|Publication number||WO2007124599 A1|
|Publication date||8 Nov 2007|
|Filing date||1 May 2007|
|Priority date||1 May 2006|
|Also published as||CA2681876A1, CN101479756A, US20090291748|
|Publication number||PCT/2007/748, PCT/CA/2007/000748, PCT/CA/2007/00748, PCT/CA/7/000748, PCT/CA/7/00748, PCT/CA2007/000748, PCT/CA2007/00748, PCT/CA2007000748, PCT/CA200700748, PCT/CA7/000748, PCT/CA7/00748, PCT/CA7000748, PCT/CA700748, WO 2007/124599 A1, WO 2007124599 A1, WO 2007124599A1, WO-A1-2007124599, WO2007/124599A1, WO2007124599 A1, WO2007124599A1|
|Inventors||Aaron Tavis Caswell, Marc Williams, Jonathan Tobias Spangler|
|Applicant||725105 Bc Ltd.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (6), Non-Patent Citations (3), Referenced by (1), Classifications (13), Legal Events (7)|
|External Links: Patentscope, Espacenet|
Economy Games Having Purchasable and Obtainable Game Pieces
Reference to Related Application
10001] This application claims Paris Convention priority from United States patent application No. 60/795,869 filed on 1 May, 2006. For purposes of the United States of America, this application claims the benefit under 35 U.S. C. §119 of United States application No. 60/795,869 filed on 1 May, 2006.
Technical Field  The invention relates to online games. In particular, some aspects of the invention provide systems for managing pieces with which players may play online games.
Background  Video games have experienced rapid growth in popularity in the past few decades, and the gaming industry has experienced corresponding economic growth. This has fueled development of a wide variety of improvements in gaming technology, and in computer software and hardware generally.
 Skilled video game players can sometimes earn a living through their game skills and knowledge, but professional video game players are still relatively rare in most countries. In addition to sponsorship money and tournament prizes, a number of prior art games provide additional avenues for gamers to potentially be financially rewarded for their skill.
 One example is a game called "Project Entropia", in which players may convert real-world money into a game-specific currency. Each player controls a character which may perform a variety of tasks in a game world to increase the player's game currency, which may be exchanged for real-world money.
 Another example of a prior art method by which games can earn money is the sale of characters for role playing games (e.g., Sony's Everquest 2™), and/or items which players have acquired using their characters. For example, a player may increase the level, power, experience, etc. of their character in a game world through skilled and/or determined play, and then sell the character to another player who does not wish to invest the time or effort required to build up their own character. Such character/item sales are typically provided though a sales system which is ancillary to the game itself.  The inventors have recognized various needs that are currently not satisfied including needs for systems and methods which permit skilled video game players to generate revenue based on their skill.
10008] The following embodiments and aspects thereof are described and illustrated in conjunction with systems, tools and methods which are meant to be exemplary and illustrative, not limiting in scope. In various embodiments, one or more of the above-described problems have been reduced or eliminated, while other embodiments are directed to other improvements.
 One aspect of the invention provides game piece management system comprising a piece sales system for allowing players to purchase pieces operable for playing at least one game, an account management system for maintaining player accounts, each player account identifying pieces owned by a player, and, a game interface for providing the player with access to a game session of an online game, the game interface allowing the player to select at least one piece from the player's account for use as an active piece in the game session. The player's active piece interacts with another player's active piece in the game session under control of the player, such that if the player's active piece neutralizes the other player's active piece, the other player's neutralized active piece becomes available to be obtained by the player.
 Further aspects of the invention and features of specific embodiments of the invention are described below.
Brief Description of Drawings
 In drawings which illustrate non-limiting embodiments of the invention:
Figure 1 shows an example game piece management system according to one embodiment of the invention; Figure 2 shows an example game piece management system coupled to example games according to another embodiment of the invention;
Figure 3A schematically illustrates an example game world;
Figure 3 B schematically illustrates example pieces for use in the game world of Figure 3A; Figures 3C and 3D schematically depict accounts of two example player accounts according to one embodiment of the invention;
Figures 3E-J illustrate example engagements between the two example players' pieces; Figure 4shows an example Storm system according to one embodiment of the invention;
Figure 5 shows an example API according to one embodiment of the invention;
Figure 6 schematically illustrates some example actions made available to a 5 player;
Figure 7 schematically illustrates some example actions made available to a game provider; and,
Figure 8 schematically illustrates some example functions made available to a game session and a game. I O
 Throughout the following description specific details are set forth in order to provide a more thorough understanding to persons skilled in the art. However, well known elements may not have been shown or described in detail to avoid unnecessarily 1 5 obscuring the disclosure. Accordingly, the description and drawings are to be regarded in an illustrative, rather than a restrictive, sense.
