The patent was originally filed in 2015, but was only granted today.
Update: Activision confirmed that this system has not been implemented into any of their games at this time.
Activision has successfully patented a system it hopes will convince more people to purchase items via microtransactions in multiplayer games.
"The microtransaction engine may match the junior player with a player that is a highly skilled sniper in the game".
We will no doubt see marketing spin on this in the coming weeks if the story speads enough, but at its core it's hard to see any way in which this isn't a bad thing. On one side are gamers who are furious at video game companies milking their customers for as much money as they can get via loot boxes and in-game items even after they have already paid the full price for the game. For example, it can group players who have spent money on powerful weapons with others who did not, in order to show the latter group what they're missing.
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).
A recently granted patent reveals some of the methods in which Activision might influence players to make some in-game purchases, such as extra weapons or DLC.
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But the patent also points out how players could be encouraged to make additional purchases even after buying the core title, through gratification of a purchase. That way, purchase satisfaction is maximised, and more spending encouraged.
In 2016, Activision Blizzard earned US$3.6 billion from in-game sales, up from US$1.6 billion in 2015.
The patent details how multiplayer matches are configured, specifically how players are selected to play with one another.
"The microtransaction engine may analyze various items used by marquee players and, if the items are being promoted for sale, match the marquee player with another player (e.g., a junior player) that does not use or own the items", reads another excerpt of the patent. "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". "Microtransaction engine 128 may analyze various items used by marquee players and, if at least one of the items is now 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".
"Doing so may enhance a level of enjoyment by the player for the game-related purchase, which may encourage future purchases", according to the patent.
With all of the microtransaction controversies over the last few months, this likely won't go over well with players.
Call of Duty: WWII releases on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on November 3rd. Activision is adding a new factor that assigns players to promote the likelihood of in-game digital purchases.