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Rolling Stone recently discovered that Activision was granted a patent for a system used in multiplayer matchmaking to encourage players to buy more microtransactions in-game. Loot boxes and microtransactions are almost universally hated among gamers, and this news is surely going to create a further rift between companies like Activision already struggling to gain good will and the consumers who buy their products. Still, Activision denies that it has implemented this feature in any of its games.
The “System and method for driving microtransactions in multiplayer video games” was filed two years ago but granted a patent just yesterday according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The patent appears to detail how multiplayer matches are configured and how that system can be used to entice players to spend money on in-game items.
“For example, in one implementation, the system may include a microtransaction engine that arranges matches to influence game-related purchases,” according to the patent. “For instance, the microtransaction engine 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.”
“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),” according to the patent. “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. ”
After news broke about this and players were quick to voice their thoughts, Activision tried to distance itself from the situation. A spokeperson for the company said, “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.”
How do you feel about this revelation? Players already find it difficult to trust AAA studios and accuse them of unethical practices, and this patent sounds shady no matter which way you slice it.