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Patents The Almighty Buck Entertainment Games

Activision Patents Pay-To-Win Matchmaker (rollingstone.com) 133

New submitter EndlessNameless writes: If you like fair play, you might not like future Activision games. They will cross the line to encourage microtransactions, specifically matching players to both encourage and reward purchase. Rewarding the purchase, in particular, is an explicit and egregious elimination of any claim to fair play. "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," according to the patent. "This may encourage the player to make future purchases to achieve similar gameplay results." Even though the patent's examples are all for a first-person-shooter game, the system could be used across a wide variety of titles. "This was an exploratory patent filed in 2015 by an R&D team working independently from our game studios," an Activision spokesperson tells Rolling Stone. "It has not been implemented in-game." Bungie also confirmed that the technology isn't being used in games currently on the market, mentioning specifically Destiny 2.
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Activision Patents Pay-To-Win Matchmaker

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wargaming.net sure has. [google.com] They have a patent on almost the exact same thing in World of Tanks.

    • by Jenka ( 1295437 )
      Interestingly While Wargaming.net has this system. They have spent the last couple years trying to get rid of it or minimize it's effects. It warped matchmaking pretty strongly and negatively. They no longer introduce new vehicles with "Premium" matchmaking. In fact, they are actively working to slowly remove the existing "premium" matchmaking vehicles from the game. Mostly by attrition and changes to the overall game system that makes them unattractive to play.
  • I am willing to bet that in 5 years, all of Activision/Blizzard games with be using this exclusively for matchmaking.
    • Yea, MatchMaking as a service sure seems like it might be prior art. But what could I know ;) I am not a Lawyer Thank God ;)
    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      You need sufficient development in AI so as to be able to create computer controlled players that act like real players, otherwise matchmaking time blows out. Basically scamming psychopaths who like to win regardless of how but selling them an unbeatable advantage putting them against bots that pretend to be real and complain when the psychopaths plays them. Psychopath stops spending, they stop winning and get the insults, behavioural patterns demand they respond and must win and they do it by spending more

  • by ctilsie242 ( 4841247 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2017 @03:50PM (#55392369)

    Before Apple had IAP, you paid a few dollars for a game, and got a decent amount of levels. Often, there was a sequel, so you spend $3.99 or so, bought that.

    Then came IAP. Games which were challenging but fun became a lot harder, in order to force people to buy powerups to beat the game, or the game would have a delay if you lost... of course, you could pay something to have the delay removed. Additional levels? More dosh. Even a basic tower defense game became so loaded with costly powerups that the whole genre wound up collapsing.

    If I want Farmville, I'll play Farmville. The whole gaming genre has been so polluted by this P2W crap that it just isn't worth the time, and since older games that have not been recompiled for 64 bit which haven't been updated are wiped off Apple's App Store, what is worth playing is pretty hard to find.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      As an aspiring indie game dev who likes single-player games I have to say I really like these moves by places like EA and Activision. If they want to piss off their user base with game play choices that people hate, and abandon single-player games exclusively for P2W MMOs, hey go for it.

      I'd like nothing more than these titans to exit the scene. I can only hope when the time comes people will choose with their money what game choices they like and not just hop on the mindless consumer bandwagon.

    • This is why I avoided smartphone games in the first place. I keep some Chess games and single-player puzzlers like Monument Valley on my Fire, but multiplayer? That's console or PC, and I'm picky there, and willing to pay on upfront cost to avoid P2W.

      • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
        The best multiplayer game I've played is still HalfLife.
      • How about we compromise. You pay the upfront cost for a regular game and then through updates and patches we slowly convert the game to pay2win after you've bought it!

    • The whole gaming genre has been so polluted by this P2W crap that it just isn't worth the time, and since older games that have not been recompiled for 64 bit which haven't been updated are wiped off Apple's App Store, what is worth playing is pretty hard to find.

      There's no P2W in Counterstrike, just skill...

    • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

      Then came IAP. Games which were challenging but fun became a lot harder, in order to force people to buy powerups to beat the game.

      And before before IAP were arcades, where games were very hard, in order to force people to put in more quarters.

      Your comment is interesting because it is like history repeating itself.
      Arcades games were hard, because that's how they made you spend money.
      Then home consoles came in and used arcades as a model, which meant hard games.
      Then later, developers realized that there was nothing to gain by making game hard and frustrating as they were one time purchase, so games became easier.
      And now, with the pay-to

  • Cheating (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sehlat ( 180760 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2017 @03:50PM (#55392373)

    It is said that when there are cheaters in a game, nobody wins. When the PROVIDER is cheating, that goes double. But as Cory Doctorow has pointed out, if you can't check the source code, how do you know for certain?

