Activision secures patent for software to trick you into buying cash shop stuff, seriously

Hey, gang, this is absolutely wonderful. Activision has filed and been granted a patent for software designed to push you into buying cash shop crappies through the most insidious means possible. The breakdown is fairly straightforward: Once you buy something, the game’s matchmaking software will push you to a match where that something would be very effective or where another player’s purchases would influence your purchases, thus creating positive feedback and inspiring you to buy more! Isn’t that grand?

For those keeping track at home, this is starting to cross the line from gambling over to extortion, which is not a pleasant road to be walking. If you thought microtransactions amounted to a cash shop wholly separate from gameplay and you never had to worry about it influencing anything else, you were wrong.

Activision’s official statement is that this was simply a patent filed for exploratory software and it has not been implemented in any games. Said statement does not include phrases like “will not,” of course, so draw your own conclusions about when and whether it will show up. You can also draw your own conclusions about how shady it is, but the answer is pretty decidedly “super shady.”

Source: Kotaku, Rolling Stone; thanks to OneEyeRed and Leiloni for the tip!
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145 Comments on "Activision secures patent for software to trick you into buying cash shop stuff, seriously"

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Woetoo
Reader
Woetoo

There are so many subtleties to this, and they’re all full on dooshbag level of treating customers in such demeaning ways.

And sadly, it’s inevitable unless people can shine a big enough spotlight on it.

If you spend $60 buying the game and refuse to buy from the store – the game company still made $60 from their dooshbag game. But even not buying a game you suspect this sort of technique might be included in isn’t an option. There have been so many BAD triple-A games in recent years, yet apparently marketing seemingly beats honesty and any form of consumer self interest.

If those of us who consider ourselves informed about such practices aren’t managing to hold back the tide of this sort of anti-consumer practices… we clearly aren’t making enough of an impact.

What might work is mainstream news stories. Something to get shareholders asking “how come we’re in the middle of another shit storm of media attention?”

As to how insidious this is, just imagine it doesn’t even cross the P2W line (wherever that is these days)…

  • Player-B once spent 15 more seconds viewing an item on the game store than they usually spend looking at items.
  • Player-B is deliberately matched against Player-A, who has an MMR +200 higher than Player-B.
  • Player-B loses to Player-A, due to skill. But sees Player-A using the item they liked.
  • Player-B doesn’t buy item and is then consistently put against players with higher MMR (and sometimes the same item).
  • Player-B buys item and is then consistently put against players with lower MMR, including Player-C.
  • Player-B associates their new found success with their ingame store purchase (which is true, but not for the reasons they might think). And so is more likely to buy from the store in the future.
  • Player-C lost and did so to a player who at the same time is better, but not good.
  • Player-C eventually notices that most of the players they are losing to have the item Player-B was using.
  • Player-C feels obliged to buy the same item, knowing the game isn’t P2W – but at the same time wondering if there are balance issues.
  • …. and so it continues.
  • And that’s before you jump into the murky idea that players who know a system like this might be in use, intentionally buy items they don’t need or want, just so they can be matched against less experience players. In effect, P2W without item stats.

    And all of that presumes you even know systems like this are active within the game you’re playing. Because you can be damned sure there won’t be anything on the original store page or box art stating that the game uses patent #xyz.

    Reader
    Tithian

    This is simply diabolical. Can you imagine this system implemented to Battlefront 2?

    Reader
    shear

    Yes, I actually can imagine, not much of a stretch for EA.

    Reader
    Bannex

    Man, this is just filthy.

    Your children aren’t safe, they’re the ones that are getting exploited here.

    kjempff
    Reader
    kjempff

    Good or bad ?
    On one hand, if only one company can do this, it prevents others from using the same shit method.
    On the other hand, patents on software/design-methods is a messed up concept that should be stopped.
    Too harsh ?

    shibby523
    Reader
    shibby523

    They can always loan the system out for some extra cash. Say 5-10% of each loot box sold.

    Reader
    Robert Mann

    Meh. It would quickly seem P2W to me, and given research into things and/or playing before I EVER consider buying things from a cash shop… odds are that I’d note it was full of scumbaggery and get the heck out of gacha.

    Actually, I did just buy a game recently. It has no cash shop at all. Pure buy to play. Nothing else involved. It’s not a giant buggy mess so far (8 hours in.) It seems like a huge, completed game. Interestingly enough, there’s a few companies that do that, and I buy basically every game they make. It’s almost like so long as they keep making good games with fair business models I’ll be a loyal customer who appreciates it and gladly buys their products… amazing! Too bad it’s so few companies that manage this. :(

    Mewmew
    Reader
    Mewmew

    In other words the people who aren’t buying lockbox crap are going to be directly matched up with people who are buying it rather than each other – so that the paying people have someone to easily dominate with their pay to win loot and won’t get matched to someone who will instead beat them down – at least not right away. Until the game decides it wants to make you spend more money then it will start matching you to the people who will destroy you so that you’re encouraged to spend again.

    This adds a new dimension to pay to win, an evil dimension that shouldn’t be visited. It literally makes me sick. Remind me to never ever ever play any game that this system makes it into *if* we even are ever told that it makes it in.

    This is so much worse than pay to win, so horribly unethical, so downright devious. Did the team filing this patent all have cartoonish evil mustaches and dart their eyes left and right while rubbing their hands together and doing an evil little cackle?

    This seems unreal and this is something that we really *do* need some organization to step in and help regulate if this is the direction we’re going. I’m sad. I’m a usual defender of lock boxes (out of the realization there is nothing we can do so we have to accept it) but this makes me sad. Wow… My favorite hobby is looking a little dark today.

    Reader
    birini

    This is flat out evil. I haven’t bought from them in years. It may well be forever now. The industry badly needs new blood. The old Blizzard “For gamers by gamers” mentality instead of “For whales by accountants.”

    possum440 .
    Reader
    possum440 .

    The story goes…..If you are stupid enough to continue to play a game or buy from a company that does these things then you deserve your fate.

    The rest of us will simply move on to another company or game. Entertainment is a dime a dozen. They wont conform to the gamer, then we leave, well the ones with common sense anyway.

