Search Images Maps Play YouTube News Gmail Drive More »
Sign in
Screen reader users: click this link for accessible mode. Accessible mode has the same essential features but works better with your reader.

Patents

  1. Advanced Patent Search
Publication numberUS20060247060 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/396,317
Publication dateNov 2, 2006
Filing dateMar 30, 2006
Priority dateApr 15, 2005
Publication number11396317, 396317, US 2006/0247060 A1, US 2006/247060 A1, US 20060247060 A1, US 20060247060A1, US 2006247060 A1, US 2006247060A1, US-A1-20060247060, US-A1-2006247060, US2006/0247060A1, US2006/247060A1, US20060247060 A1, US20060247060A1, US2006247060 A1, US2006247060A1
InventorsLarry Hanson, Beau Hanson
Original AssigneeLarry Hanson, Beau Hanson
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Internet professional sports
US 20060247060 A1
Abstract
A method providing an online virtual sport tournament system includes assigning virtual players to one skill level out of two or more skill levels based on the virtual player's performance in a qualifying event; obtaining confirmation that a virtual player is eligible to participate in the online virtual sport tournament system; hosting a plurality of online virtual sport tournaments, each associated with one of the two or more player skill levels; and awarding high stakes prizes to top performing players.
Images(7)
Previous page
Next page
Claims(17)
1. A method for providing an online virtual sport tournament comprising the steps of:
assigning each of two or more players to one of a plurality of skill levels;
obtaining confirmation that each skill level-assigned player is eligible to participate in the online virtual sport tournament, wherein player eligibility is at least partially based on player payment of participation fees;
hosting a non-elimination online virtual sport tournament, wherein the tournament is associated with one of the plurality of skill levels, and wherein only players having an assigned skill level that is the same as the tournament skill level can participate in the tournament; and
awarding a prize to one or more players based on a comparison of scores for each of the participating players from the tournament, wherein at least a portion of the prize is paid from participation fees paid by the participating players.
2. The method according to claim 1, wherein assigning comprises assigning based on a player's performance in a qualifying event, the qualifying event measuring the player's skill in an online virtual sport.
3. The method according to claim 2, wherein the player performance in the qualifying golfing event is indicative of the player's ability compared to other players.
4. The method according to claim 1, wherein the qualifying event comprises a virtual golf round and the non-elimination online virtual sport tournament comprises a non-elimination online golf tournament.
5. The method according to claim 4, wherein the plurality of skill levels are based on a degree of mastery of online golf in an online virtual golf tournament system.
6. The method according to claim 4, wherein awarding prizes further comprises awarding high stakes prizes of $1000 or more to one or more top performers for each round played in the non-elimination online golf tournament.
7. The method according to claim 2, wherein the player performance used in assigning is indicative of a virtual golfer skill level compared to other virtual golfers.
8. The method according to claim 1, wherein at least a portion of the prizes further originates from one or more of sponsorships, endorsement fees, merchandising fees, merchandise sales, advertising revenues and marketing considerations.
9. The method according to claim 1, wherein awarding prizes comprises awarding high stakes prizes having a value of $1000 or more.
10. The method according to claim 1, wherein awarding prizes comprises awarding high stakes prizes of $1000 or more to top finishers of the one or more players.
11. The method according to claim 1, wherein awarding prizes comprises awarding high stakes prizes from an award pool of $1000 or more.
12. The method according to claim 1, further comprising ranking the players based on the player scores for each tournament in which the player participates.
13. The method according to claim 12, further comprising assigning a player skill level based on the player ranking and enabling one or more of the golfers to participate in tournaments corresponding to their assigned skill level resulting from the golfer ranking.
14. The method according to claim 1, wherein two or more players comprises 2-1000 players.
15. A system for implementing an Internet professional sports organization having multiple Internet sports leagues comprising:
a central organization server;
at least one Internet sports league server, the at least one sports league server maintaining some connection to the central organization server and hosting non-elimination Internet sports tournaments for a plurality of users; and
a plurality of input/output devices connected to the at least one Internet sports league server via a public network, the input/output devices enabling the plurality of users to participate in the hosted Internet sports tournaments;
wherein the central organization server:
receives data related to the performance of the plurality of users in the hosted Internet sports tournaments from the at least one Internet sports league server;
determines each user placement in each the Internet sports tournament; and
sends user placement and earnings data to a secure server for payment of earnings.
16. The system according to claim 15, wherein one of the at least one Internet sports league server is associated with an Internet golf league, the Internet golf league hosting high stakes Internet golf tournaments in which participants pay to participate, wherein the high stakes comprise awards of $1000 or more.
17. An online virtual golf tournament system for online participation comprising:
means for assigning each of a plurality of golfers to a first or a second skill level, the assignment at based on:
means for evaluating a golfer score in a golf round that is uploaded to the online virtual golf tournament system, the golf round measuring golfer skill against other golfers for the online golf tournament system; and
means for ranking each of the golfers based on the golfer scores for each golf tournament the golfer participates in, the rank used to assign the golfer to the first or second skill level after each non-elimination online golf tournament the golfer participates in;
means for hosting a plurality of non-elimination online golf tournaments, wherein each of the tournaments host a plurality of players having one of the first or second skill level, the skill level-assigned golfers participating in golf tournaments having a corresponding skill level such that golfers having the same skill level are competitors in the online golf tournaments; and
means for awarding high stakes prizes to one or more golfers upon completion of each golf tournament based on a comparison of the golf tournament scores of each of the golfers and on which skill level of the first or second skill level is associated with the tournament, the high stakes prizes comprising monetary awards of $1000 or more.
