In the midst of the Loot Crate Wars of 2017, we all found a patent from Activision (which the company claims has not been used) designed to alter matchmaking. It would force unskilled players into competition with veterans or players that have made in-game purchases. Now a paper from EA, already the subject of scrutiny due to Star Wars: Battlefront II’s infamous crate systems, has been found in the ACM Digital Library that suggests EA is already using similar practices.
What EA claims in its research paper is that using “automatic granular difficulty adjustment,” EA has been able to increase engagement, therefore microtransaction purchases, by at least 9%. This means that based on a player’s performance, EA has technology that will adjust the difficulty of a game to encourage players to spend money on in-game purchases. The paper also suggests the opposite for struggling players, potentially lowering difficulty for players having a hard time getting off the ground, so to speak.
Another paper found on the same service is research on matchmaking, resulting in a proposal for “Engagement Optimized Matchmaking.” This research suggests that matchmaking based on skill is not ideal, and that purposefully putting a player in unfair or less challenging matches based on algorithmic calculations. This would, in theory, cause a player to remain engaged due to a surprise win, a broken streak or perhaps a draw following a series of wins or losses. This research also supports looking into different metrics, such as purchasing.