    Reader
    Kevin McCaughey

    I agree. It is imperative gamers stick together on this and vote with their feet – otherwise it will become the norm and gaming will be ruined. Fuck Activation for even thinking of this.

    Reader
    Sally Bowls

    This patent is about reinforcing the desire to buy the $50 shotgun by putting you in a match where that performs well – how is that different than just making the shotgun OP? The devs don’t have to steer shotgun purchasers into the “quail and dove” instance that suits them best; they can just make the shotgun do twice the damage of any other weapon. Then in every single instance you’re in, your fellow players will admire the performance and girth of your “weapon.”

    Reader
    Armsbend

    It is different in this sense: You buy the shotgun. You are placed on a shotgun-centric map with 9 other players that don’t have a shotgun.

    In your scenario – if a potential 10 players all have the OP shotgun – then there is no apparent need for an algorithm and your OPness is obsolete.

    The patent implies something akin to making sure the buyer is OP.

    This is how I read it at least.

    Reader
    Kickstarter Donor
    Serrenity

    I read it the same way. The alg creates a situation in which you are OP, while still allowing to studio to make bleating noises to the contrary, saying that all weapons are carefully balanced.

    Reader
    Kevin McCaughey

    Fucking sickening. Sorry for the language but this is just on another level of disgusting practice. This is worse than ***ing sheep.

    Reader
    Dug From The Earth

    Well, if there was ever any doubt in the past, there sure isnt any now…

    When someone buys a video game today, the thought, “maybe the company set out to make a good, fun, quality game” should never cross their mind. The only thing that should be clear as day now is, “They just want my money, and will do whatever it takes to get it”

    Reader
    Kevin McCaughey

    Which is why we need to NOT BUY these games.

    Reader
    Brother Maynard

    Thankfully, there are exceptions.

    Jump to 18:00 if you don’t want to watch the whole video (it’s well worth it, though)

    miol
    Reader
    miol

    Sorry to break it to you, but sadly they’re also not an exception! :/

    When not both, if this industry isn’t exploiting consumers, it’s exploiting their employees:

    In essence people were feeling overworked, underpaid and as though there was little organisation or they weren’t being heard. …

    But these were often people who had been there less than a year and had come from other big studios organised in other ways, maybe better ways. How do you convince all of these new people that your bruteforce way of facing the tidal wave of work ahead is the best way?

    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2017-10-16-cd-projekt-red-this-approach-to-making-games-is-not-for-everyone

    Reader
    Brother Maynard

    Yes, I knew about the article.

    a) It has nothing to do with this discussions, i.e. how developers treat their customers

    b) Glassdoor reviews have the reliability of the wikipedia page of Casey Hudson 2 weeks after ME3 released.

    To base an article on a site where virtually anyone can post their ‘review’ is not journalism. It’s like judging a game that has just been review bombed on Steam.

    Also, the low pay complaint is pretty amusing – the average wage in Poland is less than 50% of the western Europe’s average. Presumably, the interviewed ex-employees did not do their homework when applying for their CDPR jobs…

    I do not give this article much credence… No matter how many times people bring it up.

    miol
    Reader
    miol

    a) Compartmentilizing the positive of only one part of a whole studio, doesn’t help any discussion, as consumers have the responsibility to be concerned of exploitation of any form that comes with a product!

    b) The felt obligation of CDP to answer to such an overwhelming feedback and the actual content of said CDP own official response, only underlines these expressed issues!

    Since the actual article is based on the official response, taking up more than 60% alone with quotes and a huge image of the whole statement in the middle of said article’s space, let alone the elaboration on it, saying “base an article on [Glassdoor]” is simply wrong and arguably deceptive!

    Not to mention. the jounalist’s own interviews with employees confirming those overall issues. is actual journalism!

    Blatant attempt was just too blatant! :/

    Reader
    Brother Maynard

    as consumers have the responsibility to be concerned of exploitation of any form that comes with a product!

    That’s just your opinion and you’re stretching it to the extreme (“exploitation”? seriously?) based on random internet allegations. I certainly feel zero obligation or responsibility to be concerned with anything.

    I have my years-long experience with CDPR as a consumer. It has nothing to do with their HR practices and which are absolutely irrelevant to the former. An anonymous rant in a youtube video, followed up by an article basically saying “yeah, I spoke to a guy, he pointed me to a Glassdoor review and said he agrees with it”, is not going to move me.

    Not to mention. the jounalist’s own interviews with employees confirming those overall issues

    Really? “But these were often people who had been there less than a year and had come from other big studios organised in other ways”. To me there is zero credibility to this kind of ‘journalism’. For all we know, the guy interviewed 2 ex-employees terminated for good reasons within their probational period. The point is, the article does not clarify anything. It does not investigate, it does not go deeper than the very surface of an allegation against CDPR. There have been significantly better in-depth articles on gaming issues – this one does not even begin to compare…

    Do I say CDPR does not overwork its staff? No – I have no way of knowing that. I certainly won’t formulate an opinion based on a random superficial internet article. And especially if one of the main arguments is Glassdoor reviews.

    miol
    Reader
    miol

    ^ Purest ad hom right there!

    I spoke anonymously to people who had worked at CD Projekt Red in the past and they pointed to negative Glassdoor reviews as being accurate of the situation there.

    Reader
    Dug From The Earth

    You’re right, i generalized. Its easy to do considering the ratio of good games from good studios is such a small number compared to the mass horde of bad games out there. Patents like the one mentioned in this article, are only steering things in the wrong direction.

    There are still, and probably will still be the rare “diamond in the rough”. With the rate the industry is changing though, thats not enough to add much hope.

    Reader
    Brother Maynard

    Yeah, I get that – with too many developers these days it’s just like you wrote… But it’s good that we’re still having a few whose philosophy is the complete opposite, like CDPR. They’re always worth the wait.

    Reader
    Kickstarter Donor
    Greaterdivinity

    They’ve always wanted money. The rose-colored nostalgia glasses about the “good old days” when publishers made games for the passion of it are bullshit.

