Whichever side of the microtransaction fence you sit on, we can all probably agree that they shouldn’t be affecting the way multiplayer matchmaking functions. Typically this technology is used to balance teams to an equivalent skill level, and ensure everyone has a quality connection to the match. Activision, however, filed a patent a few years back which has just been granted, allowing it to essentially fudge the way matchmaking works in order to push players towards lucrative in-game purchases.
The patent illustrates, for example, how “junior players” could be matched with “marquee players” in order to have them lusting after the pro’s gear – potentially driving microtransactions. It also hypothesises how playing habits could be identified, suggesting that a wannabe sniper could be matched with an expert sniper in order to push sales of better weapons. And scarily, it proposes placing players who have spent money in matches where their purchased items are extra effective, encouraging them to feel good about their purchases and thus drive more.
It’s all super shady stuff, and a Tweet from Bungie community manager DeeJ suggests that it’s already being implemented in some games. “None of this functionality appears in Destiny,” he wrote, indicating perhaps that there are titles where it does. For the record, Activision said that it made $3.6 billion from microtransactions in 2016, up from $1.6 billion the year prior. This patent, not-so coincidentally, was filed in 2015.