Description
    CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION(S)
  • [0001]
    The present application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/594,529 filed on Apr. 15, 2005, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    The present invention relates to virtual sports, and more particularly to an online virtual professional sport system capable of hosting a plurality of individual professional players.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0003]
    In online gaming settings, players are able to participate online in virtual sports with each other. Players of Internet sports are required to exhibit a degree of skill associated with the Internet sport. Players may be required to: 1) perform multiple hand tasks requiring operation of buttons, levers, steering wheels, clutches, brakes and shifters to perform smooth and accurate operations at high rates of speed and agility in order to perform Internet tasks associated with an Internet sport; 2) demonstrate above average hand eye coordination that requires fast response times enabling quick or skilled performance of tasks associated with playing the Internet sport; 3) develop expert knowledge of the sport its rules and strategies associated with the Internet sport; 4) have the technical proficiency and expertise to improvise and develop winning Internet sport game plans; and 5) avail themselves of training opportunities and practice sessions to improve their skills associated with the Internet sport.
  • [0004]
    When virtual sporting events are organized in a tournament form, the tournament is typically a single-elimination-type tournament where the final winning player out of the entire field of participants, is deemed the winner. Typically, only the final winning player or a small number of top finishing players receive an award. Thus, a participant must first win several rounds or games before being eligible to receive an award, and then may be required to win several more rounds or games before receiving an award. For example, match play, handicapped, and stroke play tournaments are typically organized as a single-elimination tournaments where the winner or winners are decided after the competition ladder reaches a final round.
  • [0005]
    Some online games enable players to choose their skill level so that they are matched against other players according to their preference. This means that an online player can choose to compete against other players having equal, lesser, or greater skill. This causes the players to decide whether the competition will be played fairly. However, even if one player desires fair play, other players matched against him may choose to participate in games that are below their skill level, thereby removing the possibility of fair play for others.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0006]
    The present invention is directed towards an online virtual professional sport system that enables qualified individual players to select a tournament in which to participate from a variety of virtual sport tournaments. Each event, game, round, or the like, is configured to be a non-elimination type competition, and the system awards high stakes cash prizes to the best scoring participants.
  • [0007]
    One complexity addressed by certain embodiments of the present invention is online gaming for a profit where winnings are won through luck and chance. Certain embodiments address this complexity by configuring a virtual professional sport league where individual players from the general public are evaluated for their skill in the virtual sport, which may qualify them as a professional sportsman. Qualified sportsmen are matched against other sportsmen that demonstrate the same or a similar degree of skill, thus enabling fair play in sporting events. When similarly matched professionals compete against each other, the winning individual or top ranking individuals are those who display the highest level of skill out of the competition pool. This removes aspects of luck and chance, thereby providing a system in which monetary awards of varying stakes can be fairly awarded to accomplished sportsmen that achieve victory or high ranking.
  • [0008]
    In additional embodiments, a professional Internet athlete is evaluated for their skill after each competition, and matched against other Internet athletes having the same degree of skill in subsequent competitions. This ensures that participants of equal or similar skill are continuously matched against each other so as to enable fair play and to reduce factors such as chance or luck
  • [0009]
    Furthermore, in order to remove aspects of luck and chance in virtual games, software may be configured so that a participant is required to display a degree of skill in order to participate in competition. In contrast, other virtual sport software programs are designed to include factors of luck or include designed degrees of difficulty corresponding to user performance.
  • [0010]
    To ensure that virtual sport competitions are games of skill, software may be designed to resemble real life situations, be consistent in degree of difficulty throughout the game, and to treat all players alike. Software may also be configured to depict how players play in the sport, but not to provide hints on how to play the game. However, game information that is given to the player by the programs' caddies, pit crews or coaches may be provided, but limited to the types of information that is accepted practice from caddies, pit crews or coaches. The game environment may also be configured to be consistent with serious play; i.e., sound effects may not be over bearing and may mirror sounds the player would hear from announcers, the crowd and nature at any like sporting event. In addition, measures may be taken to weed out so called “grief players” (those who play just to irritate and cause grief to other players) and to protect against security breaches.
  • [0011]
    Virtual professional sport platforms that may be implemented according to the invention include devices that are used to deliver the images and actions to each individual game player. These platforms consist of devices such as a home computer that is connected to the Internet. Other sources of virtual platforms include X-box and Nintendo which are similar to home computers, but are specifically designed to deliver the field of play on a TV screen.
  • [0012]
    According to certain embodiments, a user's ability to participate in an online event that awards cash prizes to the winners is determined by whether a participant pays their online play fees such as green fees, tournament fees, or the like. Online play for a fee, for example, may include both online practice rounds and online competition rounds. Thus, online play fees are associated with access to online play rather than with a specific competition.
  • [0013]
    In another example, online play fees are tournament fees in which all or part of the fees are used to pay tournament winners. A combination of tournament fees, sponsorships, endorsement fees, merchandising fees, merchandise sales, advertising revenues and marketing considerations may also be used for a pool of prize money. The embodiments described above differ from other types of online competition because a portion of the fees for entering the competition are used in the award pool.