    Developers make games because they’re passionate. Publishers make games to make money. Both are in constant fights and have been since the gaming industry sprung up. They’ve always wanted your money, always. Hence the ludicrous prices for a lot of the older hardware/software over the years, hence all the terrible shovelware (sup LJN!) that was always pushed out.

    Reader
    Dug From The Earth

    Its important to acknowledge the difference between

    “I want money, so im going to create something good that people want”

    vs

    “I want money, so im going to stoop to manipulating people into buying things, regardless of if its good”

    Reader
    Kickstarter Donor
    Greaterdivinity

    Uh…you realize almost all those games had marketing campaigns associated with them…and the whole purpose of marketing is to convince people that something is good, regardless of whether it is or not, and get them to buy it >.>

    Reader
    Dug From The Earth

    Again.. its important to acknowledge the difference

    “Marketing something thats actually good”

    vs

    “Marketing something that isnt good, but making people think it is good”

    Reader
    Kickstarter Donor
    Greaterdivinity

    Except that in most instances of the latter, the folks will legitimately believe their product is good. Sure, sometimes everyone knows it’s going to be a stinker (Aliens: Colonial Marines is a good example) and they go through the motions anyways, but more often than not everyone honestly believes they’re working on and marketing a great game.

    In your latter example anyways, that’s not accurate. You can market something that’s good, but that will also encourage and push for consistent longterm monetization from players. I’ll throw Battlefield 1 up as a good example. The games damn solid, I’ve enjoyed the hell outta it. But the marketing was absolutely designed around pushing folks to purchase the DLC/season passes and both the marketing and game were designed to encourage purchasing the lockboxes in the game. That’s not an entirely bad thing, and while I’ve spent nothing since purchasing the game have still enjoyed the dozens of hours I’ve spent in it immensely.

    Reader
    Armsbend

    I wonder if coders/artists today were ever really gaming fans or if they are just seeing opportunity? 15 years ago you wouldn’t find a coder who didn’t get in because of gaming (more or less. Now I think it’s the opposite. They might have familiarity without passion. And all they have to do is look at the Garriot’s and Molyneux’s to see how the old guard are the scummiest of them all.

    Reader
    Kickstarter Donor
    Bhima Jenkins

    I’m just not that cynical yet. Coders and artists for the most part, work in games/entertainment because they love what they do.

    Honestly, for the amount of hours artists/coders put in, they really don’t get paid that well in the gaming industry unless they are the absolute lead art director or head of development. Otherwise, they make MUCH less than they could just working for any other private industry that needs their services, and they wouldn’t be as overworked.

    Reader
    Ittybumpkin

    This is very true. I am a software developer and I love video games. I would never ever consider working for a company to make video games. The reason is simple, I would get paid way less and I would have to work way more. Anyone who willingly walks into a job to make less money and have things like 70+ hour weeks at crunch time are not there for the money. They are their because they love what they do and the industry takes advantage of that

    Reader
    John Mynard

    Don’t confuse the passionate development staff of a game with the MBAs and lawyers who think up crap like this. This stuff gets put in because the coders and art team get TOLD to put it in.

    That said, Warframe, once again, is showing how a cash shop can be operated positively. I’ve probably spent $250 on Warframe this past year, but it was for stuff that I legitimately wanted or improved my experience somehow. Almost all of it cosmetic. Capes, colors, alternate skins.

    It just goes to show that if you make a quality product and engage with your player base instead of treating them like garbage and giving them garbage fires to play, they’ll support you in return. You don’t have to be underhanded and manipulative to get them to pony up.

    Reader
    Armsbend

    I am now confusing the two. Only because the lines truly are confused. Who comes up with scams like Peter Molyneux and Richard Garriot? Lawyers and suits? No, it is the lead developers.

    Reader
    Stropp

    It’s generally not the coal-face developers and artists that have any say over the way a game is monetised.

    Guys like Garriot and Molyneux (stated without knowing them personally) have been in the industry at the C level for so long, some of the ‘evil’ has probably rubbed off.

    Reader
    Kickstarter Donor
    Serrenity

    Generally not. A lead dev (often synonymous with architect) generally specs out the low-level architecture for a given feature or game.

    Someone else (generally someone with more MBA classes than sense) has decreed that something must work X way. Then you have someone in product owner/ business analyst role who creates the high-level architecture, ensuring that all the features are present and work they way the MBAs think it should. Then that person works with the lead developers to ensure they understand the high level architecture and the ask from the suits, then create the low level architecture (the nitty-gritty implementation details). Then the lead developer communicates how the work should be accomplished to the development team/teams and ensure the implementation is correct and that the outcome meets the business objectives and the high-level architecture.

    Bad ideas, like exploitative monetization, almost always come from people far removed from any actual work on the game (or any software really). In this case, the suits and the MBAs. Everyone else just likes to eat and have a roof over their head.

    FWIW, I have the pleasure of working with some ex-industry vets from a well known (and beloved) MMO. They left because of the terrible conditions, staffed treated like absolute shit. One told me, “You don’t go into game development if you want to enjoy your life. There’s no more toxic and abusive environment and you get it from all angles–management, your teams, the community. You literally catch shit from every direction, all the time.”

    Reader
    Dug From The Earth

    The “old guard” is mostly guilty of over promising and selling their game for more than it actually was. Over hyping, and for being unrealistic with their goals.

    Nearly every game from Molyneux gets criticized for this. Players buy into something (literally), only to find out that what they bought, isnt what was hyped or promised.

    To me, thats not anywhere close to what a company like EA or Activision is doing. Finding any way they can, to trick/con/persuade/fool people into spending more and more money on a game they already bought.

    Both can leave a bad taste in your mouth. However. I dont even have to BUY a game from Activision to smell and taste the crap they are spewing.

    Reader
    Kevin McCaughey

    They are toxic. I wouldn’t buy game from them either – unless it’s really cheap in a Steam sale (and there’s the problem ;)

    Reader
    Bryan Correll

    comment image

    Reader
    Kickstarter Donor
    Greaterdivinity

    I…don’t get the outrage on this one to be honest. I see everyone is picking it up, but I just can’t bring myself to really care much.

    They’ll match you up with folks with sick gear to encourage you to buy it/others who can see your sick gear and want to buy it! …ok…and? Welcome to every shared social space in games, specifically MMO’s.

