Activision Patents Matchmaking That Encourages Players To Buy Microtransactions [Update]

A patent granted to Activision outlines a new matchmaking system that would pair players together in order to encourage microtransactions.

Systems such as loot boxes already use various tricks to encourage players to drop cash, so it's not surprising that game publishers would want to find more underhanded ways to get those wallets open.

First reported by Rolling Stone, the patent, filed in 2015 and granted on October 17 of this year, outlines a process in which computer algorithms can match players together in order to increase the likelihood of microtransaction purchases.

Update: An Activision Publishing spokesperson has responded to Kotaku with the following statement:

"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."

"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," the text of the patent reads. "This may encourage the player to make future purchases to achieve similar gameplay results."

The matchmaking system would analyse player trends such as latency and weapon preference in order to place them in scenarios that might lead them to buy certain items:

"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 also posits more straightforward applications, such as generating NPCs to fill certain roles on a team or dropping players in maps that favour their playstyle. Player-selected variables such as a preference for difficult opponents might also be used in such a matchmaking system.

Following reports of the patent's grant, Bungie community David "deeJ" Dague took to Twitter saying that Destiny 2 does not use the matchmaking system:

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Comments

    Manipulation of gameplay to make it easier for players who make a real money transaction is over my line in the sand. If investigative journalists could do some digging to find which (if any) games this applies to, that'd be great.

      Pretty much, if it was a purely reactive system that suggested a purchased based on poor performance it would sort of fall within realms of acceptability. For example, you keep running a close quarters build on a sniping map and getting destroyed the system might suggest buying some long range items.

      But this system can force you into the situation where you are disadvantaged and the only path to success is through microtransactions. That is the scummiest system I have heard of.

      Rolling Stone has an article with an Activision interview which mentions that no games are currently using that tech.

      ...Activision tells Glixel that the technology is not currently in any games.
      "This was an exploratory patent filed in 2015 by an R&D team working independently from our game studios," an Activision spokesperson tells Glixel. "It has not been implemented in-game."

      But since they filed a patent on the technology, it seems like they need to finish that last sentence with the word, "...yet."

      It seems somewhat akin to a company filing a patent on a toxin that only targets infants. "Woah, woah, woah guys! We haven't murdered any babies! We just filed a patent on a very effective way to do it. Hm? Why would we do that if we weren't planning on infanticide in the future? Uh... look over there! SMOKEBOMB!"

        Yeah, my first thought since it's two years old is "defensive patent". As long as the 'yet' remains ongoing, it's actually beneficial for this to be patented as it means nobody else can use the same technique.

        That's assuming they're holding back because they don't want to be evil yet. Realistically they probably just found it wasn't effective enough to justify implementing. "It has not been implemented in-game... because it wasn't cost effective when we can just sell RNG lootboxes."

      Yes i agree, They have nothing to lose but everything to gain by saying (Not proving) That this system is indeed not in Destiny 2.

      Last edited 18/10/17 10:03 pm

      Despite them saying they repeatedly saying they dont manipulate their games to encourage microtransactions... here is proof that not only have game companies considered it, they patented it so their competitors cant use their idea.
      (Also if they dont use the patent they lose it, so will they use it, if not already)

      Agreed. Imagine the fallout if a journalist managed to expose games that are using this kind of thing. It'd be a glorious shitstorm of denial and backpedaling.

    Oof. Going to make for some awesome in universe dialogue.

    Guardian this enemy is particularly vulnerable to the Neo Coldheart WHICH CAN BE YOURS FOR $9.99!!!!

      Guardian, you're underleveled for this activity but you've used up all your powerful engrams, use this *real money equivalent currency* to travel through a Vex time loop and travel forward to the weekly reset where you can grind more tokens.

      Doesnt World of Tanks have premium tanks and ammunition thats super effective, which encourages people to buy them cause they are an effective counter to each other.

        Yes. This stuff is next-level, though. Basically it would put a team of premium-ammo users into a match against non-premium users, resulting - most likely - in the P2Winners dominating, then inform the free players that they got pwned by gold ammo that they should totally buy if they don't want to die so quickly next time.

      Pretty much had that in Shadow of War.. An Orc runs up to you and "Hey need more warchiefs? Go see (whatever his name is)"

      A.K.A (A guy that has never been introduced in game and whos sole job is to stand there in the marketplace and make weird noises when you buy things).

      It stinks, and blemishes an otherwise great game.

    Activision patents matchmaking that discourages people from buying their game.

    FUCK ME, looks like its time for me to only play single player games and games with no microtransactions at all.