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      I find that you can see this pretty clearly after a while. One exceptional shooter from time to time is normal, for example. But lots of them, and many even do not know how to move or hide and they still surprise you all the time? Time to leave.

      • And you can tell when a company is leaning purchases to the PTW crowd or not. Lets take the online game I play, War Thunder, for example....do they have premium vehicles? Yes they do, they follow a formula of lend lease/captured, experimental designs that never made full production, and prototypes...do those vehicles give you an advantage in game? NO THEY DO NOT, in fact they are often WORSE than the planes you get for free, for example the XP-50 premium has less ammo, worse in a dive, and has worse handlin

        • I'm fully supportive of games that make their money on microtransactions of cosmetic gear as a way to monetize online games. People seem to love paying for that sort of thing, and it has zero impact on gameplay. Overwatch works that way, from what I hear. Guild Wars 2 core game is completely free, and pays for itself with entirely cosmetic microtransactions.

          But anything that affects gameplay? Fuck that. I refuse. And now some developers are tinkering with adding paid power boosts to single-player game

          • Exactly, that is why I like War Thunder as the vehicles they have as premiums really don't affect gameplay but they are simply cool to have so many buy them. They also have events all the time where you complete tasks (kill X number of planes or tanks, win X number of battles, etc) and you can have a premium for free. Hell in just the past 6 weeks I've gotten 4 premium planes and a premium tank without any real hard work, I just put in the time and voila! Free gear.

            But when the gear starts giving you a huge

    • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

      The provider is always and never cheating, simultaneously. They write the rules, and can OP and nerf items at their discretion. It's not cheating because it's their game of Calvinball. It's cheating because it violates the expectation of players that they are whomping on other actual players when they go to PvP land, and because it's inherently unfair to players. But remember, if you aren't paying, you're not the customer. In this case, you're just the background filler for the people who do put up money to

  • by oldgraybeard ( 2939809 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2017 @03:51PM (#55392377)
    Computers can match things, Duh!!, so putting in a game, for a preference makes it special.

    When are these losers going to accept the fact that software algorithms are copyright-able but not patent-able!
    • I'm hopeful that they've only patented this idea to prevent other companies from using it and have no intent to use it themselves. </sarcasm>

      • No, they patented this so that they can make money through royalties if someone else uses it.
        That doesn't mean they're using it... and doesn't mean they're not using it either.

  • ... as no self-respecting gaming company will want to license it.
  • It's customized matchmaking based on preferences. So, you buy a sniper rifle, and you want to play on maps where sniper rifles are popular, for example.

    • This is false. The best maps are balanced, such that every weapon has the potential to be well used, if the player is skillful, and wasted if the player is not. That's not what this is about though. This is like allowing a player to buy a nuke, and be matched into a game where everyone else is trapped in a stadium with only knifes and police batons.

      • That does NOT make my statement false. Your definition of 'The best maps' doesn't affect the patent.

        "and that each of the plurality of computing devices is configured to interact with an instance of the multi-player game, the method comprising: identifying, by the host computer, an in-game item that is of potential interest to a first player, but not yet possessed by the first player for gameplay in a multi-player game, wherein the in-game item is determined to be of potential interest to the first playe

  • Nothing says horrible like a company who distances themselves from a patent they filed without ever actually implementing or selling the technology.

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2017 @03:59PM (#55392431)

    I.e. the Dunning-Kruger sufferers of players, that are pretty bad by do not know that. Well, I predict they will make great business with that model, but quite a few players will find themselves disgusted and repulsed by these games. I certainly will very carefully check before I ever buy anything from the again.

    Incidentally, why can you patent such stuff? this is both trivial and highly immoral. Both should make this completely non-patentable.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 18, 2017 @04:05PM (#55392483)

    I once got in to Hearthstone briefly. This was the first time I have ever tried a card game or anything like that. Let me also say that I have been in to game theory since the 70's, probably before the Hearthstone's developer's parents were even born.

    I first learned how the game worked. I was able to climb to the top rankings even then. I then developed a set of Lua scripts that calculated the best plays based on the game at hand. Well, in short, I got banned. Not because they thought I was using a bot or cheating (and I wasn't, I was just playing as a regular human-controlled, me), but because I won too often even against people that payed lots of money for superior stacks that should have wiped me off the floor.

