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Publication numberUS20070077994 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/243,785
Publication dateApr 5, 2007
Filing dateOct 5, 2005
Priority dateOct 5, 2005
Also published asWO2007044466A2, WO2007044466A3
Publication number11243785, 243785, US 2007/0077994 A1, US 2007/077994 A1, US 20070077994 A1, US 20070077994A1, US 2007077994 A1, US 2007077994A1, US-A1-20070077994, US-A1-2007077994, US2007/0077994A1, US2007/077994A1, US20070077994 A1, US20070077994A1, US2007077994 A1, US2007077994A1
InventorsAlbert Betteridge
Original AssigneeBetteridge Albert E
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Networked video game wagering
US 20070077994 A1
Abstract
A wagering system is disclosed which includes a server configured for operative connection to at least one multiplayer gaming network. The server may be configured for processing at least one wager on a video game played on the multiplayer gaming network. The wagering system also includes at least one database operatively associated with the server for storing information related to the video game wager. In the wagering system, the server may be configured to operate independently of the multiplayer gaming network.
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Claims(25)
1. A wagering system comprising:
a server configured for operative connection to at least one multiplayer gaming network, the server being configured for processing at least one wager on a video game to be played by players on the multiplayer gaming network;
at least one database operatively associated with the server, the database being configured for storing information related to the video game wager; and,
the server being configured to operate independently of the multiplayer gaming network.
2. The wagering system of claim 1, wherein the server includes a web server.
3. The wagering system of claim 2, wherein the web server includes at least one web site having at least one page configured for receiving wagering information.
4. The wagering system of claim 3, wherein at least one of the web site pages is configured to allow the players to select from among a set of video games that can be played for wagers.
5. The wagering system of claim 3, wherein at least one of the web site pages is configured to allow the players to store a wager in association with at least one video game.
6. The wagering system of claim 3, wherein at least one of the web site pages is configured to allow the players to accept a wager in association with at least one video game.
7. The wagering system of claim 3, wherein at least one of the web site pages includes multiple video game links separated into multiple sections according to a factor selected from the group consisting of a multiplayer gaming network associated with the video game, a type of video game, and a gaming mode.
8. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising connectivity software operatively associated with at least one game console of at least one of the players, the connectivity software being configured to communicate with the server.
9. The wagering system of claim 8, further comprising the connectivity software being configured to notify the server when at least one player has logged into the multiplayer gaming network.
10. The wagering system of claim 8, further comprising the connectivity software being configured to verify at least one winner of at least one video game match.
11. The wagering system of claim 8, further comprising the connectivity software being configured to transmit an outcome of at least one video game match to the server.
12. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising at least one wager account stored in the database, the wager account being associated with a credit balance of at least one of the players.
13. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising at least one player profile stored on the database.
14. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising the server being configured to transfer a wager amount at the conclusion of a video game match.
15. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising a competency structure operatively associated with the server, the competency structure being configured for maintaining at least one skill level of at least one of the players.
16. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising the database being configured to store multiple wagers for a particular video game or for multiple video games.
17. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising the server being configured to automatically initiate a video game match between players upon determining compatibility of wagers.
18. The wagering system of claim 17, wherein determining compatibility includes comparing skill levels associated with the players.
19. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising the server being configured to adjust a user rating of at least one player.
20. The wagering system of claim 1, wherein the video game includes a video game tournament.
21. The wagering system of claim 1, wherein the video game includes a video game that can be played by multiple players as a team.
22. The wagering system of claim 1, wherein the video game includes a team tournament.
23. The wagering system of claim 1, wherein the video game includes a single player competing against multiple opponents simultaneously on the multiplayer gaming network.
24. The wagering system of claim 1, wherein the video game includes a gambling-oriented video game.
25. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising the server being configured to allow a non-player to place a bet on a player competing in a video game match.
Description
    FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0001]
    The present invention generally relates to facilitating and processing wagers over a network, and the invention more particularly relates to facilitating, receiving, and processing wagers on video games played on a network.
  • BACKGROUND
  • [0002]
    The technological landscape for online multiplayer video gaming is rapidly evolving into exciting new areas. Online video game play through multiplayer gaming networks provides an entertaining experience by offering players the opportunity to play against multiple live opponents, rather than merely against a computer-controlled opponent, in a virtual video game world. There are presently many multiplayer gaming networks available that allow players to compete in video games against each other, and at least some gaming networks have the capability to permit interaction among players on a global scale.