      Hello there, you appear to not be aware of Middle Earth: Shadow of War.

      I think you mean indy games because every AAA publisher is going this way. I can already see the death of single player games and those without microtransactions

        Not CD Projekt Red! One of the few publishers that seem to respect gamers and their wallets.

    I hope they are forced to advertise their game as utilising this system. I would never buy a game like that. Ever. And I believe most players would think the same. Pay to win has always been a no-no.

    How was this not expected. You silly fuckers content with spouting "its only cosmetic" from the inception of this nonsense allowed this to happen. Luckily I have my single player games...... oh wait......

      It's perfectly normal to consider one thing okay and another thing not. Don't be the kind of person that falls back on slippery slope arguments, we're seeing enough of those in the marriage equality debate. Like what you like, dislike what you dislike. I like cosmetic rewards, I dislike gameplay manipulation. I'm happy to support one and reject the other, "all or nothing" is a false dichotomy.

        If I ever meet you, I'm going to shake your hand.

        And subsequently remove your arm from your body....Zombie Jesus.

          But I need that to masturbate :(

            Surely the other one will suffice?

            Or are you not a switch hitter?

        "I like cosmetic rewards"

        Just a heads up, don't say this. You're paying money, you're not getting a reward you're getting a product, allowing them to take steps by letting them claim you're being rewarded when giving them money is the exact kind of issue thebigr mentioned, everyone's like "this is ok but anything beyond this is bad" and the line's been pushed back further and further every year without fail.

          I agree they're not rewards, it's just a phrase that rolled off the tongue. To be clearer, I have no problem with cosmetic purchases, randomised or otherwise. The words used are just communicative though, the line I have doesn't change.

          That's true of most people too - the line people make for themselves generally doesn't move, and if it does it's by their choice. What does move is what companies will try - some of it is before the line, some is over it. My line hasn't moved in years, if not decades, and I'm not going to get mad at a company for approaching that line, only for crossing it. Olives on pizza is approaching the line of what I'm willing to eat, for example, but I'm not going to get angry at them for doing it because anchovies (which I absolutely don't want) might come next.

            Olives on pizza is approaching the line of what I'm willing to eat, for example, but I'm not going to get angry at them for doing it because anchovies (which I absolutely don't want) might come next.

            I like it.

            Of course, good luck in a few years when olives are so popular that every pizza now comes with them, and you have to ask for them to be removed, with many places refusing to replace that topping for something else without charging for it, resulting in you getting less pizza than you used to get.

              If they cut back on other toppings to fit more olives on, that would also be over the line. The point is I'm not going to get mad at them for using olives in a way I'm fine with because they might use them in a way I'm not later.

      You're literally splitting hairs.

      Cosmetic DLC is a completely optional purchase that doesn't affect gameplay whatsoever.
      This Singleplayer forced trite is a complete shitshow that locks $100 games behind further mandatory paywalls.

      It's the gaming equivalent of modern newspaper websites that make you pay to read full articles.

    If it wasn't for Deej's comment, I'd be cancelling my Destiny 2 preorder today.

      Which comment?

      This is very surprising to me, as Deej's smug-ass, unrepentant, "lol, aren't we quirky for making you angry? We know you still love us, nothing is wrong,' attitude in all Destiny 1-related posts I ever read is one of the things that I point to when I want to list 'everything wrong with Destiny 1'.

        its called a wicked sense of humour. been reading so much negativity on reddit, I love that Deej so successful trolls the complainers on there and then they get upset AGAIN. its like watching bullies get upset because someone is bullying them back. That never gets old.

        So his sense of humour isnt for everyone but what surprises me is that even after all these years they expect him not to act, exactly like he always acts. Its like someone complaining about it being hot on a summers day. You know he is going to be a dismissive pratt so why are you upset when he comes across as one?! it always makes me laugh when the reddit community looses it at him.

          For me, I never followed him on Reddit or saw any posts there... my only exposure was the weekly/fortnightly news updates on the Bungie site, where he was directly representing Bungie, not his own cartoonishly awful character.

          This effectively led to the impression of Bungie - through their only voice - being fucking dicks to their players who had legitimate greivances.

          It reflected - and reflects - very poorly on Bungie as a company.

            only to people who think one person is representative of hundreds. they are the same people who personally have a go at Luke or him (or any spokesperson for a game development team) as if they are personally the cause of all their distress. just look at the reaction to the friendship-gate comments, I have never been more embarrassed to be a Destiny Gamer.

