A new Sony patent filing begins by pointing out that the amount of DLC, both within individual games and across all titles, has ballooned over the past generation. This is a problem that (likely to the chagrin of microtransaction detractors) Sony's seeking to solve by using community data and machine learning to surface DLC to players who are stuck on challenging parts of games.
This "in-game resource surfacing platform" patent, filed through the World Intellectual Property Organization, asserts that there is "a need and a benefit" for players, developers, and storefronts in developing such a system. The descriptions and drawings in the filing describe a system where, instead of searching the internet for a solution or asking for help, a player might simply use a voice assistant feature to ask how to get past a boss or certain section. Then, based in part on data collected from other players, the system would suggest helpful "resources," accompanied by statistics that say how effective they were for others.
One figure included in the filing, which happens to pull a familiar scene from 2018's God of War, presents one way the system could work: a pop-up would appear in response to a players' question, listing the resource and an estimate of how effective it was once selected.
Sony's patent allows that not all of these contextual recommendations would be for microtransactions, but specifically lays out potential integrations with online storefronts and posits that selecting one of these recommendations would "result in immediate access and use of the resource" to reduce the time between a player's query and their advancement to the next part of the game.
As always, not every patent filing turns into a real product, but if regulators and industry standard-bearers continue to move away from loot boxes and other forms of microtransactions that are widely seen as predatory, it's likely that various new ways of surfacing digital purchases to players will be experimented with.
Sony's patent filing asserts that "the methodology players use to find suitable or effective items for making progress within a game has not kept pace" with the influx of microtransaction content—while it may be true that DLC discoverability is a problem, any new system that seeks to advertise microtransactions will undoubtedly receive some vocal pushback, even if it proves to be a moneymaker nonetheless.