Why it matters to you
Loot boxes may not be the final word on in-game microtransactions. Publishers are working on new methods to sell you in-game items.
Although it is not currently employed in any of its games, Activision is now the proud owner of a new patent for a system that encourages gamers to buy in-game items, by leveraging its matchmaking system. The practice would involve matching inexperienced players with more experienced players, in order to encourage the former to buy in-game items to shrink the skill gap.
Exploitative money making tactics in game development are a hotbed of discussion in gaming at the moment. Loot chests and whether or not they constitute gambling are the latest talking point, but Activision’s proposed system is likely to draw its fair share of ire, too.
The patent, filed in 2015 and only recently awarded, is called the “System and method for driving microtransactions in multiplayer video games.” It discusses methods for encouraging players to pay for in-game items to increase their chances of success. Such methods could involve matching players in a manner that suggests they need to pay to catch up to their opposition or that highlights the differences in equipment to showcase what kind of loadout a player ‘should’ have in order to be competitive.
The system wouldn’t just use the stick of unfair matchmaking, but would also offer the carrot of reward for those who did pay for in-game items. As RollingStone describes, if a player does buy something, in their next game they could be matched in a way that makes the use of the in-game item effective, thereby validating their purchase.
“Doing so may enhance a level of enjoyment by the player for the game-related purchase, which may encourage future purchases,” the patent reads. “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.”
The patent also suggests that when in-game marketing and encouragement for purchases does not work, it could change tack and offer different in-game items to try and find something that the player might be interested in.
“[If the] first player did not purchase the in-game item, the player profile may be updated to reflect such non-purchase so that future targeted marketing of in-game items and other game-related purchases may be adjusted based on what has not been successful at enticing a given player to make a game-related purchase,” the patent reads.
Activision has made a public statement to confirm that it has not implemented any of the described microtransaction systems into its games at this time. Bungie also confirmed that these systems are not used in Destiny 2.