    Oh... OK. Fuck you too, morons.

    • Hearthstone is pretty tame compared to what other games do these days: while it takes a lot of money or a lot of patience to get all the good cards, once you have a card, it's equal to everyone else's copy. There are also games, especially for mobiles but it's sneaking its way into PC/console games too, where getting duplicates makes a card "level up" and improve its stats, so the pay2win never ends.

  • by nwaack ( 3482871 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2017 @04:34PM (#55392679)
    Hear me out on this. The practice described in the patent is total garbage and a very bad thing. However, the patent itself is excellent. If Activision owns the patent on this, then other game makers would have to pay to do the same thing, thus making them less likely to do it, thus making it less likely for us to see the practice used in actual games.
  • I don't play these things, so I don't know.

    But if I play in a game and my rivals can buy their way into superior position, I would stop playing.

    Once all the rubes leave, where are they going to find unlevel playing field to help these paying dudes?

    • You just have to pay a bunch of third worlders pennies to join the game to lose to your whales.

      It'll be like when Commodus rode around the gladiatorial arena stabbing amputees with lead swords and declaring himself the new Hercules.

  • by swell ( 195815 ) <jabberwock.poetic@com> on Wednesday October 18, 2017 @05:59PM (#55393117)

    Balance is essential in a fun game. New players should have time to get up to speed, but otherwise everyone is on a level playing field. The only distinguishing thing being the player's skill, reflexes, strategy or whatever skill the game demands.

    I have faced a similar 'unfair' situation three times among chess players. Nobody literally paid for an advantage, but they did it indirectly.

    Each time, a group of ordinary people discovered that we all knew how to play chess. Each time, none of us were expert. Each time we had a very enjoyable time exploring this game as a learning experience. Each time, people outside our group joined in, creating a group of 30-90 people. And each time it became competitive, and the fun slid out under the door.

    Certain players, maybe 10%, began studying. Within two months substantial libraries were being accumulated. Money was wagered. Friends became enemies. A few players went on to become serious but the vast majority lost interest and left the group. What could have been fun for all was compromised by those seeking an (unfair?) advantage.

    There are also people who study to excel in Scrabble and spelling bees, etc. Let them compete against other anal retentive types and leave the fun contests to regular people.

    • At first I was actually hoping the headline was describing this:

      A game player pays to unlock something gameplay affecting in a game.
      Player now goes into match making to start an instance of the game.
      Match making system does its best to match the player who paid for in-game items with (or against, in competitive games) other players who paid for in-game items to keep interest groups together and keep playing fields a bit more fair for all.

      As someone who finds the entire concept of pay to win/pay to advance p

    • This is exactly why I don't like PvP games. I don't have the time to invest into gaining some reasonable level of skill, nor do I want to pay more than I already have for the game. I think there is something fundamentally wrong with paying $20 (or $60) for a game, then double that to get "the full game" - you know, the stuff the "game of the year edition" will have. Even more so when those extras become a "pay to win" model.

      One of my buddies is into the CoD games and each time a new one came out, he

    • There is nothing "unfair" about your situation at all. Are you actually getting upset that some members of your group were training to improve themselves?
      • by swell ( 195815 )

        I'm sorry, did I say it was unfair? I thought I had written "(unfair?)". Perhaps you forgot your glasses.

        You're welcome to it. I don't play against chess masters or raw beginners. I seek people near but somewhat better than my own ability.

  • The whole point of buying or acquiring anything is to take it somewhere it will be useful.
  • "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,"

    So...I get to enjoy the perversity of griefing, without having to do the tedious chore of out-grinding everyone else for superior equipment?

    Sweet!

    • by Ihlosi ( 895663 )
      So...I get to enjoy the perversity of griefing, without having to do the tedious chore of out-grinding everyone else for superior equipment?

      As long as you pay for it.

      Oh, and as an added bonus all superior players who manage to wipe the table with you despite your upgrades will be labeled cheaters and banned.

      Oh, next step: Replace human opponents with AI bots that are artificially dumb, so that the player feels properly superior. Hey, it works for dating web sites, why not for games?

  • Based on the comment threads I have glanced through I think most people are missing the big picture here. Sure it is bad that Activision has a pay-to-win mechanism in the works but is this really something that should be patent-able?

  • Unless they are getting the patent to block everyone from doing so, and also don't use it themselves, then it's Ok, otherwise good luck with your games, as you won't see me buying any of those.
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