 Some embodiments of the invention provide systems and methods for implementing a new class of competitive electronic game, which may sometimes be 0 referred to herein as an economy game. Any genre of video game could potentially be provided with the functionality to operate as an economy game through the use of systems and method according to various embodiments of the invention. Also, the new competitive and economic dynamics made possible through embodiments of the invention may encourage development of new genres of video games. 5
 In a typical economy game, the game environment and the game entities that interact in that environment are provided separately. The game environment may be offered by a game administrator for free, or at some cost specified by the game administrator. In most instances, a player must initially purchase a game entity in order O to play with it in the provided game environment. In some situations game entities may be made available to players free of charge for promotional or other purposes, but the game entities themselves will still typically be considered to have a cash-in value. The number and type of game entities purchased will depend on the player and the nature of the game. 5
 Hybrids utilizing this scheme are also possible in certain embodiments of the invention. Some embodiments may provide an economy game that allows some component of play without requiring that a player purchase pieces to play. To entice players not willing to invest in game pieces, reduced capacity pieces could be offered free. Purchased pieces would be more powerful, and it might be part of the game dynamic that many weak threats posed by the non-purchased pieces create interesting obstacles that add an extra dimension to the duel that exists among purchased pieces.
 Another feature of a typical economy game according to certain embodiments of the invention is that once a player's entity is neutralized in game play, that entity becomes available to be obtained by another player. The player owning the entity that neutralized the available entity may in some instances be able to immediately obtain the available entity. In other instances he player owning the entity that neutralized the available entity may have to wait for some specified time period or may have to perform some further action in order to obtain the available entity.
 Obtaining a game entity via game play affords advantages for the obtaining player in an economy game. One advantage is that the player may increase his or her own playing power (depending on the type of game) at no additional cost. Another advantage is that the obtaining player has the potential to generate revenue by selling the entity through a sale system provided according to certain embodiments of the invention. In some embodiments, revenue will concurrently be generated for the game provider each time a sale or "resale" transaction takes place in an economy game.
 This description discusses examples wherein various features of certain embodiments of the invention are illustrated. To avoid unnecessary repetition, the following definitions are sometimes used herein: • Player = human or software application interacting with any game environment or account.
Game World = the environment implemented in the game that provides the physics, structure, rules and/or settings for game dynamics. Generally, game dynamics involve competition and skill. A game world may be embodied by data representative of a game environment stored in memory accessible to a game server, game engine, game client or the like.
• Pieces = entities or the like which interact in a game world; generally, the competitive entities in the game world. A piece may be embodied by data representative of game entity characteristics stored in memory accessible to a game server, game engine, game client or the like.
• Game Play = the interaction of pieces within the game world under control of players, which give rise to the dynamics of the game. • Neutralized Piece = a piece that has been eliminated, defeated, captured, or removed in play. Conditions and mechanisms for neutralization may vary from game to game, as specified by the game developer or game administrator.
• Obtained Piece = a piece that is possessed by a player for usage in the game world, or for resale or exchange in the sales system.
• Unobtained Piece = a piece that has not yet been possessed by a player, and hence, is not yet released by the game administration, but may be available for purchase to become obtained.
• Player Engagement = whenever pieces belonging to two or more players interact with each other in the game world, those players are said to be engaged.
• Involved Player = any player currently playing a game. An involved player controls a set of pieces in the game world.
 Figure 1 shows a system 100 according to one embodiment of the invention. System 100 comprises a piece sales system 102, an account management system 104 and a game interface 106. Each player using system 100 has an account managed by account management system 104. A player purchases pieces for playing games using piece sales system 102, and information identifying the purchased pieces is provided to account management system 104 , as indicated by arrow 108, to be recorded in the payer's account.
 The player may selectively activate pieces in his or her account, which causes information identifying the activated pieces to be provided to game interface 106, as indicated by arrow 110. The active pieces may be used to engage other players' active pieces in a game world in accordance with rules specified by a game administrator, and the player has the opportunity to neutralize and obtain the other players' active pieces through skilled game play. Information identifying obtained pieces is provided to account management system 104, as indicated by arrow 112, so that the obtained pieces may be credited to the player's account. The player may select any pieces in his or her account which are not currently active to sell, which permits the pieces for sale to be exchanged for a fixed or fluctuating amount of cash, credit or equivalent though piece sales system 102. Such a sale or "cashing in" of a piece causes information identifying the piece for sale to be provided to piece sales system 102, as indicated by arrow 114.
 In some embodiments, cashing-in of a piece may be accomplished via a sale to another player. In such embodiments, funds/credits are transferred to the selling player's account once a buy request has been received for the piece being sold. In other embodiments, a player may directly cash-in pieces to the game administration or other designated piece purchaser. In such embodiments, funds are transferred to the selling player's account directly after the sale request has been received.