  • [0014]
    An additional complexity addressed by some embodiments of the present invention is the award small monetary awards to tournament participants. This complexity is addressed by paying high stakes awards to one or more top finishing participants. According to certain implementations, an award pool is a high stakes pool of $1000 or more. The award pool may be distributed among a group of top finishers, or may be awarded to the top finisher of an event or tournament. According additional embodiments, the top finishers for each tournament receives high stakes awards that may range from $1000-$150,000, for example.
  • [0015]
    Another complexity addressed by certain embodiments of the present invention is awarding individual players of virtual sporting events for winning single elimination-type tournaments.
  • [0016]
    Certain embodiments address this complexity by matching equally yoked players in non-elimination virtual tournaments, games, or match settings where individual professional players of each virtual tournament are awarded prizes for a winning score or for a score that is ranked above a specified level. The present invention can provide such non-elimination tournaments by setting a maximum number of participants per tournament. For example, in an online virtual golf tournament where professional virtual golfers participate, a maximum of 1000 professional golfers may participate against each other in non-elimination competition. Awards may be given to the top 25 finishers out of the 1000 participants, for example.
  • [0017]
    According to one embodiment of the present invention, a method for providing an online virtual sport tournament system for online participation includes assigning at least two users, each having associated virtual players, to one skill level out of two or more skill levels. The skill level assignment may be based on a virtual player's performance in a qualifying event, which is designed to measure the virtual player's skill in the online virtual sport. Additionally or alternatively, a qualifying event score may be indicative of a player skill level compared to other players. The method also includes receiving confirmation that a virtual player is eligible to participate in the online virtual sport tournament system, which may be based, for example, on payment of monetary consideration for participation. The method further includes hosting a plurality of online virtual sport tournaments, where each may be associated with one of the two or more skill levels to which players are assigned. This results in competitions between players having a substantially similar or comparable skill level. The method additionally includes awarding high stakes prizes to top performing players based on a comparison of their scores for each sport tournament. A portion of the high stakes prizes may be paid from player payment of monetary consideration.
  • [0018]
    According to a further embodiment, the qualifying event and tournaments are a virtual golf round and a plurality of non-elimination online golf tournaments, respectively. Players are assigned to a skill level based on their degree of mastery of an online virtual golf tournament system. Other embodiments may include qualifying events such as qualifying laps for Internet car racing, qualifying matches for Internet wrestling, and qualifying games for Internet hockey.
  • [0019]
    High stakes prizes may be comprised of player entry fees, but may also be based on sponsorships, endorsement fees, merchandising fees, merchandise sales, advertising revenues and/or marketing considerations. High stakes prizes may be defined as prizes having a value of $1000 or more, including monetary prizes of $1000.
  • [0020]
    According to another embodiment of the present invention, a method for providing an online virtual golf tournament system for online participation includes assigning a number of virtual golfers, e.g. from 2-1000 virtual golfers, to one of a plurality of skill levels. The assigned skill level for each virtual golfer based on the virtual golfer's score in one or more qualifying golfing events. The qualifying golfing events may be designed to measure skill for the online golf tournament system and further may be designed to measure the online golfers skill compared to other golfers.
  • [0021]
    The method also includes receiving confirmation that the virtual golfer is eligible to participate in the online golf tournament system after the player has paid monetary consideration, such as green fees, to participate. In certain implementations, once monetary consideration has been paid, a user may be provided with access to one or more virtual golf courses on which the virtual golfer may practice.
  • [0022]
    The embodiment, the method further includes hosting non-elimination online golf tournaments where each tournament is associated with one of the plurality of golfer skill levels. Eligible, skill level-assigned players are capable of participating in golf tournaments at their corresponding skill level. This allows virtual golfers having substantially similar or comparable skill levels to compete in online golf tournaments. Throughout the tournaments, which host players of differing skill levels, a consistent level of difficulty is maintained. For example, two tournaments each for a different skill level, may be held on the same virtual golf course, such that the degree of difficulty of the golf course remains the same. Individual golf courses may be more or less challenging than other courses, but the degree of difficulty for each golf course remains the same regardless of the virtual golfer's skill level.
  • [0023]
    The present embodiment further includes awarding high stakes prizes to one or more virtual golfers for each hosted virtual golf tournament based on a comparison of the each player's tournament score. The high stakes prizes may be at least partially paid from player monetary consideration. According to certain implementations, awards of $1000 or more constitute high stakes prizes. Additionally or alternatively, an award pool of $1000 or more constitutes high stakes prizes. Alternative configurations of high stakes prizes may also be used within the scope of the present invention. In further embodiments, high stakes awards may be awarded to one or more top performers for each round played in a non-elimination online golf tournaments. For example, where an online golf tournament consists of four golf rounds, one or more awards may be awarded for each golf round in addition to the awards given for the top tournament performers.
  • [0024]
    In addition, the present embodiment may also include ranking each golfer based on their scores for each golf tournament completed. Player rank may be used in assigning player skill level to enable periodic evaluation of a player's skill level. This allows individual golfers to participate in tournaments corresponding to their current skill level.
