EA Patent Encourages Microtransactions By Devaluing Items Unless Bought Quickly

Electronic Arts (EA) has a dear love for microtransactions, for which the publishing giant has been filing patents for several years now.

You probably remember the noise from when EA patented a technology that fiddles with matchmaking. Such a system can observe player-behavior (skill, experience, sportsmanship, and other preferences) before pitting them against each other. While seemingly calm on the surface, the patent raised concerns because how the same system can also tailor itself to push player-spending.

By matching a novice against an experienced player, the system would basically be encouraging the novice to emulate the decked-out player by purchasing items being used by them. Hence, driving microtransactions home through enticement and a false perception of superiority.

EA, though, didn’t just stop there. It picked up another patent (US9666026B1) last year that can push microtransactions even further in predatory fashion.

This particular system is designed to create a sense of urgency in players to make in-game purchases as soon as possible. The reason being that the virtual items will decrease in value over time based on the number of purchases made. Hence, if players want to reap maximum benefits, they will want to be the first ones to make the purchase — a kind of day-one microtransactions.

Offers may be provided within the game instance of the game space that decrease in value based on previous acceptances of the offers. The offers may include a first offer having a first value that progressively decreases based on an amount of users that have previously accepted the first offer in order to incentivize early acceptance of the first offer.

Interestingly, EA wasn’t the original filer of the patent. That was actually Kabam, a mobile publisher which later split into Aftershock Services before being acquired by FoxNext Games in 2017. EA apparently swooped in a year later to purchase rights to the patent and remains as its current assignee.

It doesn’t seem like EA has activated any of these patents in its currently available multiplayer games. This was already established for the one dealing with matchmaking algorithms and it’s just too soon for the one playing around loot boxes. However, those patents have been filed or picked up for a reason. They will eventually be integrated down the line, evolving microtransactions to new heights (or depths) for an already disgruntled player-base.

EA has been tiptoeing around microtransactions since the great Star Wars: Battlefront 2 debacle. The common ground between in-game spending and gambling has also started to see parents become concerned about their children. Even government officials are becoming involved.

Unfortunately, like other publishers that have earned billions through microtransactions, EA won’t be waving the white flag anytime soon. You can bet that there are going to be more patent-filings in the future and more microtransactions driven games.

Update:
EA has provided a statement to confirm that the particular patent regarding the devaluation of virtual items is not being used in any of its current games. In addition, the patent was obtained through an asset acquisition, not directly.

The patent is not part of any current EA games or technology, and we are not planning to include in any our games. The patent was originally filed years ago without any of our involvement, and came to EA through a previous asset acquisition.