WriOps: Activision “patent” and Microtransactions

Note: WriOps is the intersection of writing and opinions on controversial topics in the gaming industry. The opinion of this article does not necessarily reflect the official opinions of NextLevel Gaming Online as an organization.

Note: This review features the communal opinions of NextLevel staff members Evan Macintosh and Deshawn Bruce.

Activision’s new patent comes at a time where the talk of microtransactions in games is at an all time high. Many gamers agree that the inclusion of microtransactions is often seen as a greedy move by the developer. Activision’s patent may only be an idea for now, but it is by far the most aggressive any developer has been. Activision’s patent encourages players to buy microtransactions in a variety of ways. If a player were to buy a weapon through microtransactions, then that player is “rewarded” by being placed in a match against low level players or in a match where the purchased weapon is highly effective.  While it hasn’t been implemented in a game, the patent gives several examples of its use in a FPS game. This is outright ridiculous as the whole point of FPS multiplayer is to level up by playing matches and unlocking weapons as you gain experience and level up. Giving the player the ability to buy high level weapons from the get-go completely takes away the point of playing the game.

If a player were to continuously lose, then they would be incentivized to buy more microtransactions, which would place them in matches that would almost guarantee them wins. Activision is preying on player’s emotions as they want their players to feel bad about themselves as they believe those feelings will lead to more microtransactions sales. This creates a vicious cycle where losing players will buy microtransactions and win matches and the losing players from those matches buy more microtransactions.  -Deshawn

This whole notion of microtransactions has not come around recently in the gaming world. Surprisingly its roots can be traced back to the early days of Xbox Live when Microsoft was mulling over the idea of changing their digital content model from one big pack of many pieces to many small packs. Meaning that you could pay $1, $2, $3, etc. for a single item in a game as opposed to buying all the extra items in the game for $15; it allows for players to spend “more wisely” and buy what they want. What used to be a way for players to spend as little as possible, has now become a model for players to spend as much as possible. Activision’s new patent is the exact opposite of what microtransactions were. They want players to continually spend money on items that will cause other players to follow. The first developer to implement microtransactions was Bethesda with Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion with their “Horse Armor Pack” which could be bought for 200 Microsoft points ($2.50) on the Xbox 360 or for $1.99 on PC. Interestingly enough, fans were in uproar about this practice but still purchased the content. This idea of having the whole expansion and the components for sale is a more solid idea financially, as you can then reach a broader audience with your digital product because they might be more likely to pay for only one or two things they like versus a whole pack they aren’t as excited for. -Evan

In the past few years microtransactions have become a big part of gaming whether gamers like it or not. While some microtransactions are simply cosmetic others intentionally affect actual game play. While this patent has not been implemented in a game yet, this could potentially become a trend if people continue to support microtransactions in games. If players cannot learn to ignore or not support microtransactions, then they may have to abandon their beloved franchises as developers show no signs of stopping. -Deshawn

Stay tuned to NLGO for all WriOps pieces, click here to read our previous article.

Evan Macintosh

An early college student with a passion for playing and talking about video games. I hope to design them some day either as a hobby or professionally. I also enjoy writing fiction stories, buuut not as much as I enjoy blowing some baddies away.

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