  • [0025]
    According to further embodiments, virtual golfers may be provided access to virtual golf equipment which may include golf shoes, golf clubs, and/or golf gloves in order to affect a virtual player's participation.
  • [0026]
    According to yet another embodiment of the present invention, a method for providing an online virtual golf tournament system for online participation includes assigning individual golfers to a first or a second skill level, where the assignment is based on a golfer's score in a virtual golf round and/or is based on a virtual golfer's performance in prior tournaments. The assigned skill level is designed to be a measure of skill against other individual golfers for the online golf tournament system.
  • [0027]
    The embodiment further includes hosting a plurality of non-elimination online golf tournaments, each tournament hosting virtual golfers having one of said first or second skill level. This allows virtual golfers having the same skill level to compete against each other in online golf tournaments.
  • [0028]
    The present embodiment further includes awarding high stakes prizes of $1000 or more to one or more individual golfers upon completion of each golf tournament. The recipients of the high stakes awards are based on a comparison of virtual golfer scores in the golf tournament and based on which skill level is associated with the tournament.
  • [0029]
    In addition, the current embodiment includes ranking each virtual golfer based on their tournament score for each golf tournament in which the golfer has participated. The player rank may be used to assign each golfer to the first or second skill level.
  • [0030]
    These and other features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the following detailed description, wherein it is shown and described illustrative embodiments of the invention, including best modes contemplated for carrying out the invention. As it will be realized, the invention is capable of modifications in various obvious aspects, all without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. Accordingly, the drawings and detailed description are to be regarded as illustrative in nature and not restrictive.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0031]
    FIG. 7 is a block diagram showing a method for implementing Internet professional sports having multiple sports leagues under a central administrative body
  • [0032]
    FIG. 1 is a block diagram of the structure of an Internet professional sports organization.
  • [0033]
    FIG. 2 is block diagram of the top level organization of Internet professional sports from FIG. 1.
  • [0034]
    FIG. 3 is a block diagram of the implementation of Internet professional golf according to FIG. 1.
  • [0035]
    FIG. 4 is an illustration of a tournament structure of Internet professional sports.
  • [0036]
    FIG. 5 is a chart illustrating exemplary distributions of Pro tournament prize money that may be implemented.
  • [0037]
    FIG. 6 is a block diagram of a method for providing a professional Internet sports system.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • [0038]
    According to the present invention, an Internet or virtual professional sports organization is provided where Internet professional athletes compete for high stakes awards where virtual professional athletes are controlled by individual users from the general public.
  • [0039]
    Internet athletes may qualify as a professionals, amateurs, semi-professionals, or the like. Whether competition is on an amateur or professional level, however, in order for an individual player to compete in virtual professional sports, a participant may be required to first demonstrate skill in or their mastery of the virtual professional sport to the Internet professional sports league or an affiliate. For example, individuals may be required to demonstrate to a predetermined degree their mastery of a virtual professional sport by entering into qualifying rounds of the Internet professional sport. In another example, a qualified professional Internet athlete may be required to display a degree of mastery commensurate with his/her professional status in order to retain his/her current professional status. Otherwise, if a professional Internet athlete performs below or above their current status, the athlete's status may be lowered or raised, respectively.
  • [0040]
    The present invention will now be described in detail with reference to the accompanying drawings. FIG. 1 is a block diagram showing one method for implementing Internet professional sports having multiple sports leagues under a central administrative body. For example, central organization server 101 may be a commercial third party software that processes, organizes, stores and retrieves information which is associated with a variety of different sports leagues. The different sports leagues having their respective league servers 102-105 may be separate from the central organization server 101 and each other, while maintaining some connection to the central organization server 101. For example, the connection may be maintained directly from the league server to the central organization server, or the connection may be maintained using a private network 106. Connecting league servers to a central organization server via a private network may be necessary due to the sensitivity of the data being processed and the oversight administrative responsibilities of the central organization. When isolation from public access is necessary, WAN or VPN may be used for private networks. To secure against infiltration, iHA security software such as VPN-1 Pro with Application Intelligence and SmartDefense Check Points may be used.
  • [0041]
    Private networks may be useful in particular when calculating and dispersing prize money. For example, once a player has completed an event, the software located on the player's PC or Video Console may tally the player's scorecard and submit the results to the league server. The league server may then submit the information safely via a private network to the central server, where the tournament management software resides, where the information is verified and recorded. The central server software may process all of the players' scores as they are submitted and determine the placement of the players and earnings distributions. The central server may then safely send the players placement and earnings data via the private network to the league server for player notification. The central servers software may also send players' earnings to a 3rd party distribution center for payment of earnings. The central server may create, save and store all scores, placements, tournaments played, transactions, and earnings for future, tournament and player management.
  • [0042]
    The central organization server 101 may operate and maintain a private network 106 for a variety of other purposes, such as for maintaining secure databases, processing entry fees, collecting and synchronizing game conditions, and various other aspects of maintaining and protecting the system.
  • [0043]
    The league servers may also be connected to any number of input/output devices in a public network 107-109 via the Internet. Input/output devices used to compete in the tournaments may be a player's home PC 110 or a video console 111, 112. The league servers may process and compile all tournament player contact and input with the league, host tournament play, administer the video game software, coordinate player activities, supply real time communication, and send tournament and player data to the central organization servers.
