newbie might buy weapons and items the pr0 uses.
Or if a promotion is running on an item, hey, match someone who doesn’t own it with someone who does. “In this manner, the microtransaction engine may leverage the matchmaking abilities described herein to influence purchase decisions for game-related purchases.”
Or if your matchmaking profiling system determines that someone is trying to improve their sniping, put them in a game with a skilled sniper and maybe they’ll buy their own copy of that player’s rifle.
And heck, it doesn’t stop once you’ve bought an item. You want to make sure that item continues to look good, right? The patent says, “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.”
Beyond the obvious awfulness, this also makes matches worse as the formula bends the usual variables to fit in financial incentives. And for all we know, similar ideas might already be in use in some games. Activision swear it’s not in any of theirs, though.
“This was an exploratory patent filed in 2015 by an R&D team working independently from our game studios,” Activision told Glixel. “It has not been implemented in-game.” Not yet, anyway.
You can tell it’s a patent filing from 2015 because a modern version would push players towards buying e.g. a sniper loot crate.
Let’s all just be thankful that it’s kindly old Ian Activision who patented this and will surely keep it safe and hidden away under his mattress. Just imagine if the patent got into the hands of someone with a history of aggressive and invasive monetisation!
Proposal: let’s launch a foundation which patents the most awful ideas imaginable to block actual monsters from using them.