UPDATE: An Activision representative provided the following statement to IGN:
“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.”
Activision has filed a patent for a microtransaction-driven system for matchmaking in multiplayer games.
Described as “a system and method […] that drives microtransactions in multiplayer video games,” the patent outlines a system in which players are matched together in such a way that it encourages the purchase of in-game content.
For example, “the system 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,” as the newer player may wish to emulate the veteran player by purchasing the same weapons, gear, etc. they have acquired.
The system can also match players to encourage microtransactions in other ways, including dropping a player into a match where a specific in-game purchase proves to be especially useful, as “doing so may enhance a level of enjoyment by the player for the game-related purchase, which may encourage future purchases.”
It’s also important to note that while the patent uses a first-person shooter game for its examples, the system can be applied to other genres as well. Bungie community manager David “DeeJ” Dague confirmed on Twitter that “none of this functionality appears in Destiny.”
Microtransactions have proven to be a major point of controversy as of late, with the UK government investigating a petition regarding the use of loot boxes as gambling in video games. The Electronic Software Rating Board recently entered the conversation, saying the use of loot boxes doesn’t merit the need to include gambling as a descriptor for a game. “ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling,” a spokesperson for the organization told IGN.
The use of loot crates in Star Wars Battlefront II has also been a talking point among players who took part in the beta. Electronic Arts addressed fans’ concerns that the game might be a pay-to-win experience, clarifying that the most powerful items will not be included in crates, but will instead be unlocked by in-game accomplishments.
Alex Osborn is a freelance writer for IGN. Find him on Twitter at @alexcosborn.