    Reader
    Armsbend

    An algorithm to specifically match someone though. And like Dug said, that is a focus – not making a good game.

    Reader
    Kickstarter Donor
    Greaterdivinity

    But that’s already built/will be built by others. That’s not something the core dev team is building from scratch with each game, cutting out content/features for. This would be something bolted on that would likely require only a bit of additional tweaking to make it work.

    Then the dev team can continue working on the game. It’s like monetization teams, they’re working on the shit you purchase while the core team works on the content that you actually play. Development teams are pretty big nowadays and can tackle a lot at once, y’know?

    Reader
    Armsbend

    If they are filing a patent then obviously they aren’t doing it yet. This is mysteriously insidious.

    Reader
    Kickstarter Donor
    Greaterdivinity

    What’s “mysteriously insidious”? We literally know what this is and how it will work already, long before it’s even been fully built. We may not know the nitty gritty specifics, but we absolutely know what it is and how it will work overall.

    And insidious? It’s not much more “insidious” than games like Destiny or the upcoming CoD having shared social spaces to show off your sick cosmetics.

    Reader
    Dug From The Earth

    Id much rather them focus lots of effort into, you know, making a good, quality game that makes me say, “Hey, i wanna spend money on that!”. Rather than say, intricate and complex methods of putting shiney things in front of my face that attempt to goad me into opening my wallet by flaunting aspects of jealousy, envy, and a general feeling of things not being good enough unless i buy more.

    Reader
    Kickstarter Donor
    Greaterdivinity

    I would too, but this isn’t something that’s going to eat up development time being built from scratch with every game. So they have a team that’s working specifically on this, and then the dev teams that will eventually use it will simply bolt it on.

    Why does everyone act like this is something that’s going to take studios huge amounts of time for their entire development teams to eventually implement?

    Reader
    Dug From The Earth

    ” this isn’t something that’s going to eat up development time being built from scratch with every game. So they have a team that’s working specifically on this, and then the dev teams that will eventually use it will simply bolt it on.”

    Working as a developer myself, let me give an example of how this may not be true in many cases.

    A developer team has a project they are working on. Goals are set, methods are in place, and the project is scoped out. In walks the publisher, who has their own goals and ideas for what is going to help this software title sell or earn them the most money. In this case, they want to add this new patented system to the title.

    There mere act of doing this costs development time and resources. Typically, resources and time that are limited. This means some things may need to be cut from the development process. IE: Your software title isnt going to achieve 100% of what your original plan was.

    Its hinders the original project, by causing developers to work around it in order to fit it into something that may not merge well at all with it. The more adjustments that are needed to incorporate this system, the less and less the software title reflects what its original design was.

    Why is this bad? Simple. If something good relies on it being as close to 100% of its original design concept as possible, then anything that hinders it from getting as close to that 100% design concept, means a much greater chance that the end product wont be good.

    On the flip side——

    A game that is scoped out with this system being in place from the start, is already a game that has NO intention of being a good, quality and fun game as a priority. Its a game thats sole purpose is to manipulate the players into spending lots and lots of money, even AFTER they have bought the game.

    Reader
    Kickstarter Donor
    Greaterdivinity

    You’ve created a strange, fictional binary there.

    Reader
    Dug From The Earth

    ((Deleted by mod at commenter’s request!))

    Reader
    Kickstarter Donor
    Greaterdivinity

    …what? Of course you can, but “good” becomes incredibly subjective. Some folks probably thought that Aliens: Colonial Marines was fantastic, contrary to the general consensus.

    And yes, non-binary is better than reductive binaries.

    Let’s add some more!

    5. You can market a product that’s good, but also features longterm monetization efforts that many may be turned off by.

    6. You can market good product very poorly, and end up with a critical darling that sells like crap to consumers.

    Again, this isn’t even something that EXISTS yet. The patent was filed, but it’s not even fully built.

    Reader
    Dug From The Earth

    bah, thats what i get for following too many threads. I read your reply as something from another discussion, not the actual post you replied to. Ignore. Mods please remove.

    Reader
    Jack Kerras

    Marquee players are referred to as marquee players for a reason; this has been known behavior for a long time.

    New players or people who have yet to convert don’t just convert on their own… or they do, but a very small percentage of the time.

    You can make them something like twenty times more likely to convert by getting them in a helpful guild filled with players on massive golden cash-shop gryphons. Short of this, you can ALSO get them to be more likely (although less so) to buy cash-shop items if they see a more experienced player; the more interaction, the more helpful, but just ‘seeing some dude on a golden gryphon run through Ironforge’ (as an example, I realize WoW isn’t really F2P) is a major turning point for most free players.

    This has always been the case; I make posts again and again about the importance of keeping BOTH casual players and hardcore players happy. When you have shitty dailies and limits that stymie progression within a reasonable number of hours, it means your marquee players get off quicker and they are seen by fewer people: this is Very Bad, because then there can be ten zillion non-paying people in Ironforge and no golden gryphon to ogle.

    This is just a system which attempts to make sure that you don’t get games that are filled on both sides with non-paying players; there has to be something to aspire to or the game won’t stay sticky, especially if it’s grindy nonsense. Same is true of overly-punitive F2P systems; these grind up players very quickly, which means that new players disappear all the time but whales are inclined to stay forever, so Ironforge is -full- of golden gryphons, which means the game’s playerbase stagnates because the small handful of people who hop on in a given day see that everyone is a King, get discouraged, and leave.

    You need both droves of F2P players and new blood, and a few, consistently-online whales/marquee p(l)ayers. This is just Activision being certain that the special-edition this-week-only Sparrow is seen by the maximum possible number of people who have not yet bought the Sparrow, just to convince them to pull the trigger on a raft of lootboxes.

    This seems more cynical than it is; it’s just math. If you want your F2P game to succeed, non-paying people MUST interact with paying people on the reg. See: Fortnite’s PvE population nose-diving because everyone is locked to their own tiny level/content range and no one gets to see people outside their own ‘social’ group now that the whales are all in Twine Peaks.