 Figure 2 shows an example game piece management system 200 providing access to two games according to another embodiment of the invention. Although two players εind two games are illustrated, it is to be understood that system 200 could provide any number of players with access to any number of different games.
 System 200 comprises a piece sales system 210 through which players may purchase pieces. Players may also sell their pieces through piece sales system 210. Piece sales system 210 may separately track unobtained pieces which have never been sold and obtained pieces which a player has offered for sale, and may implement a first-in- first-out (FIFO) queue for resales of obtained pieces. In some embodiments, the game administrator or other entity may purchase obtained pieces back from players through piece sales system 210, typically at a discount from the price at which such pieces are sold to other players.
 In the illustrated example, Players A and B have accounts 220A and 220B
(collectively, accounts 220) coupled to piece sales system 210 in which identifications of pieces 222A and 222B owned by the respective players are stored. Pieces 222 may comprise in-game or active pieces 224, pieces for sale 226 and other pieces 228 which are not currently allocated to any specific purpose.
 Each player may selectively activate pieces for use in a game referred to as Game X 240X, for example, by providing an indication of active pieces to a Game X interface 230X. Likewise, each player may selectively activate pieces for use in Game Y 240Y, for example, by providing an indication of active pieces to a Game Y interface 230Y. Game X and Y interfaces 230X and 230Y may each verify that certain minimum requirements are met by a player's activated pieces before those pieces are permitted to interact with other pieces in the game world of the associated Games X and Y. Any pieces obtained by players A and B during game play are credited to their respective accounts 220A and 220B by providing an indication of obtained pieces to accounts 220A and 220B.
 Players A and B may purchase and sell pieces in real time while playing Games X and Y in some embodiments. Also, depending on the types of games and pieces involved, in some situations pieces for different games having the same value may be exchanged for one another. This trading may create a meta game which heightens the gaming experience, validates gaming efforts, provides a new outlet for game play, and opens up possibilities for piece exchange markets akin to stock markets. This permits previously separate virtual economies to be tied together by piece exchange systems ciccording to certain embodiments of the invention. 5
 Operation of an example embodiment is described with reference to Figures 3A-J. Figure 3A illustrates an example game world, in which the example pieces shown in Figure 3B may interact. Figures 3C and 3D show example accounts of two players, Player A and Player B.
 Figure 3E shows an example engagement between a group of Player A's pieces and a group of Player B's pieces. Figure 3F shows an example outcome wherein Player A has unsuccessfully attempted to neutralize one of Player B's pieces. After the Figure 3F outcome, the player accounts remain unchanged. Figure 3G shows an example outcome
1 5 wherein Player A has successfully neutralized one of Player B's pieces. Figure 3H shows the example game world after Player A has obtained the neutralized piece. Figures 31 and 3 J respectively show the accounts of Players A and B after the outcome of Figures 3G and 3H.
0  Figure 4 shows an example system 400 according to another embodiment of the invention. System 400 may be referred to herein as a "Storm" system, and it to be understood to include various features which may not be required in all embodiments. System 400 may provide means for economy games to be played within a web browser in some embodiments. In certain embodiments, games are by default integrated with Storm 5 tools to allow them to be played directly in a web browser. For improved gaming experience in embodiments wherein real-time trading is not required, a game may also be enabled to play in a larger windowed mode, such as full-screen.
 In browser play is particularly appealing for casual gamers who do not want to go 3 O tlirough a lot of effort aside from trivial web surfing in order to play games. The ability to buy and sell pieces while in game may be enabled by in browser play implemented by utilizing the AJAX web programming technique, for example. The storm system incorporates this technique to provide a game portal interface, account management, and game manipulation/play system, eliminating a major task for game makers who would 35 wish to create an economy game. Game browsing, account management, and game manipulation menus may be provided by the Storm server by means of APIs that are easily integrated with the game maker's game.  System 400 comprises at least one Game Engine/Server 410. In the example system 400 the game engine (or game engine instance) is a program, typically running on a server or the like, that manages the game logic itself and coordinates Game Clients 420. Game Engine/Server 410 typically contains an overall game world view that it manages and sends (unique perspectives of) to Game Clients 420. Game Engine/Server 410 may also process player input received through Game Clients 420 and request information from other components of System 400 through a Storm Application Programming Interface (API) 415.
 A Storm API 415 may be associated with each Game Engine/Server 410. In some embodiments, each storm API 415 resides within the associated Game Engine/Server 410 program. A Storm API 415 exposes Storm functionality to the associated Game Engine/Server 410 (and through it to Game Clients 420) allowing the game to utilize the Storm system (create edit user and engine accounts, manage games, gamesessions, pieces, piece transactions, etc.). Each Storm API 415 may comprise a communication layer responsible for data packaging and connection security. In some embodiments a Storm API 415 can both instigate updates through a controller and be updated in a publish-subscribe method by the controller.
