Activision filed a patent for a microtransaction system in 2015

Publisher Activision is often the target of internet scorn when it comes to microtransactions in video games. Three of the most recent big releases from the publisher, Destiny 2, Overwatch (with Blizzard) and Call of Duty Modern Warfare 4 Remastered, all heavily feature microtransactions for cosmetic consumables.

So it should come as no surprise that certain elements of its microtransaction system are patented to the company. However, as brought to light by Glixel and reported by IGN, Activision has a patent for a game system that drives players towards microtransactions and generating income from players.

The system, according to a statement made to IGN by Activision, has not been implemented into a game and was an ‘exploratory patent’ filed following work from a research and development team. So the system is not currently in any current Activision video game. However, it is a fascinating look at how companies can create games in order to generate microtransactions.

The system is designed to get players to spend money and time in a game to unlock an item. If you see a player with a good and more powerful gun that you want, then you make efforts to get that gun. Destiny is a good example (although as confirmed by Bungie’s David Dague on Twitter that this system is not in Destiny) as players will often strive to acquire a gun through quests or gameplay like the Gjallarhorn rocket launcher.

It does have elements of a data collection workflow at times on player behaviour, as well as being designed to get players to spend money. The player is matched with someone who has an item which is available to buy. If the player buys the item after seeing it then they are rewarded with the ability to use it in an effective way in the next session.

If they don’t buy it, then their data will reflect that they have not purchased it. This kind of analytical data, on what players will and will not do, is quite vital to publishers in order to find new avenues with which to generate revenue from those players.

The conversation around microtransactions, in-game gambling and loot boxes is beginning to grow outside of the gaming community, with a recent petition gaining enough signatures to have the matter addressed in Parliament. Although the issue has previously been addressed in part this year in a report from the GamblingCommission.

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