Sony's new PlayStation patent could arm publishers with their most powerful microtransaction tool to date.
Sony has filed a patent with the World Intellectual Property Organization for an “in-game resource surfacing platform” that could one day haunt PlayStation owners.
Using machine learning, the platform offers contextually relevant advice and solutions, including microtransactions, to players stuck on a particular objective or part of a game.
The patent filing, published on Jan. 30, reveals a system that will mine and identify player-specific gameplay and “successful attempts of completing the objective by other players and the resources used in doing so.” It will then offer real-time resources – or solutions – for immediate use.
In other words, PlayStation owners would ask their console for help, and the AI would serve up an array of potential solutions.
These suggestions would also pool data from online communities and guides — items and upgrade suggestions, tips, and strategies.
More worryingly, the system would link to relevant DLC, add-ons, and microtransactions available via digital storefronts.
Sony cites a desire to help players find relevant resources:
While both the range of in-game items as well as the number of game titles has steadily increased over the years, the methodology players use to find suitable or effective items for making progress within a game has not kept pace…there is currently a disconnect between players and the resources available to them within a game, and more particularly those resources most suitable for the individual player’s circumstances, character, and playstyle.
On the surface, it sounds like a novel way to remove trawling the internet or asking a friend for advice on besting a particularly tricky passage out of the equation.
Purists will argue that toiling away and finding a solution is part of the appeal of games. But Sony makes a valid point when it says that player frustration with repeated failure can lead to them abandoning the game altogether.
In the context of games free of microtransactions, the platform could transform the way we approach in-game challenges and dead ends. We’d have an ever-present guardian angel ready to help out as required.
Nestled among Sony’s justifications for the system is a far more concerning objective.
From the patent filing:
There is, moreover, a need and benefit for game publishers and virtual store platforms to be able to identify specific in-game resources that would complement the player in their game play and communicate the same to them.
Should Sony introduce the platform, it would effectively enable publishers to pursue more predatory microtransactions.
Player-specific data could usher in an age of personally targeted microtransactions much in the same way that online marketing has become increasingly aimed at the individual based on browsing habits.
It would also grant access to a broader pool of gamers. Younger players and those unaccustomed to monetization practices would be particularly vulnerable, tempted by the lure of quick progression.
Stories of younger players spending substantial amounts of money on in-game currencies, items, and cosmetics (and blaming hackers) are a dime a dozen already. Sony’s platform would make these even more readily available and encourage spending.
It’s worth noting that patents don’t necessarily come to fruition; Sony may merely be toying with the idea. Furthermore, we don’t know how aggressively PlayStation and publishers would push the monetary solutions under the platform.
Yet the contents of the patent are distinctly at odds with PlayStation’s famous “For The Players” motto. Veiling microtransactions under the guise of helping gamers is pretty cynical stuff.
Sony’s “in-game resource surfacing platform” reeks of a whole other kind of evil. It would make PlayStation complicit in helping publishers intrusively pummel players with evermore microtransactions.
Many of us were under the impression that the tide was turning when it comes to loot boxes and microtransactions.
The Star Wars: Battlefront II controversy was starting to feel like history. A bullet dodged thanks to player upheaval.
Sony may be on the cusp of arming publishers with their most powerful microtransaction tool to date.