    Social interaction with players outside your ‘station’ is essential for F2P conversion. Everyone who does F2P work already knows that; this is just Activision making a system to get the process to be more automatic, and also to make it work better for a game (like Destiny 2) in which the Ironforge analogue doesn’t work as well, since there are only two dozen people per server and no one in the Tower can mount.

    Reader
    Kickstarter Donor
    Bhima Jenkins

    Fortnite is one of the most cynical cash grabs I’ve ever seen. Still actually enjoy my time playing it, but there is a part of me that hopes the game completely crashes and burns so we can keep its smoldering ruin as an effigy to scummy monetization strategies.

    Reader
    Jeremy Barnes

    Yep. Took longer than I thought it would, but it was exactly who I thought would do it.

    Andrew Ross
    Staff
    Andrew Ross

    This is the kind of thinking that not only threatens online games, but all games as companies start to see games as “services” instead of a stand-alone experience: http://massivelyop.com/2017/10/18/the-daily-grind-do-you-think-ea-is-pivoting-into-a-star-wars-pseudo-mmo/

    Reader
    Dušan Frolkovič

    While I agree that it is a possibility, but is that not what the customers already expect from the game? When were people last time content with what they got in the box? People expect patches, new content (regardless if DLC or expansion) since i started gaming back when AoE2 came out. I would say games were services for a long time now, companies are just catching up to it now.

    Reader
    Sally Bowls

    Except don’t most companies see their software as a service these days? You increasingly don’t buy Word or Excel or Photoshop, you sign up for a subscription. I think games and other software will start to follow the SoS (software as service) trend for many of the same reasons Microsoft and Adobe do.

    Reader
    Sorenthaz

    The problem though is that the cost of AAA game production continues to rise at stupidly high rates and it’s obviously come to the point where $60 isn’t just enough, and we are now regularly seeing games actually ask for upward of $100-$150 when DLC and the like is included. Lockboxes are pretty obviously targeted at the whales/gamblers out there and are even invading singleplayer games to help make ends meet and make more of a profit.

    Honestly I hope that it hits a point where this system just straight-up collapses on the big AAA developers, and that will probably happen sooner or later at this rate. It already happened to some degree as we saw several companies between like 2010-2013? either go bankrupt or be bought out by bigger name publishers. And of course there are companies still treading the wire like Funcom. But until the bigger developers, Activision, EA, etc. get a reality check, things are only going to get worse in terms of the garbage they do to milk more money out of people.

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    Bhima Jenkins

    The problem Sorenthaz, is that many of us are the problem (myself included), and we have helped the gaming industry be a huge cash cow by accepting their scummy monetization tactics. The system cannot collapse if the industry is seeing record breaking revenue year over year.

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    Armsbend

    Is it continuing to rise though? That seem more like 2010 news. I haven’t heard of any development house, outside of Rockstar, that continually ups the ante concerning development costs. On new IPs – somewhat but then the sequels using the same code at a fraction of the cost pay them off quick.

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    Ashfyn Ninegold

    In other news . . . Grim Dawn is terrific. New Necromancer and Inquisitor are a blast. Synergies with existing classes is wonderful.

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    Utakata

    I can for see a day when raid and dungeon loot are locked behind RMT walls and gear upgrades can only happen via cash shops…

    “You mean the sky is falling, Uta?”

    …no the sky will not be falling for the industry, as their RMT shenanigans will entirely be normalized and accepted. And the industry will more than likely make a tidy profit on it. Gaining significant rewards though gameplay however, might become a thing of the past someday. /sigh

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    Jack Kerras

    Yeah, folks have tried that, and it doesn’t really work.

    It’s essential for gameplay to be between you and The Best Stuff in F2P games, or else you get legit P2W situations wherein people see your game, bitch about it endlessly, it’s justified by investigation, and the playerbase suffers like mad.

    In the West, anyway. Elsewhere, no one seems to give a shit about P2W, with folks in Russia and China and thereabouts flocking to it like so many seagulls around a dropped bag of fries.

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    Schmidt.Capela

    If you consider microtransactions allowing players to run more dungeons and raids for loot per day/week, something similar already happens. I believe DCUO started doing it in 2012, for example, and I wouldn’t be surprised if microtransactions items allowing players to remove the raid/dungeon lock were even older.

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    Utakata

    …because this is starting to happen now is the reason why I posted my dire prediction. #waveofthefuture :(

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    Sorenthaz

    SWTOR also blocks you from being able to do raids and then you can only do a set number of dungeons/battlegrounds on a weekly basis if your’e not subscribing or buying ‘passes’.

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    Bhima Jenkins

    Do subscribers get infinite dungeon runs? If so, that doesn’t really bother me as you need to encourage F2P players to spend SOME money at some point. Of course, if subs only get a few more runs, and then they have to pay to run another dungeon, that would be scummy. I’m sure its coming if it isn’t already there.

    miol
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    miol

    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.

    Negan Approves.jpg
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    Darthbawl

    BAM BAM BAM, Jim Sterling already has a video up on this. That man is on the ball!

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    kanbe

    And this is why I could never run a big business, I have morals that don’t revolve around more money.

    Cyclone Jack
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    Cyclone Jack

    Bah, this is nothing. I’m waiting for when games put people with microtransactions at the top of the matchmaking queue, while those without are constantly bumped to the bottom of the queue.

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    Armsbend

    You sir need a patent.

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    Schmidt.Capela

    Some F2P games do something similar already, though for login queues. Subscribers and players that have paid microtransactions in the past get put at the top of the queue.

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    kgptzac

    Well that’s obviously not insidious enough for the theme here.

    Togashi Kokujin
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    Togashi Kokujin

    Once again I am in awe of the prophetic talents of the guys from Penny Arcade. Here goes:
    comment image
    https://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2005/04/25

    Note how this is from 2005.

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    silverlock

    Hey maybe they are patenting this to keep others from doing it…

    Yeah I don’t think so ether.

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    David Goodman

    Close: Patenting it so they can sue / license other companies if they want to do it.

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    Stropp

    Or, use it as a defensive patent if they get sued by someone else.

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    Rhime

    Stay the hell out of cash shops and we wouldn’t have this crap…monthly subs ftw!