 Game clients 420 are typically provided by Game Engine/Servers 410. Game clients 420 may comprise instances of a game program, usually residing on a player's computer. Game clients 420 allow player input to flow into Game Engine/Servers 410 and receive data and directions from Game Engine/Servers 410 creating a unique game world perspective.
 Each game client 420 may interact with a Storm webserver 430 by means of a Storm Plugin 422 and a Storm Graphical User Interface (GUI) 424. A Storm GUI 424 may comprise web content hosted on Storm webserver 430 that provides much the same functionality as a Storm API 415 (minus in-game piece modifications). This allows game makers the option to use a pre-made GUI. Storm GUIs 424 may, for example, be accessed by users via their web browsers. Storm Plugins 422 provide links between Storm GUIs 422 and Game Clients 420. A Storm Plugin 422 allows for games to be launched within the GUI itself in a user'ss web browser. Storm Webserver 430 hosts the Storm GUIs 422 and connects them to one or more Storm Controllers 440.
 One or more Storm Controllers 440 is/are the central component(s) of the example Storm System 400 shown in Figure 4. In some embodiments, a Storm Controller 440 may be capable of handling multiple Game Engine/Servers 410. In other embodiments, one Storm Controller 440 may be provided for each Game Engine/Server 410, or multiple Storm Controllers 440 may be provided for each Game Engine/Server 410 to provide increased scalability and collaborative opportunities.
 A Storm Controller 440 according to an example embodiment can be viewed as having four general functions. First, it manages data transfer between Game Engine/Server(s) 410 and storm repositories 450. Second, it controls financial transactions through a Financial Transaction Portal 460. Third, it manages data transfer to and from storm webserver 430 and broadcasts them to any interested Game Engine/Servers 410. Fourth, it may be responsible for identity validation, system security and cheating-prevention.
 One or more Storm Repositories 450 may be accessible by Storm Controller(s) 440. A Storm Repository 450 may comprise, for example, a relational database or group of databases containing Storm player, engine, game and piece data. Each repository 450 may be capable of holding the data for multiple game servers 410. There will typically be at least one Local Storm Repository 450 per Game Engine/Server 410, with multiple repositories 450 per Game Engine/Server 410 available if necessary.
 A Financial Transaction Portal 460 may be coupled to Storm Controller(s) 440. Financial Transaction Portal 460 may comprise, for example, a suitable financial transaction system (eg: PayPal, Moneris, etc.) accessible by Storm Controller(s) 440 to conduct money transfers into and out of the Storm System 400.
 System 400 may optionally comprise a Global Storm Interface
Website/Webserver 470. Global Storm Interface Website/Webserver 470 may comprise, for example, a web-based interface that allows users to access and edit their Storm account(s), buy and sell pieces and interact with other Storm users. Global Storm Interface Website/Webserver 470 may provide a central community venue for different Storm Systems.
 System 400 may also optionally comprise a Global Storm Controller 480. Global Storm Controller 480 may serves similar functions to Storm Controller(s) 440 except that Global Storm Controller 480 works between a Global Strom Repository 490 and the Global Storm Interface Website/Webserver 470. Global Storm Repository 490 is another optional feature, which may comprise database(s) containing the Storm data from all the Local Storm Repositories 450 for all Game Engine/Servers 410.  Figure 5 schematically illustrates an example API system 500 according to one embodiment. API system 500 facilitates integration of an economy game infrastructure with existing gaming user interfaces. Game makers may quickly retro-fit existing games or enable new games to operate as economy games by integrating their multiplayer game 5 server(s) with an API system such as API system 500. API system 500 may comprise game client integration tools, which simplify the task of providing game menus and account management. In the illustrated embodiment, API system 500 couples a game engine 510 to a Storm controller 520 through an engine-controller API functionality layer 512 and communication layer 514 provided at the game engine 510, and another 0 communication layer 516 and an API functionality implementation layer 518 provided at the Storm controller 518. Some example functions of layers 512 and 514 are listed in Figure 5.
 Figure 6 schematically illustrates some example actions made available to a 5 player according to various embodiments of the invention. Figure 7 schematically illustrates some example actions made available to a game provider according to various embodiments of the invention. Figure 8 schematically illustrates some example functions made available to a game session and a game according to various embodiments of the invention. Figures 6 to 8 are included for illustrative purposes only, and are not intended 0 to be limiting in any way.
 A game according to certain embodiments of the invention may be implemented according to the following:
1. A game world and the pieces meant to populate it are developed, and the game 5 world is made available to potential players. The game world may be made available free of charge.
2. A set of pieces is made available through an online sales system. Each piece is provided at a price. Each purchased piece is credited to a player's account.
3. Player access the game world and activate some nonempty subset of pieces, O which minimally suffice to allow game play. The minimum requirements may be specified by a game administrator or the game developer.