  • [0044]
    Remotely connected input/output devices are loaded with sports league game software 113 and are connected to a game controller 114 used to operate the game software. The players' video game controller may communicate the game actions of the player to the players' home pc or video game console. To play a video game, the player manipulates different control features to execute the video game actions.
  • [0045]
    FIG. 2 is a block diagram depicting an Internet professional sports organization 200. The block diagram depicts three Internet sports leagues, golf 210, racing 220 and soccer 230. The Internet professional sports organization may be supported by a server such as central organization server 100 depicted in FIG. 1. In addition, each Internet sports league may be supported in separate servers such as league servers 102-105 FIG. 1. However, additional leagues may be implemented in the professional sports organization framework. For example, football, boxing, wrestling, basketball, baseball, soccer, and extreme sports etc may also be implemented within the professional sports organization framework according to embodiments of the invention. Various segments of FIG. 2 are described below in the discussions of FIGS. 3, 4, and 4.
  • [0046]
    FIG. 3 is an illustration of a portion of FIG. 2, namely a central, top level Internet professional sports organization 300 and associated sports leagues that include Internet professional golf 310, Internet professional racing 320, and Internet professional soccer 330. The central organization 300 may provide administrative services from a central server, i.e. central organization server 101 in FIG. 1, to each of the different sports leagues 310-330, and may be separate and independent of each sports league 310-330. The central organization 300 may also be strictly an administrative body; however, as an administrative body, one of the administrative functions of the central organization 300 may be to operate and maintain a central server system for each of the sports leagues 310-330. In one example, each sports league 310-330 is a separate and independent entity, but rents server space and purchases database services from the central server system. With a central organization supporting a central server system, each of the sports leagues 310-330 may share web development services, financial services, billing services, banking services and any other services that do not jeopardize the autonomy of each league.
  • [0047]
    Administrative responsibilities of the central organization 300 may include performing oversight duties in order to ensure that the sports leagues stay within the laws, rules, and standards of the league, as well as ensure that the leagues follow and enforce membership rules and codes of conduct. The central organization 300 may also oversee any rule changes and additions for each sports entity, provide resolution services for player complaints, and perform other services such as promoting and protecting the leagues.
  • [0048]
    Three sports leagues 310-330 are shown as examples in FIGS. 2 & 3. However, Internet professional sports is not limited to the three sports listed, but may include many other sports. The sports leagues may be separate and independent of the central organization 300, and may be separate and independent of each other. Each league may be configured to maintain its own residence, finances, board members, administrative personnel, programmers, web developers, server system, hardware, software, competition format, and any other functions necessary to operate and manage the league. In addition, each league may have its own distinct website and be in control of developing the league identity.
  • [0049]
    FIG. 4 is an illustration of one exemplary sports league depicted in FIG. 2. An Internet professional golf league 400 includes potential players 401 that may contact the golf league 401 by accessing Internet professional golf's website. The website may provide the potential player 402 with all the information and required steps needed to qualify and compete in Internet professional golf tournaments. For example, potential players 401, at their discretion, can download an 18-hole qualifying video golf game from the Internet professional golf website onto the hard drive of their home PC at no charge. The potential player can then practice the golf game on or off-line with no fees assessed and no time limits until he/she chooses to play to attempt meet the required qualifications 402 in a qualifying round.
  • [0050]
    As part of a potential player's qualifications 402, after having an opportunity to practice the 18-hole qualifying game, a player may choose to enter into a qualifying round. In this example, the player may visit the Internet professional golf website and submit a request for a secure password, set up an account, i.e. choose a screen name and submit payment and credit methods and legal information, and then may enter into the qualifying round.
  • [0051]
    In one example, the player's account web page may include a link to a qualifying round. When the link is selected, the qualifying 18-hole golf game on the player's PC or video console may be activated. Once the player has completed the qualifying round, the final score may determine the players status, i.e., professional, semi-professional, amateur, or the like. According to an example following the structure of FIG. 4, if the player's score is above a predetermined amount, such as +5, the player is assigned semi-professional status 404. If the score is equal to or below a predetermined amount, such as +5, the player is assigned to a professional status 403. A message notifying the player of his/her status may appear on the PC screen or TV screen immediately at the end of the qualifying round.
  • [0052]
    In another example, a user account profile may include information related to the virtual appearance of their virtual player. For example, a user associated with a player profile may choose an appearance for their virtual player, i.e., clothing, gender, race, and may choose equipment used by the virtual player, such as golf shoes, golf clubs, and golf balls. A user may also be required to pay the Internet golf system for selecting the golf equipment or attire.
  • [0053]
    A player profile in a user's account may also include information related to payment of consideration to compete or practice. For example, green fees may be required before a player may be permitted to practice on virtual golf courses or compete in virtual golf tournaments, and a messages indicating that fees are due may be displayed in a user's account. In some implementations, access to player winnings may also be included within a player profile enabling the user to pay for their green fees from their winnings.
  • [0054]
    According to certain embodiments, players who receive notification of professional status 403 may be directed to his/her account web page where they can read and become familiar with the league code of conduct 405 and membership rules and guidelines 407. To become eligible to compete as a professional player in league tournaments, he/she must agree to the leagues code of conduct and become a member of the Internet professional sports organization.