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    Arktouros

    Subscription model doesn’t work.

    Lots of games in the late 2000’s came out with subscriptions. They were bad games so we voted with our wallets and quit the games. A company investing millions of dollars into their product isn’t going to accept, “Welp I guess we did bad, oh well, that’s on us, better luck next time I guess.” They’re going to switch to other financial models that lets them continue to do business. Those models in turn become the norm for future games.

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    Ket Viliano

    It’s called price discrimination. There were volumes written on it like a century ago.

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    Yuri Geinish

    1. They aren’t really micro anymore, when you can spend a $100 to buy gems in GW2 for example. So just call them in-game payments.

    2. Spending money in games is the user’s decision. There are mentally ill people with gambling problems and that’s it, it has nothing to do with healthy ones. They just don’t spend money that way if they got brains.

    3. Don’t confuse payments in general with paying to win specifically. Payments are fine, they’re just an instrument and it comes down to what you’re allowed to do with it. The only real point of discussion here is pay2win and we already know it’s bad.

    There’s also the point of ethics doing and imploying such methods as described in the article, but since the real problem here is pay2win the whole thing is irrelevant.

    You wouldn’t care if this thing wasn’t affecting gameplay, would you? Say, some game makes crappy clothing for freely using players and you only get good visual models for money. Oh, wait …

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    Ashfyn Ninegold

    All your points are valid. But you are only looking at how the player reacts to something he had already identified as bad, neutral or of no interest. The very bad point of this type of manipulation is that the game then becomes designed around additional payments.

    Examples? Shadows of War, the new single player co-op game from WB on the LOTR IP. Another, Battlefront 2. Each of these games has massive grinds to achieve end game or be competitive. Each of these games sells the solution to massive grind in loot boxes. So you buy a game that is designed to withhold a significant or important part of the game unless you spend either an inordinate about of time or more cash.

    It’s like a gateway drug for developers. It’s easy to see how, with this software, a game could be designed entirely around MT rating. Each piece of equipment you buy is given a rating. You need to have a certain MT rating to ever see certain parts of the game or you are given a nearly automatic win scenario for having a certain rating. The corruption at the heart of this is the game is no longer truly competitive. The guy with the wallet wins until he comes up against guys with bigger wallets.

    It’s like Las Vegas on steroids. Literally. You spend cash, you get the big suite and the nice house comps, makes you feel like a winner. But you aren’t really. You’re just a mark.

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    Yuri Geinish

    > It’s easy to see how, with this software, a game could be designed entirely around MT rating.

    Oh. You mean something like, there are no obvious p2w items, but if I buy character skins I’ll get matchmaking with better skilled allies and/or lower skilled enemies? That has to be really well hidden, and it’d take just one whistleblower to put a company six feet under. Like most conspiracies, it’s too risky.

    I don’t know, if someone is stupid enough to do that, they deserve to lose all customers.

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    Knox Harrington

    What this article fails to mention is that Activision just updated their slogan:

    1xthdo.jpg
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    Alex Js.

    This is actually pretty smart… but also pretty sad that we reached the level where game developers don’t really care much about making the gameplay more realistic/immersive/original and instead spend more time on trying to squeeze the last few $0.01’s out of people with all these thinly veiled “p2w” attempts.

    Oh, and their comment about “it has not been implemented in any games” – it definitely will be, it’s Activision so they will do everything to quickly make such gameplay and matchmaking adjustments for all future CoD (and other) games. Then the other ‘murican companies (EA, Bethesda and such) will quickly follow with their own versions of such adjustments.

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    Yuri Geinish

    > game developers don’t really care much about making the gameplay more realistic/immersive/original and instead spend more time on trying to squeeze the last few $0.01’s out of people with all these thinly veiled “p2w” attempts.

    Correction. Business people want profit because many reasons. Actual working people like engineers, artists want to do the good thing.

    So, just screw big companies and stop feeding them money, support people’s projects like with Kickstarter. And I don’t mean Star Citizen. Har har.

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    Arktouros

    I think extortion isn’t quite on the mark. This is really more of a “Subliminal Messaging” technique since there’s basically no overt ways the game is making you purchase items. It’s more using it’s matchmaking system to encourage purchases through techniques. Like pairing you up with similar players who perform better then possibly try to emulate them and purchase their items and putting you into games where the items you have purchased would have a bigger impact so you’d feel good about said purchases and possibly purchase more. These are all rather subtle rather than flat out saying “You must purchase X$ worth of stuff before progressing in rank.” which would be more in lines with extortion.

    As a coder myself I am not surprised by these kinds of systems. Monitoring your user data is immensely helpful because users, in general, lie. This is why lockboxes remain and flourish in games because as much as people rage, whine, bitch and complain at the end of the day they’re still swiping that credit card and buying those boxes. Once you have years of man hours worth of data on people it’s pretty easy to adjust your system to encourage the kinds of behavior you want and if you don’t file patents for it there’s little way anyone would honestly ever know.

    Companies, let alone game companies, aren’t your friends. Their literal job is to separate your money from you. That’s it. Believing they’re trying to do anything else is just naive.

    rahkeesh
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    rahkeesh

    Its near always a high-spending minority of players purchasing lockboxes, that’s why “everyone” always complains about them, while the practice is sustained by the lucrative few.

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    Arktouros

    The reason why “everyone” complains about them is because they aren’t what they want to do. Simply put no one says “Yaaay a lockbox.”

    However what people “want” to do and what they’re “willing” to do are two entirely different things. Games aren’t as wholly reliant on whales as you’d think.

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    kgptzac

    I kinda feel the same too. I read the patent description and it doesn’t sound like applicable to the online multiplayer games I play. First I think it’s silly to queue for a random map in pve when enemy spawns and everything else requires I prepare my build specifically for that map. Yet being put in the same team as another player who bought “relevant” cash shop item to the map can be a very in-the-face kind of advertisement, and I’m foretelling backfiring for games that do this.

    Togashi Kokujin
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    Togashi Kokujin

    Well put. And I agree that it isn’t really “extortion” – a more fitting term (that is also used in economic circles) would be “nudging”. The guy who did a lot of research on “Nudging” (Richard Thaler) also just received a Nobel Prize in economics, so expect more of this “gentle coercion, thinly veiled” in the future.