4. The players' active pieces have the potential to be obtained and/or re-obtained through game play by other involved players whenever pieces are neutralized. Particularly, through competition, engaged players have the opportunity to attempt to 5 obtain one another's pieces via the mechanisms of neutralization made available by the game developer and/or game administrator. Neutralization mechanisms typically include capturing, defeating, killing, fragging, disabling or otherwise prevailing over another player's piece. The player neutralizing a piece may be able to obtain it immediately, or some game play action may be required to obtain a neutralized piece. Game developers may include special rules for obtaining accidentally- or self-neutralized pieces, depending on the type of game.
5. Players are provided with the means to sell their obtained pieces to other players 5 through a piece administration tool preferably in conjunction with and complementing the sales system used in 2. Players may exchange pieces for cash, credit or equivalent.
6. Obtained pieces submitted for resale through the sales system are given priority over un-obtained or "new" pieces for purchase. Obtained pieces may have the potential to be sold at a discount to equivalent un-obtained pieces. 0 7. The sales system may optionally include or be coupled to a piece exchange system wherein pieces from a plurality of different games may be exchanged. Such a piece exchange system may permit a new market in game pieces to emerge.
 Features which distinguish economy games implemented according to 5 embodiments of the invention include the ability to buy and sell pieces, and the fact that when neutralized, pieces are not permanently removed from game play as is standard in current video games, but persist after defeat to be obtained and reused by someone playing the game. This combination of features results in new financial motivations for both the player and game administrators and developers. Furthermore, the new 0 motivations not only reinforce one another they are complimentary to motivational factors already existing in the electronic game market.
 Electronic game players are currently commonly motivated by increases to their characters ability or possessions. Players are also currently motivated to play games 5 through a desire to increase their personal skill. Via the ability to buy and sell obtained playing pieces, a source of monetary reward is coupled with an increase in skill and available to those who spend the time to become skilled in a game.
 Another motivation commonly found in skilled competition with other players is O the desire to win. One wants to defeat another player, not be defeated. Economy games according to various embodiments of the invention add a novel facet to this existant motivation in that monetary gain (and loss on the part of the defeated) may coincide with victory (and defeat) in a skilled competition.
5  Games implemented using systems and methods according to embodiments of the invention also result in new motivations for the game developing industry as well. The players ability to obtain opponent's pieces further enhances the game makers potential for monetary reward through gameplay. In contrast to current video games, where income is generated essentially on a one-off basis, developers, by collecting transaction fees, can realize a continued source of income as pieces will continually be bought and sold through the piece sales system.
 The motivating factors discussed above are complementary in many ways. For game makers it is desirable to generate a continued source of income as would be provided by the piece sales system. For a game player, it is desirable to have the potential to have some return on one's game playing skill as would be provided by the abilities to sell one's pieces and to obtain opponents' pieces. Indeed, both players and game makers benefit from the sales system. Obtaining opponents' pieces is a game-playing end in itself that game makers will find fertile ground for game ideas, and game players will find a motivating force in the desire to play a game. Purchasing and reselling pieces only further enhances the motivation for obtaining opponents' pieces.
 With respect to the sales/resale system, several types of sales systems may be provided in accordance with different embodiments of the invention. For example, auction based, and fixed-price based sales systems are suitable choices. The choice of sales system implemented is dependant on the game producer's desires.
 One type of sales system which may be suitable for some embodiments is the credit-based system. In this type of system, players first buy credits, which are then used to buy and sell pieces. At any time a player may trade his or her credits for the equivalent cash value. So all purchases and sales conducted would strictly involve the exchange of credits through the sales system. With respect to a credit-based sales system, the prices referred in association with pieces refer to credit-based prices.
 Systems according to embodiments of the invention utilizing credit-based sales systems may include several games that recognize a particular credit type. In this scenario, players may use their credits interchangeably within all the games recognizing that credit type. Also, in such embodiments players may be allowed to trade their pieces from one game interchangeably with pieces from other games in accordance with the relative credit values of the pieces being traded. This gives players flexibility in what games they may utilize their investment in pieces.
 The motivating characteristics of any game distinguish them, and, to an extent, give them the "personality" that attracts players. The more harmoniously the various qualities of a game combine, the better they contribute to a game player's sentiment that a game is desirable to play. As expressed earlier, features provided in accordance with embodiments of the invention, in isolation, and synergistically in combination, contribute to the motivators that will compel individuals to play economy games. Accordingly, Economy Games have ready-made elements that contribute to the personality required to make a game worth playing. Injecting strong game playing motivators into a game is a difficult task for game makers. Therefore, having a ready-made format that has built in motivators provides a significant advantage to game makers.
 As noted above, many video game genres are adaptable to the economy game format. Some types of on-line multiplayer games may be particularly enhanced by systems and methods according to embodiments of the invention. In the following, several non-limiting example instances of economy games are given, demonstrating various ways the format may be utilized in common video game genres.
