Activision Files Patent For Matchmaking System Tricks That Drive In-Game Microtransactions

Destiny 2

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has granted Activision a patent for an online matchmaking scheme that is designed to encourage players to spend money on in-game items. By matching players with purchased items against non-paying players, the assumption is that both players will have incentive to spend money upgrading their characters' abilities and weapons.

"A system and method is provided that drives microtransactions in multiplayer video games. The system may include a microtransaction arrange matches to influence game-related purchases. For instance, the system 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," the patent's abstract reads.

Activision Patent
Click to Enlarge (Source: USPTO via Activision)

This is a potentially infuriating system for players who do not want to be nickel and dimed to death through in-game purchases. However, as the patent application notes, "mulitplayer video games have exploded in popularity," which presents an opportunity for developers and publishers to extract more money from players through microtransactions, or so-called loot crates.

Before you grab your torch and pitchfork, Activision insists that "This was an exploratory patent filed in 2015 by an R&D team working independently from our game studios. It has not been implemented in-game." That includes Destiny 2 and Call of Duty: WWII, neither of which use this particular matchmaking scheme.
Nevertheless, this is a concerning development. Loot crates provide a straightforward way for players to fast track their characters' development and abilities, in exchange for a fee. Players who choose to go this route know what they are getting into, and ultimately come to the conclusion that spending money on microtransactions is worth the return. But this sort of devious matchmaking puts everyone else at a disadvantage—this is perhaps a bit hyperbolic, but it feels more like extortion than a paid perk at that point.

There is also a psychological component. The proposed matchmaking system would analyze player trends and put them into situations that are more like to lead to an in-game purchase.

"For example, microtransaction engine 128 may identify a junior player to match with a marquee player based on a player profile of the junior player. In a particular example, the junior player may wish to become an expert sniper in a game...Microtransaction engine 128 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 highly skilled sniper," the patent states.

The patent filing is rather long and technical in places. Hit the source link if you want to check it out in detail.

Thumbnail Image Source: Flickr (The Conmunity - Pop Culture Geek)