Activision says it's not using a system it patented to push microtransactions via matchmaking

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A system patented by Activision could use a player's matchmaking experience to help drive microtransactions, Rolling Stone's Glixel reports. The patent, which was filed way back in 2015 but only just recently granted on October 17, 2017, describes a "system and method for driving microtransactions in multiplayer video games."

If implemented, the system would use data regarding a player's microtransactions (or lack thereof) to influence who that player gets paired with. "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," according to the patent.

Another example given by the patent is even more explicit in the ways such a system would seek to manipulate a player's emotions and sense of accomplishment. "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. This may encourage the player to make future purchases to achieve similar gameplay results."

Microtransactions are already a contentious issue, so the idea of an algorithm working behind the scenes to tweak gameplay in order to push their sales hasn't gone over well. Activision and Bungie Community Manager DeeJ have both stated that the tech is not currently used, with the former calling it "an exploratory patent filed in 2015 by an R&D team working independently from our game studios," and the latter simply stating that the system does not exist in Destiny 2.

A quick note: just because a patent exists doesn't mean that the product it describes exists or ever will exist. Remember those wild concepts for a Nintendo Switch controller? While it's conceivable those could one day be held by human hands, that future isn't exactly on the horizon. Same goes for this patent - just because it exists doesn't mean Activision is using it now or will in the future. That said, someone clearly thought this was a good idea.

Ultimately, whether this idea comes to fruition or not, it provides a bit of an inside look into the mind of the businesses who steer this industry, and that's worth keeping an eye on.