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    Arktouros

    I’m pretty sure all these kinds of systems are just based on data. Like showing players were X% more likely to make a purchase on equipment when paired with a better skilled player using similar gear in a recent match.

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    agemyth 😩

    Attached image mostly unrelated to this except that it is a silly gross patent thing by a video game company. MCDONALD’S!

    We already have games like Neverwinter that make server wide announcements when someone gets something special in a lockbox. This Activision patent is another level of manipulative, but not surprising in the least. FWIW this may never materialize in a commercial product like Destiny or Call of Duty. The Sony patent in the attached image never, to my knowledge, made it into anything.

    US08246454-20120821-D00009.png
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    A Dad Supreme

    I wonder if you said “Burger King rules”… would your game crash?

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    Armsbend

    I the guy screaming “MCDONALD’S!” happy about it or angry?

    The last frame looks like the “This Is Fine.” meme :P

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    BalsBigBrother

    I am imagining a Kirk like KHAAAAAAAAN! scream personally, only MCDONAAAAAAALD’S! :-)

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    Melissa McDonald

    that’s what every kid under 10 says when you suggest Wendy’s instead.

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    Schmidt.Capela

    One of the best things about having a second screen handy is that I can keep busy with something else while commercials play out unwatched.

    ceder
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    ceder

    Use or not use, the mindset by Activision to even “explore” this is telling.

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    Ashfyn Ninegold

    . . . if they don’t, someone else will.

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    A Dad Supreme

    Master Yoda? You’re still alive?!?!?

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    A Dad Supreme

    “Once you buy something,…”
    ==========
    Stop right here. Problem solved!

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    Minimalistway
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    Minimalistway

    Maybe you are joking, but i think/read about the Amish, i admire how they deal with tech.

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    Melissa McDonald

    Actually it’s a joke. They can have cell phones, but not credit card machines. Really?

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    A Dad Supreme

    Of course it’s a joke, lol. Welcome to humor… enjoy your stay!

    Minimalistway
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    Minimalistway

    This is the web, people say all the things, it’s really hard to know when people are joking :-)

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    Melissa McDonald

    if the algorithm matches you with people with better gear, to coerce/entice you to buy better gear, that’d be one thing. If it match-makes based on gear, well, that’s not a bad idea at all, theoretically.

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    agemyth 😩

    “For example, in one implementation, the system may include a microtransaction engine that arranges matches to influence game-related purchases,” according to the patent. “For instance, the microtransaction engine 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.”

    The Rolling Stone article got that hot quote from the patent. Activision covers all their bases of potential ways to exploit this.

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    Ket Viliano

    :s/player/payer

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    Bhagpuss Bhagpuss

    If you’d bought a weapon, wouldn’t you want to be placed in matches where it would be most effective? If you had an ambition to become a great sniper, wouldn’t you want to be placed in matches with great snipers you could learn from?

    Whether that’s unbiased matchmaking is another issue.

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    Armsbend

    I am quickly becoming disenfranchised with the entire industry and the hobby itself. The fun and artistic side of the equation is whittled down every week I open up MOP and read the upcoming news.

    I have enough solid single player games to possibly last me a lifetime – I think I’ll start gravitating towards those and stay there until the industry – as it has become – is destroyed.

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    Veldan

    I haven’t played an MMO in nearly 2 years now. In that time, I stayed away from online PC gaming entirely, and I don’t regret it. What I used to love about it is gone. Maybe I’ll get sucked in again if something decent releases in upcoming years (I’m still holding out some hope for crowdfunded titles), maybe not. But things will never be as they were.

    Edit: not entirely true, I did play Path of Exile for a while. However, while Path does many things right, ARPGs just aren’t for me, and I can’t see myself ever play one again.

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    Utakata

    This is one of those comments I would love to disagree with, but I know I can’t. :(

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    Hirku

    I sympathize and generally agree that the AAA gaming industry is shit, but strongly disagree with the notion that the whole industry is worthless and needs to be destroyed. If you aren’t obsessed with bleeding-edge graphics and have an open-mind plus a little patience, there is still plenty of quality stuff out there. Either way, have fun.

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    Armsbend

    I don’t disagree, but 10 years ago I couldn’t keep up with all the games you just described. Now a small hand full come out a year and even then you almost have to do research to find a game truly worth playing. My opinion obviously.

    borghive
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    borghive

    I’m thinking of giving up the hobby entirely. I always wanted to learn to play guitar, maybe this is a sign. :)

    Cadaver
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    Cadaver

    Do it! There are some great free resources out there for beginner guitarists. Checkout Justin Sandercoe’s and Andy Crowley’s channels. A decent, beginner-level instrument can be bought for much less than the cost of your next GPU update.

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    Armsbend

    People leaving is the only thing that is going to right this ship.

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    Armsbend

    I know when I make a post like this – and one of the continually upbeat editors Bree votes it up – then things are truly going from bad to worse. Depressing.

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    squidgod2000

    Thought I read elsewhere that they applied for it a couple years ago and it was approved last week.

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    Darthbawl

    This is the stuff that keeps Jim Sterling going. He is going to be all over this. :P

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    Mark

    Shh, I think I hear “Sterdust’s” theme music :)

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    silverlock

    I’m worried that this one might actually kill him.

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    Darthbawl

    Let us all bow our heads down and hope not! :P

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    David Goodman

    I don’t read that the hypothetical software tricks you.

    The quotes used in the article you linked were along these lines:

    “If you buy a Shotgun, then you are more likely to be placed in maps that favor the shotgun”, which they hope would lead you to buy more… shotgunnier shotguns? Stickers for your shotgun that says you shoped Smart at S(hotgun)-Mart?

    I don’t know where I was going with that. But I don’t consider it a trick. Here’s what it boils down to:

    1. if you are not the kind of person who pays for microtransactions, this won’t force, coerce, or “trick” you into doing so.

    2. If you ARE the kind of person who buys microtransactions, your experience will be a little bit better than someone who doesn’t (e.g., map favoring shotguns). However, fun is not a zero-sum game and the fact that one person is having a positive experience does not mean that another person has a negative experience (e.g., a normal non-paying customer would still have the same experience they always had.)

