Last year, Activision caught flack when it was revealed that the company had filed a patent that uses matchmaking to encourage players to push microtransactions. But it seems that Activision is not the only company researching new ways to increase microtransaction revenue, as new reports of a similar EA patent have caused concern.
In September 2017, Electronic Arts were granted a new patent for a Multiplayer Video Game Matchmaking Optimization algorithm. The algorithm is called Engagement Optimized Matchmaking (EOMM) and aims to use matchmaking in order to keep players engaged in a game for longer. Playstyle, sportsmanship, skills, and a willingness to spend money are just some of the factors that this algorithm takes into account.
Although the patent filing discusses engagement, many fans have raised eyebrows at this, saying that it is a way for EA to push players towards microtransactions. After all, a willingness to spend money has no bearing on a person’s engagement in a game or how much time they may spend in it, with many free-to-play titles logging player bases in the millions.
A research paper put together by EA and researchers from Northeastern University and the University of California, Los Angeles also suggests that EOMM could be used for microtransactions. One section explains that “we can even change the objective function to other core game metrics of interest, such as play time, retention, or spending.” Essentially, EA could use EOMM to increase microtransaction spending if it wanted.
For many players, this is incredibly concerning. EA recently came under fire for microtransactions in Star Wars Battlefront 2 and the company was forced to temporarily remove them from the game due to the backlash. Many have accused the company of trying to exploit players, their time, and their interest in using this business model.
There is also concern that EA will use the EOMM algorithm in upcoming games such as BioWare’s sci-fi RPG Anthem. BioWare is still discussing how microtransactions will work in Anthem and how (or if) the game will include loot boxes. Industry analysts have also warned that EA may further damage to its reputation by including controversial business models in the game.
But with EOMM offering huge potential financial gains, will EA be able to avoid temptation? That’s unclear for now, but players of EA games will certainly be watching the situation very closely from here on out.