  • [0055]
    Players who receive notification of semi-professional 304 status may be directed to his/her account web page where they can read and become familiar with the rules and guidelines of the leagues code of conduct 406. To become eligible to compete as a semi-professional player in league tournaments, he/she must agree to the leagues code of conduct 406. In this example, semi-professional players do not have a membership in the Internet professional sports organization.
  • [0056]
    The code of conduct for the virtual athletes requires that a participant meet a standard of decorum, or risk removal from participating in competition. For example, participants may not be allowed to cheat. If a participant is caught cheating, the could receive a one-year suspension. In another example, where a participant is caught cheating multiple times, they could be permanently disqualified. Thus
  • [0057]
    According to some embodiments, semi-professional 404 players may attain professional status 403 by re-qualifying and achieving the predetermined low score or by achieving a designated level of success in tournaments when competing in semi-pro tournaments.
  • [0058]
    According to another embodiment, in order to maintain professional status, a professional player may be required to participate in a minimum number of tournaments per year and maintain an average score below a predetermined amount, and may be required to pay the requisite membership fees. If any of the requirement are not met, the professional player may be removed from the sports league, or may be categorized as a semi-professional and be permitted to compete in semi-professional tournaments.
  • [0059]
    When the participant has been accepted as a professional or semi-professional player, he/she may be invited to tournament action 408, 409. To view tournament invitations, the player may go to their account web page where they may be apprised of current tournament schedules and notified of the tournaments in which they are eligible to play, along with tournament details such as prize money break downs, greens fees, amount of time remaining to sign up, start/stop times, players currently signed up, special rules, etc. According to certain embodiments, software associated with sports tournaments is different from qualifying game software. Therefore, a player may be required to download and/or purchase and Internet professional sports tournament software. The tournament software may be downloadable directly off of a central server or may be purchased at a retail store, for example.
  • [0060]
    Once a participant has selected the tournament, he/she may be directed to choose an available time to start their tournament play by selecting an available tee time. The availability of tee times may be governed by server traffic and the player's time zones. Once the participant has selected an available tee time, the participant may be directed to pay the tournament green fee through a 3rd party payment service. The participant may be notified of his/her acceptance to the tournament and their tee time after the payment process is complete.
  • [0061]
    In an example tournament setting, during the week of the tournament, a participant may play three practice rounds, once each day on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. If the player wishes to play more than one practice round per day, then extra green fees may be charged. A participant than participates in the tournament on game days, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 18 holes each day for a total of 72 holes.
  • [0062]
    FIG. 5 is an illustration of a tournaments 500 structure for Internet professional sports according to some embodiments of the present invention. According to exemplary embodiments, all Internet professional sports tournaments are open to players regardless of age, gender, religion or nationality, which is in contrast to the format of actual professional sports which divides the competition by gender. The tournament structure, whether professional or semi-professional, may follow the same basic format and may be consistent from sport to sport. Tournaments and other sporting events may involve the same rules of play as the PGA, NASCR, World Soccer League, and other currently accepted professional sports leagues in their respective sports.
  • [0063]
    The tournaments 500 field, according to FIG. 5, includes of two divisions, professional 510 and semi-professional 530. As previously noted, the divisions 510 and 530 are dissected based the player skill levels supported, not by age or gender. According to certain embodiments, tournament play may consist of weekly “tour” tournaments 511, 531 and scheduled championship series 512, 532 play in both divisions. For example, “tour” tournaments 511, 531 may be played weekly and be open to all players who have played their qualifying round and have been accepted for Internet professional sports league play. A championship series 512, 532 may not be open to all players and instead may be played by “tour” winners. Invitations may be based by the amount of prize money won in previous “tour” tournaments 511, 531. The frequency of championship series 512, 532 may vary depending on the number of available “tour” winners.
  • [0064]
    The weekly tournaments and championship series may be played on a variety of video golf courses. In the example of FIG. 5, three “tour” golf courses, Kootenia Golf Course 513, Cabinet Mountain Resort 514, and Bear tooth Country Club 515 are shown. However, any number of additional golf courses having their own design features may be added to the pro tour. Software used in the professional Internet golf is designed to include accurate course dimensions so that the golf courses are calibrated to be as challenging as the actual golf courses the software emulates. Virtual golf courses are designed with precise dimensions so that, for example, an actual putting green is reproduced as a virtual putting green in the software. In another example, the length of virtual fairways may be scaled so that centimeters on a computer screen are equal to inches on an actual golf course, or so that inches on a computer screen are equal to feet, yards, or the like on an actual golf course. This allows golf courses around the world to be replicated in a virtual setting. Furthermore, golf course conditions may also be replicated. For example, where sporting events have a geographical location assigned to it, on the day of the event, weather conditions as close as possible to the conditions of the geographical area may be programmed into the virtual course. In one implementation, the central server may collect game time weather conditions and send the weather information to the league server, which may communicate with the players' video game software to set the weather conditions for the sporting event. Accordingly, wind variations on a virtual golf course may affect the virtual golf ball velocity and direction in the same way actual wind would affects a golf ball at a corresponding golf course.