War Type Games
 A war-type economy game is exemplified by a multiplayer, online game in which players command and build armies. Using strategy and tactics, players attempt to conquer and out maneuver opponents' pieces in the struggle to obtain game related goals (For example, some game related goals may be territory, monetary, or perhaps an award of bonus pieces).
 Individuals buy and sell pieces thru a sales system. Depending on the game implemented, pieces may include anything that comprises the functionality of the army, for example: warriors/soldiers, weapons, tools, etc. Several sales systems would be suitable for this task. Examples: a fixed price sales system where obtained pieces are always sold before un-obtained pieces on a first come first served basis; or a bidding sales system similar to E-Bay in which pieces are auctioned off to the highest bidder. In the fixed price sales system, pieces are typically priced according to their game-playing value/power. Under the auctioning system, the price of pieces will reflect their game playing value according to market perception.
 The implementation of neutralization and obtainment may involve certain guidelines. The actual methods of neutralization may involve killing, stunning, capturing, etc using whatever combat means provided, such as firing projectile weapons, hand-to-hand combat, etc. Several implementations for the methods of obtainment are possible, for example, a neutralized piece may instantly become obtained by the player who defeated the piece, or alternatively, a neutralized piece may remain on the battlefield/space until a fighting character from some involved player's army runs over the neutralized piece, representing a formal capture of the piece, and adding an extra interesting element to the game dynamics. Depending on the game implemented, rather than allowing a player to immediately be able to use a freshly obtained piece in game play, it might be desirable to disallow the player who obtained the piece from being able to use or activate the piece for some brief period of time after obtaining it, like say, a couple of hours. This will prevent the situation where, supposing players are permitted to immediately use obtained pieces, and for example, two players are engaged, during the course of any ensuing combat, the cardinality of each player's army will fluctuate as men are accordingly defeated and captured. The game dynamics may be such that the fluctuation is somewhat stable, and no player is able to conquer the other. On the other hand, game dynamics may lead to the situation where whenever one individual's army gains a slight advantage, the advantaged army will suddenly grow exponentially relative to the quantity of pieces in the under advantaged army. This would be due to the snowballing effect that the immediate acquisition of fighting pieces might have in adding farther advantage to an army. Of course these characteristics may also be desirable and interesting features of a game. Regardless, the consequences of neutralization and obtainment must be factored into a game and implemented appropriately.
 Standard on-line chess rules, such as for example, those offered through Yahoo™ Chess, may be supplemented with the economy game format. In an example economy format chess game, chessmen are bought and sold through a non-bidding type sales system. Obtained men are sold at a fixed discount to un-obtained men. Obtained men are sold on a FIFO basis.
 A fixed price may be established for all men, reflecting the following guidelines: 1. Chessmen are sold at a price proportional to the standard pawn-valuing system, so a pawn is the base unit. 2. The King is priced at the value of an entire chess army (minus the King) plus some constant value. Accordingly, pricing schemes may obey the following formulae:
Let A, B, U and P each be a dollar value such that 0 < P <= U. Piece Un-obtained Obtained
Pawn U P
Knight 3U 3P
Bishop 3U 3P Rook 5U 5P
Queen 9U 9P
King 8Pawn + 2Knight + 39P + B
2Bishop + 2Rook + Queen
+ Constant = 39U + A
 Games may be played with or without time controls. One of three scenarios result from any completed game: draw; win on time; or a non-time based win such as checkmate. One rule will hold for all outcomes - whenever a piece is captured by a player, that piece is obtained by the capturing player for resale or to use in subsequent games. Therefore, in the event of a draw, each player keeps his or her remaining pieces and those pieces won by capture. If a player beats an opponent on time, the winner additionally keeps the loser's king. If a player manages to checkmate his or her opponent's king, the winning player keeps all of the checkmated player's pieces including the king. It may be desirable to add a coin toss feature to determine which player gets to play white first. All subsequent games, players alternate playing the white army.
 Special rules will have to be enforced for time-controlled games in the event of unexpected game terminations such as disconnections, and games server failures, etc. Some solutions in these cases might include some of what follows. If a player disconnects mid game, continue play as usual. The player may return to the game once his or her connectivity is reestablished; however, if the game involved time control, that player will lose any time that elapsed while it was his or her turn while disconnected. Indeed, the player may even lose the game before reconnecting. If the games server goes down, restore each player who was playing at the time of server failure with the obtained men controlled before starting the game, so the effect would be to have not have played the game at all. Or, restore the armies held by each player plus a "goodwill" bonus of whatever men that player had captured during the course of the game before failure. Another possibility would be to just disregard the failure, allowing players to keep the pieces won before failure minus the ones lost, as usual.
