Activision patent reveals matchmaking can be tuned to encourage players to spend money on microtransactions

By Sherif Saed
18 October 2017 08:52 GMT

Activision has been granted a patent this week that allows it to use matchmaking in games to make spending money on microtransactions more enticing.

The patent was filed for in 2015 by a research and development team at Activision. The publisher was only granted the patent on October 17, but the details are quite revealing.

Uncovered by Glixel, the patent’s description reveals that a game’s matchmaking system can be controlled to make microtransactions-based items more appealing. For example, it can group players who have spent money on powerful weapons with others who did not, in order to show the latter group what they’re missing.

The process is more complex than you might imagine, as it’s layered on top of other factors matchmaking systems today already take into account such as skill level, latency etc.

The method for influencing players is detailed in the filing, and it would be impressive if it weren’t incredibly cynical. “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),” reads the description.

“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.”

When that happens, and the junior player does fall for it, the system will take this into account when finding a game for them afterwards. The goal is to put them in a match where their newly-bought weapon can be most effective, ensuring they see the value in their purchase in the hopes that they’d repeat it.

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“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,” it goes on. “This may encourage the player to make future purchases to achieve similar gameplay results.”

As Glixel points out, although these examples are all based on FPS games, the patent details confirm that the system can be adapted into other games. Activision has since told the site that this tech is not currently being used in any game.

“This was an exploratory patent filed in 2015 by an R&D team working independently from our game studios,” Activision said. “It has not been implemented in-game.” Destiny developer Bungie also clarified that it does not use this method.

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