  • [0003]
    In view of this emerging technological landscape, what are needed are more effective ways to further enhance the excitement and entertainment value of the online video gaming experience, especially with regard to video games played on multiplayer gaming networks.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES
  • [0004]
    The utility of the embodiments of the invention will be readily appreciated and understood from consideration of the following description of the embodiments of the invention when viewed in connection with the accompanying drawings.
  • [0005]
    FIG. 1 includes a system architecture diagram illustrating various exemplary aspects of a wagering system configured in accordance with embodiments of the present invention;
  • [0006]
    FIG. 2A includes a process flow diagram illustrating certain aspects of wagering system processes that may be conducted in accordance with embodiments of the present invention;
  • [0007]
    FIG. 2B includes a process flow diagram illustrating certain aspects of wagering system processes that may be conducted in accordance with embodiments of the present invention; and,
  • [0008]
    FIGS. 3 through 42 illustrate examples of screen displays that may be provided in accordance with game consoles and/or web site pages configured in accordance with embodiments of the present invention.
  • DESCRIPTION
  • [0009]
    As applied herein, a “wager” or “wagering” involves players staking something of value (e.g., money) for an opportunity to win something of value (e.g., a prize) subject to the outcome of an event (e.g., a video game contest between players), wherein the outcome of the event is predominantly determined by the skill of the players involved in the event and not a chance occurrence. In comparison, a “bet” or “gambling” involves staking something of value (e.g., money) for a chance to win something of value (e.g., a prize) subject predominantly to the outcome of an event (e.g., a lottery drawing) which is predominantly a chance occurrence.
  • [0010]
    A “multiplayer gaming network” or “gaming network” includes any networked medium that permits players to engage in a video game, computer system game, or any other electronic gaming activity between/among the players. One example of a “multiplayer gaming network” suitable for use with various embodiments of the present invention is an “Xbox Live” gaming network operatively associated with the “Xbox” gaming system (Microsoft Corporation).
  • [0011]
    A “video game” includes any electronically executed game that can be played over a multiplayer gaming network in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. Examples of video games include, without limitation, console-based games such as those played on the “Xbox” gaming system, personal computer (“PC”) games, and a variety of other types of electronic games.
  • [0012]
    A “game console” includes any device or apparatus that can be configured for playing one or more video games on a multiplayer gaming network. Examples of “game consoles” may include, without limitation, video gaming system consoles, computer systems, personal data assistants (PDAs), wireless telephones, or any other device that can be configured for use as a game console in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention described herein.
  • [0013]
    The term “communication media” includes any medium capable of receiving data communications in accordance with various embodiments of the invention such as, without limitation, network connections (e.g., an intranet, extranet, or the Internet), wireless data networks, or wireline data networks.
  • [0014]
    Unless otherwise noted or readily evident from the context as applied herein, the term “player” refers to players participating on a multiplayer gaming network who may also be “users” of a wagering system provided in accordance with the present invention. The terms “player” and “user” sometimes may be used interchangeably herein.
  • [0015]
    With reference to FIG. 1, general aspects of an exemplary wagering system architecture that may be provided in accordance with various embodiments of the invention are illustrated. A wagering system 102 includes a server 102A configured for operative connection to a multiplayer gaming network 104. The server 102A may be a web server, for example, and may be operatively associated with one or more wager databases 102B or other like storage media configured for storing a variety of wagering related information. The server 102A may host one or more web sites 102C including various pages or screen displays that facilitate collection, analysis and processing of wagering information, gaming information, and/or other data communicated to/from the wagering system 102. For example, information may be communicated to the wagering system 102 from multiple game consoles 106, 108, 110 employed by various players 112, 114, 116 (respectively), playing video games on the multiplayer gaming network 104. In various embodiments, the players 112, 114, 116 may also be users with respect to accessing and using the wagering system 102. As shown in FIG. 1, communications between the game consoles 106, 108, 110 and the wagering system 102, for example, may be conducted through one or more suitable communication media 118.