 Similar rules may be implemented for other types of games to address unexpected game termination. Such rules may vary from game to game, and may be specified by the game developer and/or game administrator.
First Person Shooters
 In an example first person shooter economy game, the methods of neutralization may be the same as the standard methods available to kill an opponent's piece; i.e. Fragging your opponent's piece with weapons such as guns and bombs, etc. Whenever an opponent's piece is killed, the killing piece's owner may obtain the killed piece. The new owner can now use the obtained piece to play with or reclaim the current cash value of it by selling or cashing out the piece using the piece sales system.
Example Economy Game Interface
 Elements common to a plurality of different economy games can be isolated to implement a generic Economy Game Interface Server (EGIS) system according to certain embodiments of the invention. Such a system may provide the online sales and re-sales system, and the tracking and online transactional infrastructure required to support obtainment and sales transactions. An EGIS system will typically also include developer tools so that game developers can easily insert the required functionality that will allow their games to properly interact with the server.
 In some embodiments an EGIS system may provide several sales systems types such as fixed price, bidding based and/ or credit based sales systems. If more than one sales system type were provided, it would be up to the game maker to decide which sales system to use in the game to be interfaced with the EGIS system.
 Pieces bought and sold are tracked and recorded by secure methods implemented on the EGIS system, and, very likely, those methods will be integrated with the developer tools provided. Some games may also be required to track their own pieces. The tracking system implemented in such games must be synchronized with the piece verification and tracking system implemented on the EGIS system. Therefore, standardized methods to implement the game tracking systems and synchronize the game and EGIS tracking systems may be provided as part of the EGIS system. To address any requirements to track pieces, the client and server components of the EGIS system may provide capabilities to register obtainments, and verify, or at least guarantee, ownership and uniqueness of obtained pieces.
 The EGIS system may also optionally provide centralized Internet hosting for game producers to locate and promote the game world components necessary to play the game in which the associated game pieces will interact.
Examples of Expected Advantages  The introduction of the economy game format along with the availability of EGIS servers will benefit the gaming industry in several ways. A new and unexplored market is permitted to be opened by the new genre of games produced. The format provides a simple and ready-made formula for marketing and profiting from games made; further, with the availability of EGIS servers, the tools and infrastructure are also ready-made for marketing and profiting from those games.
 As well, the economy game structure provides a source of inspiration for game ideas that previously have not been explored. New paradigms in the video game industry, particularly new game styles and genres, have historically led to the realization of new markets, which have always served to enhance computing and gaming technology. An example of this happened in the early 1990s with the creation of the Wolfenstein 3D engine, which introduced the First Person 3D Shooter genre to the gaming industry. This ultimately led to significant advancements in 3D rendering technology with subsequent games produced exploring this genre. Likewise, the requirements of economy games require technologies that either do not yet exist or are not yet developed enough to accomplish some of the needed tasks. For example, the on-line transaction functionality required by some embodiments must meet security, speed, and deterministic standards that will push the current technology to its limits. In particular, the inventors expect that future developments in web-server push-based communication may be triggered by the economy games format, and may be employed in various embodiments of the invention.
 The practicing of methods and systems according to embodiments of the invention may provide increased demand by attracting potential new players into the gaming community, and the gaming industry as a whole would benefit economically from such increased demand. Historical examples of this effect are readily available. The introduction of the First Person 3D Shooter also had this consequence. A popular new genre adds diversity, jobs and more products to the market.
 Furthermore, economy game formats according to embodiments of the invention provide a more "true" method of funding the actual costs of producing and providing a game compared to prior art formats, via the commissions and sales realized by piece sales systems. Game usage can be judged by examining the rate and quantity of obtained pieces being submitted for sale, and the rate and quantity of pieces being purchased, so for some economy games, game usage will be reflected in the usage of the piece sales system. Costs may not be over or underestimated as easily under the economy game format as other methods, since they are collected as the game is used. To this extent, the funding for an economy game may be naturally collected according to usage and hence is a more "true" method for meeting operational costs than other methods, such as monthly subscription fees, etc.
10071] Aspects of marketing, and the means to obtain profit from games made may be 5 simplified by the economy games structure. Since economy game structures may have natural marketing and funding methods via commissions and sales obtained from the sales system, game makers will be able to focus more on making games and less on the means to market and receive profits from them. With the introduction of EGIS systems, the problems of marketing and profiting from games may be simplified still further since I O a sales system, and the tracking and transaction related infrastructure would not have to be created on a game-by-game basis. Game makers would simply include the client tools needed in their games and be immediately equipped with the essential economy game structure within their games. EGIS servers could also be a great benefit to smaller gaming ventures by providing a cheap and quick way to get a game to market and quickly begin
1 5 realizing a return on it.