            I am the type who sees through the 'media sham' type of personality. Cant think of anything worse that a public face acting normal to sell 'contentment'. I dont like everything Deej does, and so much of it is an act, but of all the games I have played over the years, he is one of a handful of community managers, who is memorable.

            Whether he represents the whole of Bungie or not, comes down to your ability to take a joke, the type of jokes he does are the very type so many of his viewers do themselves to him. A gamer talking to other gamers in the style they are accustomed.

              only to people who think one person is representative of hundreds.

              That is the definition of what a spokesman is.

              If you have to deliver bad news to someone, it's unquestionably poor taste to deliver it via a singing telegram clown who finishes with a pie to your face. Bungie was directly responsible for choosing to communicate with their players by way of the pie-wielding, singing telegram clown that is Deej.

              And claiming that his method of communication was 'just a joke that players didn't get' is the worst excuse. It's typical, "OK, here's the rule: If you're offended, then it was just a brank, brah!" avoidance of responsibility.

              They ignored, dismissed, and belittle genuine and legitimate complaints until it came time to toot their own horns for finally getting around to solving the few that they could. There was an outright lack of humility, maturity, or empathy in their communications that you would expect from anyone who had even a shred of respect for who they were communicating with.

              There is absolutely no way of pretending that they were taking any approach but the most juvenile in a staggering number of their broadcasts about player concerns or greivances.

                After three years of Destiny one thing is very clear. Bungie has never and will never act the way SOME gamers expect them to. In some ways, yes you are right, they are so many of those things (and others are ridiculous hyperbole). That is who they are, who they have been for as long as I have known them. Yet still Reddit is full of people screaming at them to change their ways. Its almost the dictionary definition of futility. If they havent change in all that time and before Destiny1, why expect them to change now.

                I go back to my comment its like someone complaining about it being hot on a summers day or complaining when a dog barks. Its what they do. Dont like it, the gaming world is full of other (and BETTER) gaming companies out there. The tiresome futility of listening to the same gamers complaining about the same developers, making the same gaming mistakes year after year is hilarious.

                I am not excusing their behaviour or even liking it but it is massively predictable and as a consumer I make the choice to go with them because, in spite of their dysfunction, their flawed games are still thoroughly entertaining and engage me. and I like that Deej, annoying as he can be, bullies the bullies. Thats something that never gets old. And I say that as a person who has been and can be they of gamer he throws shade on.

                I can laugh at myself, some other gamers cant.

              Haha, how silly of us, to assume that the spokesman for a company is speaking for the company...

                I just meant that only an idiot would presume that a spokesperson for a company is representative of all the hard work and diversity a company has. Especially when we are talking about hundreds of people. Their job is to speak ON BEHALF OF THE COMPANY but they do not represent the morale, skill, experience or decision making for the every single member of the company.

                EG too many reddit and even here thinks that just because Deej says something they dont like, some ALL of Bungie, across hundreds of people and Three other studios all think the same. Its like when people abuse Luke for every decision they dont like, when in fact, sure he may be the boss, but the decision would have happened across many departments for many reasons.

                So sure keep thinking one person should be able to damn the work of hundreds but I would rather just accept Deej has a unique bedside manner those (attempted) humour just goes over their heads cos they cant laugh at themselves.

                  I just meant that only an idiot would presume that a spokesperson for a company is representative of all the hard work and diversity a company has. Especially when we are talking about hundreds of people. Their job is to speak ON BEHALF OF THE COMPANY but they do not represent the morale, skill, experience or decision making for the every single member of the company.

                  He's a public facing representative of the company. By definition he represents the company. He is chosen by the company specifically for the purpose of best representing them. I'm sorry, but I just don't know how many other ways I can write that sentence.

                  You're allowing your fanboy-ism to overrule the common sense part of your brain.

                  If they hired a community manager who was blatantly racist and anti-Semitic would you say "It looks like SOME gamers just don't get their sense of humour!" or would you say "Maybe they could have picked a better representative than that if they didn't want to be represented like that".

                  Daaaamn man you are jumping through flaming hoops to justify his behaviour. We get it. You love destiny. But that doesn't change the fact that his behaviour is ludicrously unprofessional, and that Bungie have tacitly approved this approach by not getting him to change.

    I hate season passes and micro-transactions in full price games, I wish there was a way to get them outlawed.

    Maybe there should be some kind of rating system for additional costs on the cover, games with no additional costs get 5 stars, games with season passes get 4, then games with cosmetic lootboxes could be 3, then pay to win games get 1 star!

    I dont know if I want Jim Sterling to see this, he has made some very angry videos this week, I am worried for his health if you gets himself too much more wound up.