    Where this gets tricky of course is in games where you are buying power, and … that’s remaining unchanged. The paying players ALWAYS make the non-paying players feel like sheep in those kinds of games and this system has no effect on that kind of toxic bullcrap.

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    Schmidt.Capela

    “If you buy a Shotgun, then you are more likely to be placed in maps that favor the shotgun”, which they hope would lead you to buy more… shotgunnier shotguns? Stickers for your shotgun that says you shoped Smart at S(hotgun)-Mart?

    Actually, the idea is that you always pair in the map that favors store-bought shotguns players that have purchased it with players that haven’t, so those players being mowed with the cash-store-exclusive shotgun will reach their wallets and purchase their own shotguns. It’s a way to make pay-to-win more effective and weaponize it to also become advertisement. Quite smart, though in a purely evil way.

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    Armsbend

    It could also indicate to the buyer –

    “Well I bought this shotgun and now I’m ripping through things – once this shotgun becomes less shotgunney – I am going to buy the next thing so I can rip there too. Because this really worked out for me.

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    David Goodman

    @Schmidt – I see what you’re going for there, and that’s definitely a risk — there’s certainly no low too low for publishes and developers to slink to in the pursuit of money. Not for EA in particular.

    However, I read it as they were going for more – shudder – positive reinforcement. Rather than pit you AGAINST a cash-shop shotgun, if they have tracked that you like shotguns, they will pair you WITH someone using them so you can see how awesome they are in a way that isn’t negative to your play experience (except when you try to compare your kill ratios, no doubt.)

    Still evil though.

    @Armsbend – Yeah, that’s what the whales always did, as long as they were given the ability to buy power over us plebs. :/

    Overall, it’s like EA is desperately trying to find a way to target and put what they think are ‘relevant’ purchases in front of people in a way that won’t make gamers hate them. Which is a fool’s endeavor because it’s EA – they’re inherently hate-able. I doubt the system will get “new” buyers out of people who weren’t payers in the first place, because if the system is obvious enough, it’s just going to be insulting to the non-payers (and irrelevant to the whales).

    I don’t know where i’m going with this – i’m trying to type out responses between calls at work so my thought process is wonky :)

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    Schmidt.Capela

    The patent was filled by Activision, not EA. You know, Blizzard’s parent company.

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    Ashfyn Ninegold

    I love the smell of e-sports tie-in in the morning.

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    David Goodman

    Now if the program hid transactions behind buttons that weren’t clearly labeled, “click here to view your profile” and it purchases $10,000 worth of Candy Crush currency, that would be a trick :) But also already illegal.

    Bear in mind that i’m not defending the practice, nor do I support it, and I shouldn’t have to say these words so that people do not attack me but i’ve been on the internet a couple times before (and on this site) and I understand that this disclaimer is the price of trying to have a conversation on a topic.

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    Schmidt.Capela

    If they had no intention to ever see it used they wouldn’t have filled a patent. A patent existing means they had someone being paid to come up with this idea and turn it into a viable patent, and companies don’t spend money unless they think it will bring more money.

    The big issue here, for me at least, is the crossing into pay-to-win territory, though. When you restrict it to just cosmetic items, it’s merely what ad agencies have been doing since before video games were even a dream: choosing what they show potential customers according to what they think those customers would be more inclined to spend money on.

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    Sally Bowls

    If they had no intention to ever see it used they wouldn’t have filled a patent.

    In my experience, this is wrong.

    1) Companies frequently like to have large patent reservoirs so that other companies are incented to cross-license with them.This is a positive motivation, the following less so.

    2) extortion – say Facebook has some new multibillion dollar way of selling your privacy in games. Anything vaguely related is a way to try to get some of that.

    3) every patent you have is one more thing competitors have to worry about and one more thing you can sue upstarts over.

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    Stropp

    Not necessarily. Companies sometimes just patent ideas that they have and never implement them.

    Having said that, I fully expect something like this to be added eventually. As players adapt to the more egregious schemes to separate them from their money, the shadier publishers will move more and more to these kinds of scams.

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    Hirku

    I guess I’d be quaking in my virtual boots if not for the fact that I have a functional brain and a reasonable amount of personal responsibility and self-control. I’ve managed to not have my poor self victimized for decades of gaming and I don’t expect that to change. If I don’t want what a company is selling, I don’t buy it. If they get obnoxious with their sales pitch then I split. Period.

    Bree Royce
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    Bree Royce

    I think a clear head and strict budget can get you pretty far, definitely. But I would never say I’m immune to these kinds of sales manipulations; nobody is. The best way to fight them is to know that they exist so that you can keep looking out for them!

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    Eliandal

    It’s shocking (both that this is considered ‘news’, and that people will fall for it – instant gratification and all that) Much the same – if I want something a company is selling, I buy it. If not – well…no skin off my back :)!

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    Schmidt.Capela

    If they use this together with lockboxes it would be a quite effective way of driving me away.

    One of the things that makes me leave a game is when something I truly desire only comes from lockboxes. This patent is basically a system to make players aware of all items they might desire, which kinda guarantees I will be made aware of any lockbox-exclusive ones.

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    Hirku

    Along with my other advantages mentioned above, I haven’t had that problem thanks to my character’s good fashion sense. Every outfit I’ve ever seen offered in a lockbox has been a gaudy monstrosity that he would never be caught dead wearing.

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    Schmidt.Capela

    Bling fashion, I suppose. Things people wear just to scream, “I have more money than you”.

    OneEyeRed
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    OneEyeRed

    Its official now, the decline of gaming into a virtual Vegas casino format. Welcome to the new age of stupid….

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    Bruno Brito

    Uh…is the cosmetic gaming too much for you? Because it’s really not implemented.

    OneEyeRed
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    OneEyeRed

    Really? Do you know what it costs to file a patent and design software like this? They didn’t do this to put it on a back burner. It won’t be cosmetics either nor will it affect me personally because I am not a “sheepil”. However, it would seem pointless to debate with you considering your comment.

    wpDiscuz