 Some economy game structures may help to unleash creativity in to the video game market by providing a basis for new game genres previously unexplored. As stated earlier, myriad possibilities of video game types are suddenly opened with the inclusion 0 of the obtainment feature. For game players and makers alike, new genres and game styles are highly sought after. For game players, the exploration of new genres captures their fascination. For game makers, the difficult task of innovating is made easier by the availability of an essentially untapped mine of game ideas to explore. Certainly, as a source of artistic inspiration game makers will find the economy game concept a great 5 benefit toward the end of creating innovative products that game players will appreciate.
 Economic reasons are likely, at least in part, to have prohibited the use of the obtainment feature prior to the creation of the economy game format according to certain embodiments of the invention. Prior art games that could have otherwise featured the O ability to obtain an opponent's pieces are generally not economically feasible to implement and maintain due to the fact that the infrastructure to track and conduct the operations needed to support the obtainment feature are difficult to maintain without a method to fund them in some ongoing manner that receives income in at least constant proportion to the rate of obtainment feature transactions. The lack of a source of such 5 funding has likely been at least a partial influence on the lack of use of obtainment in prior art game formats. 10074] However, a continued means to fund the required infrastructure for an economy game according to some embodiments can be conveniently achieved via commissions and sales realized by the piece sales system. An appropriate rate of income can be generated with a certain type of economy game utilizing the dynamics of supply and demand which naturally manifest due to the combined forces of player interest, skill, game dynamics, the piece sales system, and the ability to obtain opponents' pieces. Indeed, an economy game will generally adhere to the expected checks and balances typical of any system subject to supply and demand. Intuitively, analysis (currently beyond the scope of this document) can be made to demonstrate the leverage this type of system could have in continually funding the obtainment transactions. Therefore, certain economy game formats provide a solution to otherwise prohibitive economic factors against the implementation and deployment of obtainment games.
 The fact that the obtainment feature is assisted (finance-wise, game playing-wise, etc) by the piece sales system and vice-versa, lends to the fact that these two features are combined in embodiments of the present invention to produce results greater than the sum of results which these features could produce individually. Further, certain economy game formats provide a financial solution for the introduction of obtainment games to the gaming world.
 By providing a portal with the potential to allow trading of pieces across games of differing types, systems and methods according to certain embodiments make available a wide and immediate market to the game maker, which may be a great benefit to smaller game makers. As more games are provided with the functionality to be implemented as economy games, a viral -type effect can be expected with respect to the spread and increase of trading and game play. The potential for avenues of sale increase with every game that is added to the list as does the potential for game play. Since cross trading may be possible between games (so long as game makers choose to permit it for any particular game), the number of sales possibilities for a gamer playing a new game arriving in an economy games portal is not proportional to the number of players currently playing the new game. Rather, the number of sales possibilities is proportional to the number of equivalent valued pieces already existing in the totality of the games which allow cross trading.
 Further, as a game loses popularity, a loyal base of players tends to keep playing the game long after the game loses wide spread popularity. Due to the basically perpetual source of buyers and sellers made available through cross trading, games with a smaller base of customers can still be viable. The common catch-phrase for this type of effect is called targeting the "long-tail"of a market, which is often claimed to be the biggest section of any given market.
 Systems and methods according to certain embodiments also provide the potential for stock market-like trading of game pieces. Market desire and forces maybe allowed to dictate piece prices, and allow players, and/or investors to speculate on pieces/attributes they wish to buy, and sell; and for players, obtain as well. This could benefit non-game players as well as game players.
 Systems and methods according to certain embodiments also provide the potential for team pooled play. A group of players may agree to belong to a team account. Pieces obtained by members of the team may be pooled into the account, and hence the game-play resources as well as monetary benefit gained from the sale of those pieces may be distributed among the team members. These players may go into to certain games to play as a team. In some games, players can benefit from teaming up with other players in game play. Also, players can soften their individual loss potential with the pooled resources available under their team account.
 Systems and methods according to certain embodiments also provide the potential for sponsored play. Sponsoring entities may benefit by having their trademark or name be associated with skilled players of economy games. Also, sponsors may benefit by profiting off of the winnings earned by skilled players. Sponsors could create sponsor accounts that give a player an amount of game play resources provided by the sponsor. Players could earn revenue through piece sales and split such revenue with the sponsor. Sponsors could also sponsor teams instructed to play together.
 As will be apparent to those skilled in the art in the light of the foregoing disclosure, many alterations and modifications are possible in the practice of this invention without departing from the spirit or scope thereof. Accordingly, the scope of the invention is to be construed in accordance with the substance defined by the following claims.
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|International Classification||A63F13/12, G06Q50/00, G06Q30/00|
|Cooperative Classification||G07F17/3279, G09B19/18, G07F17/3237, G07F17/3232, G07F17/32|
|European Classification||G07F17/32, G07F17/32E6D, G07F17/32E6, G07F17/32M8D2, G09B19/18|
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