Activision, what in the actual F*CK are you doing?!


This picture is taken from a filing by Activision yesterday with the US Patent Office for a…

“System and method for driving microtransactions in multiplayer video games” :angry:

Basically, Activision is patenting a system whereby they will be adjusting matchmaking in some game(s) in an attempt to influence microtransactions and disregarding basic Elo-style systems. Full details can be read here, but for those that don’t want to wade through it, here’s a few fun quotes from the filing:

In one implementation, the microtransaction engine may target particular players to make game-related purchases based on their interests. For example, the microtransaction engine 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 (e.g., as determined from the player profile). 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.

In one implementation, when a player makes a game-related purchase, the microtransaction engine may encourage future purchases by matching the player (e.g., using matchmaking described herein) in a gameplay session that will utilize the game-related purchase. Doing so may enhance a level of enjoyment by the player for the game-related purchase, which may encourage future purchases. 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.

Microtransaction engine 128 may analyze various items used by marquee players and, if at least one of the items is currently being offered for sale (with or without a promotion), match the marquee player with another player (e.g., a junior player) that does not use or own the item. Similarly, microtransaction engine 128 may identify items offered for sale, identify marquee players that use or possess those items, and match the marquee players with other players who do not use or possess those items. In this manner, microtransaction engine 128 may leverage the matchmaking abilities described herein to influence purchase decisions for game-related purchases.

Place your bets on which game this will be in? I’m guessing the upcoming CoD right now, but who knows what titles this might creep into in short order. They mention PSN and XBL in addition to PC in the filing, so no platform is safe from these shenanigans.


Change will be a Constant in Star Wars Battlefront II
Loot boxes aren't gambling - ESRB

So… how is this different than Google or Facebook tailoring your ads to things you have searched for previously?


Tailoring ads based on my interest is one thing; throwing out Elo or other skill-based rating systems (AKA tampering with multiplayer matchmaking) in an effort to influence money-spending is a completely different animal.


Does the patent specifically state that Elo or skill-based matchmaking is being thrown out? This could be just another factor to matchmaking.


This is absolutely brilliant! $ATVI now STRONG BUY again.

A bit different for many reasons but one in particular is envy. There are also a lot of similarities, which makes it interesting.

When Google shows you an ad it’s using the context of the page or video combined with your intent from a search. When Facebook shows you an ad it’s using an understanding of your intent by engagement and demographic data from the social graph. In both cases the goal is to show you an ad that you might want to see as organic content. For example, if you’re really into a band and Ticketmaster is running ads they want to show the right band to the right person where you as a consumer have a real value from that content apart from advertising.

If there are two players who would match you in matchmaking but one has a rifle that you don’t have, it makes perfect sense (now in hindsight) to match you with that one. If that person crushes it then you want what he’s got. You could even make the argument that this improves the aesthetic of the game because there’s more diversity in items, skins, etc during a match.



This is my interpretation of the whole thing. One article claims that they are trying to trick you into buying items. The article also claims this is borderline extortion. Now that’s a bit extreme.

Nothing is being forced upon you. The company would be using this to make suggestions. And I could see many players actually buying items that they see their in-game peers using.

But players should be rejoicing over this! At least the company is showing you the exact item to buy rather than suggesting you buy a loot box.



The part that gets really tricky if you read through the patent (and even just the quotes I provided) is they specifically talk about bringing in higher-skilled (marquee) players with lower-skill (junior) players, which is bringing imbalance to matchmaking. I’ve played games where lower-skill players get brought in with higher-skill players, and the experience is not great in the least; the fact that they’re doing this intentionally with the intent to market to players is the bit that annoys me. Matchmaking systems are the backbone of multiplayer games; fucking with said system in an effort to advertise microtransactions is straight bullshit.


Lets put aside the importance of design integrity for a moment and predict how players will respond.
Purposely mismatching players to favor those who have buyable gear? Games that don’t have this system in place are already labeled pay to win, do they truly believe if they accentuate this obvious cash grab that players won’t feel it’s presence even if they aren’t told it’s there? I predict there will be a name for it given by the game community. And once there’s a name for it, it will be attributed to many occasions long after it isn’t being used. Now everytime someone goes into a match with someone that has better gear (because of this system or not) they will immediately assume its the game’s intention for them to do poorly or even lose matches until they buy new stuff. “Yep, looks like matchmaker ‘whaled’ on me this match, gg”, or “seriously? I got ‘marqed’ again this match, wtf
I just bought something!!” That takes me back to design integrity, is that truly the experience you want in a game? Unpredictable difficulty spikes created purely to take your money, how disrespectful can companies be to the medium, is it a fucking contest? Imagine for a moment if tomorrow it was discovered that a similar system has been in place in overwatch since launch to get people more interested in skins and shit, that would be very very bad for the game…

Edit: and just to be clear, I think it’s a brilliant system for soulless game creators, just like the Chinese sesame credit system is technically brilliant


I agree this is not smart if it’s as simple as this reading. However, I also believe that Blizzard and ATVI have a fundamental understanding that match making is what makes games fun or fucking hell. I would be surprised if they tilt the pendulum that far.

More likely, in my opinion, is that there is a situation where—all other things being equal—there will be a prioritization for diversity in cosmetic or lootable or otherwise buyable equipment per match. This makes sense to me.

Obviously that depends on how good this system terns out to be. A “marquee” on one side and a “junior” on the other is obviously bullshit. But if the teams are equal in averaged skill as per current matchmaking, then we can play with those components. We can match the right Marquee with the right Junior.

I think this is a very valid risk. It’s important to also keep in mind that companies—especially large tech companies—patent everything they think of. At my company, I have a monthly meeting with our patent attorney to figure out if my org has created or even scoped anything patentable.

A lot of times this is defensive for the industry rather than directly related to something that will absolutely be built out and launched.

I can see this being a situation where we would say “we wouldn’t necessarily build this but if it becomes an industry norm, we want to maintain ownership over it and win in the space.”