  • [0016]
    It can be seen that the wagering system 102 may be configured primarily for interaction with the game consoles 106, 108, 110 of the players 112, 114, 116. In general, the wagering system 102 functions to allow the players 112, 114, 116 to select from among a diverse set of video games that can be played for wagers; to permit the players 112, 114, 116 to place or accept wagers; to choose an opponent to play against; as well as to perform various other functions. In various embodiments of the invention, however, the wagering system 102 is not configured to facilitate actual video game play between/among the players 112, 114, 116. Rather, the software that permits communication and interaction between/among the game consoles 106, 108, 110 during video game play can be executed by the multiplayer gaming network 104. The wagering system 102 may thus be configured to operate independently of the multiplayer gaming network 104; and, the game consoles 106, 108, 110 may interact with each other on the multiplayer gaming network 104 to conduct video game play. The game consoles 106, 108, 110 may be configured with connectivity software 106A, 108A, 110A that permits separate, independent interaction of the game consoles 106, 108, 110 with the web server 102A of the wagering system 102. Interaction between the game consoles 106, 108, 110 and the wagering system 102 can facilitate an exchange of information that allows the players 112, 114, 116 to place and accept wagers on video game play through the wagering system 102.
  • [0017]
    In various embodiments, the connectivity software 106A, 108A, 110A can be configured to permit the game consoles 106, 108, 110 to interact with the wagering system 102, such as to ensure the correct establishment of player 112, 114, 116 identities; to notify the wagering system 102 when the players 112, 114, 116 are logged into the multiplayer gaming network 104; to verify winners of video games that have been played, including transmitting the outcomes of video games to the wagering system 102, for example; and/or other connectivity functions. For example, the connectivity software 106A, 108A, 110A can be configured to permit the wagering system 102 to recognize when players 112, 114, 116 have logged into the multiplayer gaming network 104 by communicating an intermittent “handshake” signal on a periodic or non-periodic basis while the player 112, 114, 116 is logged into the multiplayer gaming network 104. In this manner, if the signal ceases or cannot be detected, then the wagering system 102 may conclude that the players 112, 114, 116 have logged off the multiplayer gaming network 104. The wagering system 102 may also establish whether or not a player 112, 114, 116 has logged off the multiplayer gaming network 104 by accessing a data stream (shown as communication connection 120 in FIG. 1) supplied to the web server 102A of the wagering system 102 by the multiplayer gaming network 104, for example.
  • [0018]
    It can be appreciated that embodiments of the invention provide communication capability between the game consoles 106, 108, 110 and the wagering system 102 to facilitate playing video games on the multiplayer gaming network 104. As described hereinafter in more detail, the wagering system 102 provides a variety of functions: to permit players 112, 114, 116 to register and maintain wager accounts 102D; to store details of player 112, 114, 116 profiles; to store payment information; to facilitate competition with other players 112, 114, 116 in a variety of video games for predetermined wagers; to transfer an amount indicative of the wager at the conclusion of a head-to-head video game match, for example; to store outcomes of played video games, including a competency structure 102E that tracks and maintains the skill levels of players 112, 114, 116 with respect to various video games; and/or other functions.
  • [0019]
    Referring now to FIGS. 1 and 2A, in operation of the wagering system 102, and prior to permitting wagering on video game play, players 112, 114, 116 as members of the multiplayer gaming network 104 may download and install the connectivity software 106A, 108A, 110A into their game consoles 106, 108, 110 at step 202. Download and installation of the connectivity software 106A, 108A, 110A may occur through any conventional electronic data transfer means. For example, the connectivity software 106A, 108A, 110A may be obtained from communication of the game consoles 106, 108, 110 with the wagering system 102 and/or the multiplayer gaming network 104. FIG. 3 includes an example of a content download screen display that may facilitate download of the connectivity software 106A, 108A, 110A to the game consoles 106, 108, 110 from the multiplayer gaming network 104, for example. In certain embodiments, the connectivity software 106A, 108A, 110A may be downloaded to the game consoles 106, 108, 110 from a suitable computer-readable medium, such as a CD or a software programming disk capable of loading information to the memory of the game consoles 106, 108, 110.
  • [0020]
    Prior to entering into video game match play for wagers, players may be required to register as users with the wagering system. The web site 102C screen display of FIG. 4 can be displayed as an introductory page 402 to advertise the features of the wagering system 102 to visitors and to facilitate registration or access to the wagering system 102. The introductory page 402 may include multiple links including a “visitor registration” link 404 to direct new users to conduct registration activity, and a “member entrance” link 406 for allowing previously registered users to proceed to a member area of the web site 102C. The introductory page 402 may also include various informational links 408, 410, 412, 414 to educate new users, in particular, about the features of the wagering system 102. If the user selects the “member entrance” link 406, the screen display of FIG. 5 may be presented to the user with a text entry box 502 to permit entry of conventional login information (e.g., username and password information) to access the wagering system 102.
