Filed in 2015, Activision noted to Rolling Stone
that "the technology is not currently in any games". Which is all well and good, but reading into the patent reveals just how far using time-honored marketing tactics have come. For the sole purpose of manipulating consumers into buying something. And never feeling content with what they have.
Okay, so we're well aware that companies need to be able to sell products and if we're being honest we mostly enjoy the marketing around selling that initial copy of a game. Traditional stuff that we all see like trailers, posters, weird pop-up art, and so forth.
But with the recent and prominent 'games as service' trend that we're seeing, which is also adding substantial development and infrastructure costs to developers and publishers, we're seeing a trend to push and sell additional content. Which can either be microtransactions in the form of items or the more popular tokens for loot boxes. Pay to spin and then win.
But this patent from Activision is different. It actively paints a picture of purposefully matchmaking a newcomer with an expert equipped with premium items. And then post match promote those items to the player.
"For example, in one implementation, the system may include a microtransaction engine that arranges matches to influence game-related purchases," according to the patent. "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."
"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)," according to the patent. "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."
And of course the justification.
"Doing so may enhance a level of enjoyment by the player for the game-related purchase, which may encourage future purchases."
In response to the patent details going public Activision has responded that it was a separate R&D team that put this together, unconnected to any game studio. Bungie then followed up to note that this technology hasn't been implemented in Destiny 2.
In 2016, Activision Blizzard posted earnings of $3.6 billion from in-game sales, which was up from the $1.6 billion the previous year.