by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Lots of people are talking about Activision’s Patent #9789406, but some are just saying “Patents get filed all the time. That’s not a big deal!” and that’s part of the damn problem. A link to the actual Patent is right here.
Sure, patents get filed all the time. Sure, it was filed back in 2015, it was accepted just a few days ago. It’s a real patent now. Some of you might not know what I’m talking about, so it’s time to explain. Every time I think I’ve seen the worst, lowest, and most vile tactic in the gaming industry, another dirtbag comes along and shocks me. Today, we’re not talking about Warner Bros though! Today’s culprit is Activision. In 2015 they filed a patent for the purpose of “System and method for driving microtransactions in multiplayer video games. For instance, the system 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.”
But does Activision really have that many games that will likely have Microtransactions in them? Well, Destiny 2 kind of stands out like a sore thumb. Sure, all of their stuff is cosmetic, but it’s still a repulsive way to hide Shaders. Once Activision learned how much people enjoyed them, the “good” colors were gated behind Microtransactions and made random, and limited use. In Destiny 1, they were simply “acquire and use” at your leisure. But what about Call of Duty: WWII that’s on the way out? I have no idea what, if any Microtransactions will be in the game but it’s a prime potential target. The idea that they can patent a system to pair someone with no items bought on their store against someone who does have them, for the purpose of seeing “Hey, that item is incredible, I should buy it!” but the wording feels ambiguous to me. It says “match with” but that doesn’t mean necessarily they’d be on your team.
Ideally, I think, they’d be on the other team. You’d get blasted by someone with in-game bought items, and instead of thinking “Hey, I really want to buy that so I can have that level of success” the person would think “Jee, this game is really pay-to-win now! Guess if I want to be online and have fun I better fork over money!” and knowing games these days, it’ll be hidden in a loot crate. Because everything is hidden in loot crates now. It’s no big secret that Activision has spent millions researching addiction in gaming. So what do they do? Instead of trying to make peoples lives better, what have they done? They find worse and worse ways to capitalize on this. And I just had an epiphany, just this moment. It’s not just Activision, it’s Activision Blizzard. Yes, I see where this is going now. It’s going to be less about powerful in-game items, but it does come back to Loot Boxes. I think we’ll see a surge of the really nice skins, the best skins being in Loot Boxes, not for direct purchase. You’ll be paired against people who own/have a tendency to use these awesome skins and in order to buy them, what do you have to do? Cough up 20-50 bucks for some Loot Boxes and hope you get them!
I can’t even play Overwatch anymore because it got so bad. I enjoyed the game immensely, but the whole “trickle-down” thought of “Oh, you get a box everytime you level up, so you can get them at your own pace and you never have to spend money” is bullshit. Sure, you don’t “have” to, but with all the emphasis people put on how amazing the skins are, and admittedly, they are, you want to keep up and have what everyone else has. Yes, they’re a business. Yes, they have to make money. But that’s another terrible argument! Why isn’t simply “making a profit” enough? Why do they have to resort to horrific, scumbaggy, disgusting tactics to drive Microtransactions and take as much as they possibly can? Having a retail game with Microtransactions is basically a game that has an infinite potential for profit. It wasn’t enough that the Competitive system for Overwatch is/was purposely putting people lower than their actual competitive level to “give them a sense of accomplishment” when they climb. That’s not what it does at all. The people at lower brackets/ranks tend to be more toxic in my estimation because they feel like they’ll never climb. So it gets worse and worse. When those people do climb, that chip is still on their shoulder. That’s another complaint for another time though.
What does this mean? Should you care?
Of course you should care! What this Patent shows is like showing your hand at the end of a game of Poker. It’s a reflection of what kind of company they are. It shows the potential for them to do anything to make a quick buck. And people are likely to just forgive it because they enjoy their games. That or they are simply blissfully unaware. Activision-Blizzard has their hands in a lot of pies right now, and have a lot of games with potential Microtransactions. There are of course, people who won’t care about this matchmaking (as far as cosmetics go) because they never spend money on free-to-play/microtransactions just in general. But this hurts a lot, and I mean a lot of players who do or have bad addictive/gambling tendencies. It’s probably the worst tactic of the year. Has it happened yet? Not that we’re aware of. But the fact that it’s patented at all and can is very telling, very indictative of our current greedy overlords.