  • [0065]
    According to some embodiments, tournaments may be limited to a maximum of 1000 players, and each course may have a primary 516 and any number of secondary tournaments 517, 518 being played simultaneously depending on the number of players. For example: if there are 10,000 players registered for a tournament then one primary and nine secondary tournaments may be organized. Prize money 519-521 may be awarded for each primary and secondary tournament. This is because according to embodiments of the invention, prizes are awarded for each tournament held, and the tournaments are not elimination tournaments, since each competitor may play in a field of no more than 1,000 players exclusively. The top players in each primary and secondary tournament, thus may be awarded prize money. In the case of a tie, a play-off may be conducted to determine the winner.
  • [0066]
    For tour tournaments 511 tournaments in which participants are invited, invitations may be based on, for example, a player's previous scores and/or rankings. This may create a fair playing field in most instances. For example, if out of 10,000 players, 1,000 players have an average golf score of −1 in previous tournament competition, or if they have not played in any previous tournaments and have a −1 qualifying score, they may be placed into the primary tournament. A “secondary-1” tournament may hold the next 1,000 players that have the next lowest scores. The rest of the eight secondary tournaments may follow accordingly.
  • [0067]
    “Tour” tournaments and championships series play include entry fees. For Internet golf tournaments, green fees are required to be paid before a professional virtual golfer may be permitted to practice or compete. Players are officially confirmed and registered for their chosen tournament when payment and tournament entry forms have been received. Players may register for and play in as many “tour” tournaments in the same week as they are qualified for, as long as it is not the same course, racetrack or arena. Players may not play in more than one “tour” tournament simultaneously.
  • [0068]
    The amount charged per green fee may vary depending on the type of play desired, i.e., practice only or practice and competition. For example, payment of greens fees ranging from $2.00 to $5.00 may allow a virtual golfer to practice on one or more golf courses for a set period of time, such as one round or one week. Payment of green fees may also allow a virtual golfer to practice and to enter into one or more tournaments. For example, pro “tour” tournament fees may range from $25 to $250 and championship series may be $500 to $5,000. Semi-pro “tour” tournament fees may range from $5 to $75 and championship series may be $100 to $500. The “tour” tournament fees also permit the player to play practice rounds on the “tour” tournament course they have registered for. The number of practice rounds allowed per registration may be limited, and players may play more practice rounds prior to the tournament by paying practice green fees, pit stop fees or arena rental fees.
  • [0069]
    Green fees may also vary depending on the virtual golf course to be used, the competitors the golfer competes against, and the type virtual golf tournament. Where green fees are not paid, a virtual golfer is prevented from entering into a tournament and from practicing.
  • [0070]
    Although green fees have been described above, other virtual professional sports such as car racing may have pit stop fees in the form of charges for gas and tires. In another example, and soccer tournaments may include arena rental fees.
  • [0071]
    FIG. 6 is a chart illustrating distributions of Pro tournament prize money that may be implemented according to various embodiments of the present invention. The chart is an illustration of a variety of pro tournament events having listing entry fees, the number of places that receive prize money, the potential earnings distribution to players, and the total tournament prize money paid out per event. Placement money is paid differently in each event depending on a variety of circumstances. For example, events with $25-$75 entry fees may receive money from 1st place through 24th place, whereas $150 entry fees receive money from 1st place through 61st place. Prize money per event is not limited to a percentage the of entry fees paid. A combination of entry fees, i.e. green fees, sponsorships, endorsement fees, merchandising fees, merchandise sales, advertising revenues and marketing considerations may also be used as prize money and thus may be used to determine the amount of prize money and the number of places paid per event. In addition, the sale of individual personalization accessories and game improvement tools such as new fashions for the game figure, purchase of upgraded virtual clubs, practice sessions on the fields of play, etc may also be used to determine the amount of prize money and number of places that may receive awards.
  • [0072]
    According to some embodiments, the top finishers for each tournament receives high stakes awards that may range from $1000-$150,000, for example. The awards for tournaments are large enough so that a user playing the Internet professional sport may have the opportunity to supplement or provide their income through achieving victory or high ranking in the tournaments. Awarding high stakes prizes for each non-elimination tournament, according to the present invention, increases a player's chances of receiving award money, making participation in the sport more appealing compared to virtual sports that require players to compete throughout a season or regiment of competitions before achieving the ability to receive award money.
  • [0073]
    According to certain implementations, an award pool is a high stakes pool of $1000 or more. The award pool may be distributed among a group of top finishers, or may be awarded to the top finisher of an event or tournament. In this way, when a golf tournament that consists of four golf rounds is conducted, top finishers for each round played may be awarded money from a high stakes award pool, and/or the top finishers of the overall tournament may be awarded money from a pool of award money that is $1000 or more. In another example, the top finisher for each round may be awarded $1000 or more, and the top finisher of the overall tournament may be awarded $1000 or more.
  • [0074]
    The chart illustrating player winnings in FIG. 6 is a depiction of one way of distributing awards to tournament participants. Other distribution methods that award high stakes prizes to top finishers may also be used according to implementations.