      He's the greatess showman in games journalism, The show must go on, Since it has gone on even from his hospital bed, I have no doubt for a second Jimquisition or industry bs video.

      Jim might be at risk but STERDUST! Will take it on!

    Haha these arnt games anymore , they are money making psychological schemes, with some minor bland gameplay thrown in as a disguise.

    Stop buying these games, they arnt that good, they mediocre at best. Buy indies and play old gen games.
    Try boardgames.

    At least we can say that the patent will discourage OTHER companies from using the same strategy as to do so would presumably result in them paying a licence fee to Activision, so hooray for that, I guess.

    On another note, whoever started the trend of allowing companies to patent logic trees as if they are actually implementable products needs to be hung, drawn and quartered. Then the rest of the staff at the US Patent Office need to return to their senses immediately.

      It's just a process (a method in patent law), they've been there since the start I'm pretty sure. This case might seem silly, but it's meant to protect the means by which something works rather than just its mechanical function - things like the means to produce a new alloy or higher purity of metal, or new methods of accomplishing something, like Henry Ford's compact industrial version of the assembly line.

        Actually, the US is one of only a couple of significant patent offices in the world that allows software patents. Australia's patent office doesn't, for example. The fact that the US office has been issuing software patents for a few years now is hugely controversial, even in the US.

        Software patents are also largely unenforceable outside America, however obviously when America is the world's largest market software patents do end up pulling the rest of the world into the US quagmire regardless of logic.

        Last edited 18/10/17 1:51 pm

          I was speaking in US terms since this is a US patent, I didn't realise you were speaking globally. You're right that software patents are much harder to obtain in most countries, though most do allow them under certain conditions. It's been a while since I researched this so it may be out of date. The two that come to mind as major markets are the UK and of course Australia:

          In the UK the Aerotel/Macrossan test applies which only excludes software patents if the claim exists solely within the scope of a computer program. If even one part of the method is outside, then the whole thing can be patented (assuming it passes the other three conditions).

          In Australia, the RPL Central case established that "simply putting a business method or scheme into a computer is not patentable unless there is an invention in the way in which the computer carries out the scheme or method". So technological innovations are eligible, while business methods must involve a degree of invention to be eligible. The meaning and scope of 'invention' in this context remains unknown, as best I can tell.

          So in both jurisdictions you can patent software under set conditions. Are you aware of any clarifications on the Australian interpretation later than RPL? I'm a good year, year and a half out of date on patentability rulings in AU courts.

            You're just being pedantic, but sure, you got me. I'm also happy to accept the implication of authority in your post and assume that you are indeed some kind of practicing patent lawyer and therefore fine distinctions are important to you.

            Yep. You're right. Under highly prescribed, limited circumstances software MAY be patentable, particularly where there is some kind of physical phenomenon associated with it such as a manufacturing system, however practically never where it's just a thing that you can program with a computer.

            The fact remains that there is no chance whatsoever that a simple decision tree such as this one would be patentable in either Australia or the UK.

              I'm not a lawyer, sorry if I gave that impression. I'm a software developer, I've researched software patent law because it's related to my job. But as I said I'm about 12-18 months out of date since it was around that long ago I did this research.

              There's a pretty good blog post here by Justin Blows, an Australian IP lawyer with a masters in intellectual property. It does a good job of covering the confusion about the RPL case ruling and software patenting in Australia in general.

          Non-edity side note, a business process can be patented in Australia independently of it being software. I don't know the specifics about the criteria for business processes, my research was necessarily confined to software.

    Forget about the micro transactions. Where is my official Activision announcement for Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy coming to other platforms?
    I demand some answers Activision and I want them answered now!

    it deeply saddens me that this is the direction that gaming is taking... it makes me furious and heartbroken at the same time that this even exits, and that this is how they are thinking. Concocting mind games and psychological tricks in order to manipulate their customers into handing over more money... I guess all I can really do is stop playing those games, stop putting my money in the meretricious AAA machine.

    Humankind. The very best and yet the very worst. Bring on the AI i say, i can't be any worse than we are.

      I noticed you said "i can't be any worse".. Are you a rogue AI? Should we meatbags worship you before you end the world?

        Inbuilt grammar fails make me more easily acceptable to your puny brains.

        And sure, standard worshipping package is $79, but you'll probs want to buy some worship powerup tokens. 99c each or 10 for $15.

    A timely reminder that, like Vader, EA is just a Learner, Activation is the Master.

    Well I got to experience 40 years of outstanding games before the major publishers turned into money sucking vampires

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