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Activision patent points at plans to manipulate gamers into buying microtransactions

Activision
Activision (Image credit: Windows Central)

How would they do that you may ask? Well, the patent revealed that by matching weaker players with stronger players—in a competitive setting—it might force the weaker players to purchase loot boxes and other packs which contained advanced weapons. Who wouldn't want to be as powerful as the stronger player if they kept on getting destroyed, right?

While the patent is rather in-depth, it clearly discusses how the aforementioned system would work. The paperwork filed by Activision says:

The microtransaction engine may match a more marquee player with a junior player to encourage the junior player to make game-related purchases of items possessed 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… 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, an Activision employee said, "This was an exploratory patent filed in 2015 by a Research and Development team working independently from our game studios. It has not been implemented in-game." That was the only statement on the matter.

No matter how you look at it, this research into psychological manipulation will be perceived as a betrayal of consumer trust even if it hasn't made its way into a game. The very essence of matchmaking is that you play with people who are at your skill level, to abuse that system to incentivize micropayments is distasteful, to say the least.

This patent demolishes the principle of a level playing field completely and will impact the way many Call of Duty players look at the franchise and the publisher.

Instead of simply saying that this matchmaking technique wasn't part of their games, Activision should've said that this was against their philosophy. A stronger statement from higher up the Activision chain of command against this practice might have reassured players. However, Activision isn't particularly known for caring about how it's perceived by gamers.

For those still interested in playing Call of Duty: WWII, you should know that the game supports Xbox One X and is expected to launch on November 3, 2017. It features classic combat and forgoes the modern era by bringing the franchise back to World War II, and apparently, it won't try to psychologically manipulate you into buying loot crates. Apparently.

Keep an eye on WindowsCentral.com/Gaming for all the latest in Xbox and Windows 10 gaming, accessories, news, and reviews!

Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.

33 Comments
  • Microtransactions for anything that gives a competitive advantage need to be completely banned from video games. Pay to win goes against everything a multi-player game should stand for. Cosmetic items, like uniforms, pets, mounts, etc. are fine, but the overall playing field simply must be equal between all players who have purchased the game.
  • Path of Exile, does it right.
  • Us players should stop buying and playing these games, period.
  • Some of us have...
  • And this goes beyond pay to win, this is pay to be competitive.
  • It really depends on the game and the target audience. In many areas of Asia, "pay to win" is looked at as a way to balance the playing field between those that have a lot of time and no money, versus those with money but not a lot of time. As long as a developer and publisher doesn't try to hide it, then I'm okay with it. Be transparent and honest. I'm very much against the idea of banning game types I may not like. As for Activision... something tells me that if they were to implement this system, they would try to do it secretly.
  • " In many areas of Asia, "pay to win" is looked at as a way to balance the playing field between those that have a lot of time and no money, versus those with money but not a lot of time. " Wow, actually never thought of it that way.
  • that actually makes sense... as horrible as i originally thought it was.  This is something that I totally would vouch for given i dont have alot of time to invest into games anymore.   But perhaps they should market it like this. "For those who are time poor yet avid gamers, unlock everything upfront" (I believe BF3 did this )
  • And at the end of the day, a novice with quad damage in Quake would still lose to the expert who knows the map and guns. Only trouble is when the expert gets quad damage - when someone has both time AND money - they're untouchable.
  • Need more hats.
  • Very dirty tatic. I don't play online very often at all so this doesn't mean anything to me. I'd swear that they wouldn't be the first or last to do something like this.
  • Activision were great when they made Ghost Busters and Little Computer People on the ZX Spectrum. They've gone down hill ever since.
  • Ghostbusters was great!!!!!
  • Mechwarrior cmon
  • Never came out on the Spectrum. Not a patch on Ghost Busters. 😎
  • This is crazy, it's making headlines and people throwing things, right? This is major.
  • This is so surprising! No, wait... It's the opposite of surprising.
  • Shadow of War doesn't force you to buy them. I still wish those were only for aesthetics but they aren't unfortunately
  • The very fact that it's there is a problem especially on a single player game. That's why you need to grind to be able to finish the game without paying. I was looking forward to it but canceled my pre-order as soon as I learned about those loot crates.
  • The one that's left the worst taste in my mouth is purchasable praxis kits in Deus Ex (published by square, not Activision). It's literally the ability to buy level ups, in a single player game no less! It's so ironic that the games warn about one distopic future while participating in another! It's one thing, and bad enough, when we talk about these micro transactions during free to play MMOs and mobile games, but these are full "AAA" games being sold to us for $60+ where the motivation is purely to try and milk as much money from gamers as possible from gamers. The genuinely disgusts me. It's no wonder people are flocking to indie games. Today's empires are tomorrow's ashes.
  • Good to know for Deus Ex.
  • The simplest remedy?
    Wait a long time before buying any AAA title if you have to play a game and buy the physical copy too. I bought the master chief collection for £10 - physical disk from game.co.uk. Whilst the Xbox store had it at £59.99.
  • if everyone just bought the games and never any of the microtransactions what do you think the companies would do?
  • The same thing... Including these micro transactions generally costs nothing, if even a few people use them it's free money. I'd say don't buy games that include them at all.
  • This. Put your money where your mouth is.
  • Wow.... Setting up new players to get squashed by players that already bought items microtransactions
  • Crap like this will kill multiplayer fps gaming for me.
    I may be left with no other choice than take up playing RPGs. 😭
  • Simple, gamers need take a stance against this sort of blatant psychological manipulation to force players into Micro transactions and loot boxes. I personally will be no longer buying any Activision products or games going forward. Vote with your wallets, if their profit margins tank low enough, then they will "listen" otherwise they will continue with this disgusting practise in AAA titles.
  • None of this BS in the Souls series. Git gud or play something else.
  • The last Cod was so crappy and worthless they should be giving this latest version to us for free as partial compensation
  • Looking like they want to kill fare gaming with this low practice. I will not be supporting any game that I have has this implemented.
  • So they plan to ruin game play by making matches one sided and less fun, hope it back fires by people getting bored and not playing the game.
  • This is game as a service and I'm sure Activision isn't the only one doing this.  Most of us are against this. The problem is when a certain company some people tend to defend it... There is no excuse for this and we should all trash and even boycott all these games. We should do it now before it becomes a norm of the industry...