  • [0075]
    FIG. 7 is a block diagram of a method 700 for providing a professional Internet sports system according to an embodiment of the present invention. The method 700 includes assigning 702 a skill level to a player based on their performance in a qualifying round. The qualifying round is calibrated so that a player exhibits a degree of skill in the sport commensurate with a professional Internet athlete in order to qualify as a professional and compete against other professionals. According to the method, the professional Internet sports system receives 704 confirmation that a qualified player is eligible to participate in competition. For example, a qualified player that has paid their entrance fees may be confirmed and the confirmation message sent to the system. Method 700 also includes hosting 706 online virtual sport tournaments for each skill level so that participants having a matching skill level are matched against each other in competition; and includes awarding 708 high stakes prizes to the winners of each of the tournaments which may include cash prizes of $1000 or more, or prizes valued at $1000 or more. Other top finishers may also receive high stakes awards, while other mid-level finishers may receive smaller cash awards, i.e. $100-$900. In some implementations, the method includes ranking 710 the individual players based on their overall performance in their associated professional sporting league. Depending on an individual participant's rank after participating in tournament play, the player may be assigned to a different skill level and thus may compete in tournaments against players having the same skill level as the individual participant.
  • [0076]
    The method and system according to the present invention may be implemented using various combinations of software and hardware as would be apparent to those of skill in the art and as desired by the user. The present invention may be implemented in conjunction with a general purpose or dedicated computer system having a processor and memory components.
  • [0077]
    From the above description and drawings, it will be understood by those of ordinary skill in the art that the particular embodiments shown and described are for purposes of illustration only and are not intended to limit the scope of the present invention. Those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the present invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from its spirit or essential characteristics. References to details of particular embodiments are not intended to limit the scope of the invention.
Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US4911443 *Sep 30, 1987Mar 27, 1990Foster James FFootball game system and method of play
US5779549 *Apr 22, 1996Jul 14, 1998Walker Assest Management Limited ParnershipDatabase driven online distributed tournament system
US6468155 *May 8, 2001Oct 22, 2002Skillgames, Inc.Systems and methods to facilitate games of skill for prizes played via a communication network
US6775580 *Oct 24, 2001Aug 10, 2004Gyro Golf Systems, Inc.Interactive real time computer processed golf tournament system
US6824462 *Feb 28, 2003Nov 30, 2004Topcoder, Inc.Method and system for evaluating skills of contestants in online coding competitions
US20020086733 *Nov 14, 2001Jul 4, 2002Andy WangSystem and method for simultaneous participation in an online forum
US20020115488 *Feb 22, 2001Aug 22, 2002Nicholas BerrySystem and method for conducting an online competition
US20020188360 *Apr 23, 2002Dec 12, 2002Masashi MuramoriTournament system utilizing a network
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7806777 *Apr 18, 2006Oct 5, 2010World Golf Tour, Inc.Automatically adapting virtual equipment model
US8116453Dec 29, 2008Feb 14, 2012Bank Of America CorporationGaming console-specific user authentication
US8296417Jul 29, 2008Oct 23, 2012Alexander GershonPeak traffic management
US8307077 *Aug 3, 2011Nov 6, 2012Microsoft CorporationCollaborative speed determination in distributed systems
US8364567Dec 29, 2008Jan 29, 2013Bank Of America CorporationSecure platforms for financial transaction applications
US8676659Jul 23, 2009Mar 18, 2014Bank Of America CorporationMethods and apparatuses for facilitating financial transactions using gamer tag information
US8771083 *Sep 5, 2008Jul 8, 2014Sony Computer Entertainment Europe LimitedApparatus and method of on-line reporting
US9118722Aug 9, 2012Aug 25, 2015Amazon Technologies, Inc.Peak traffic management
US9123205May 29, 2014Sep 1, 2015Gaming Grids, LlcOnline gaming tournament system having prizes for players in winning categories and method therefor
US9361762Jul 2, 2015Jun 7, 2016Gaming Grids, LlcOnline fantasy gaming tournament system and method therefor
US9764240 *Oct 13, 2010Sep 19, 2017Sony Interactive Entertainment America LlcOnline process for recommending friends based on game playing habits
US20060241795 *Apr 22, 2005Oct 26, 2006Gary WeingardtNetworked, electronic game tournament method and system
US20070243926 *Apr 18, 2006Oct 18, 2007Yuchiang ChengAutomatically adapting virtual equipment model
US20080220870 *Mar 3, 2008Sep 11, 2008Emmanuel ZavolasMethod and system for providing a seamless tournament system for multiplayer games
US20100105484 *Sep 5, 2008Apr 29, 2010Sony Computer Entertainment Europe LimitedApparatus and method of on-line reporting
US20100169202 *Dec 29, 2008Jul 1, 2010Bank Of America CorporationSecure platforms for financial transaction applications
US20100169659 *Dec 29, 2008Jul 1, 2010Bank Of America CorporationGaming console-specific user authentication
US20120094762 *Oct 13, 2010Apr 19, 2012Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc.Online process for recommending friends based on game playing habits
US20120270643 *Apr 20, 2011Oct 25, 2012Sienkiewicz RobertSystem and method for dynamic matchmaking population herding
US20120284137 *Jun 20, 2011Nov 8, 2012Mike BeckhamMethod and System for Reducing Short-Term Participation in Auctions
US20130262362 *May 30, 2013Oct 3, 2013Sumit AgarwalProviding Digital Content Based On Expected User Behavior
WO2015183335A1 *Sep 30, 2014Dec 3, 2015Gaming Grids, Inc.Online gaming tournament system having player prizes
Classifications
U.S. Classification463/42
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/32, G07F17/3276
European ClassificationG07F17/32, G07F17/32M8D