One of the most debated topics in the gaming world is in-game purchases and microtransactions, with more online multiplayer games leaning into the fad for an extra source of income past game sales. One such game, Activision and Bungie’s Destiny 2, took a recent controversial stance on putting more in-game purchases into its first-person shooter, as seen through cosmetic shaders being turned into one-time use items in the sequel.
Players could be disheartened to know it seems the publisher has more investment in the trend beyond the latest Destiny. According to a U.S. patent recently granted to Activision, the company could already have special tech built into its matchmaking engine designed to trick players into spending more on in-game items.
First reported by Glixel, the patent, initially filed in 2015, details how Activision’s matchmaking process looks into player history to put players of similar interests or skill level together. Of course, matchmaking is a service that is seen in most online multiplayer games, but according to the patent, there’s a more sinister component in how players are placed together.
Many examples of how in-game purchases could be encouraged through matchmaking choices are detailed in the document, including how a more well-equipped player can entice a player with lower level gear to buy better weapons and armor.
For example, in one implementation, the system may include a microtransaction engine that arranges matches to influence game-related purchases. 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.
Earlier in the patent document, it’s revealed part of this matchmaking process involves looking into a player’s history for weapon preference and success with that specific weapon. In turn, the engine would take the data and tries to put the player against another player that uses the same weapon type, only better versions of them.
“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). 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.”
The same logic would continue after a player purchases gear by putting them in matches where the new weapon will be “highly effective” against others. This would make the player believe they have made a significant decision in buying the weapon and should get them to come back for more.
Doing so may enhance a level of enjoyment by the player for the game-related purchase, which may encourage future purchases. For example, if the player purchased a particular weapon, the microtransaction engine may match the plater 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.
While the patent was only recently verified and granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Activision confirmed in a statement that the technology has not yet been implemented in any games. At the moment, the publisher calls the patent “exploratory.” So while many of Activision’s profitable series, including Destiny and Call of Duty, do currently support some form of in-game purchases, players aren’t being subtly manipulated towards making more in-game purchases in those titles—at least for now..
Activision’s next big release is the October 24th launch of Destiny 2 launching for PC on Blizzard’s Battle.net service. The sci-fi shooter will be joining Blizzard’s highly successful online multiplayer games, including Overwatch, World of Warcraft, and Diablo III on the platform.
This story has been updated to reflect a statement from Activision.