  • [0021]
    In order to register at step 204 and gain access to the wagering system 102, new users may be presented with the registration page 602 shown in the screen display of FIG. 6. On the registration page 602, new users may enter various name and contact information, as well as a multiplayer gaming network identification 604 that the user employs when playing video games on the multiplayer gaming network 104. New users may also enter desired username 606 and password 608 information to permit account access on the wagering system 102. Data collected on the registration page 602 may be stored in the wager database 102B of the wagering system 102.
  • [0022]
    In association with registration, new users may be directed to a payment options page 702, as illustrated by the screen display of FIG. 7, to select or edit payment options at step 206. The payment options page 702 permits the user to select a payment method 704 for establishing a wager account 102D with the wagering system 102. As shown in the screen display of FIG. 8, the user may be prompted with a notification 802 to select from a variety of payment processors 122 (examples of which are listed in the payment method 704 section) that provide payment processing services to the wagering system 102. The payment processors 122 can facilitate the transfer of funds to/from the wager account 102D of the user. To load credit into a wager account 102D, for example, a user may transfer money into the wagering system 102 by using one or more accounts managed for the user by the payment processor 122. Once established, the wager account 102D may be employed by the wagering system 102 to credit or debit wager amounts for the user in connection with video game play (e.g., wins or losses) on the multiplayer gaming network 104.
  • [0023]
    Once a registered account is accessed by a previously registered user or a new user at step 208, a home page 902 (an example of which is illustrated by the screen display of FIG. 9) may be displayed to the user by the wagering system 102. The home page 902 may include a section of links 904 to wager pages determined by the wagering system 102 to be those on which users most frequently store wagers (e.g., “Top Ten Wager Pages”). It can be appreciated that collecting and presenting these links 904 can provide the best chance for the user to find another user willing to wager on a video game using the wagering system 102. The home page 902 may also include sections of links 906, 908 to one or more registration pages for upcoming tournaments, including links to pages that display information for tournament registration, for example. Various screen displays presented by the web site 102C, such as the home page 902, may include a toolbar 910 of links positioned horizontally across the screen display as shown. The links in the toolbar 910 may include a “home page” link 910A to access the home page 902, a “terms and conditions” link 910B to display terms and conditions of using the wagering system 102, and/or an “instructions/demo” link 910C to display information related to using various aspects of the wagering system 102 or the web site 102C.
  • [0024]
    Various screen displays presented by the web site 102C may include a toolbar 912 of links positioned vertically on the left-hand side of the home page 902, for example. The toolbar 912 may include links to a variety of video games on which a user may place a wager and play against another player on the multiplayer gaming network 104. The video game links on the toolbar 912 may be separated into distinct sections according to a number of factors including the multiplayer gaming network 104 associated with the video game, the type of video game (e.g., sports, fighting, shooter, etc.), and/or gaming mode (e.g., one-on-one competition, team play, tournament play, etc.). For instance, there could be a section devoted to “Xbox” sports games or “Playstation” (Sony Corporation) fighting games. In addition, the toolbar 912 may be configured to display only those links to video games which are compatible for play with the particular game console 106, 108, 110 of the user (e.g., links for “Playstation” games only).
  • [0025]
    Various screen displays presented by the web site 102C may include a toolbar 914 of links positioned vertically on the right-hand side of the home page 902, for example, as shown in FIG. 9. The links on the toolbar 914 may allow users to access functions and processes relevant to management of the wager account 102D. For example, certain links may allow access to pages that display wager account 102D statements and allow users to modify contact information and passwords. In addition, a “deposit money” link 914A provides navigation to a function or page that permits users to add credit to the wager account 102D. A “withdraw money” link 914B can direct users to a function or page that facilitates withdrawal of an amount of the credit balance in the wager account 102D not otherwise needed to cover an outstanding wager, or the largest of multiple outstanding wagers, stored with the wagering system 102. A “betting history” link 914C can direct users to a betting history page 1002 (an example of which is shown in FIG. 10) that displays historical data for wager amounts stored by the user for various video games. A “game P&L” link 914D directs users to a page or function that summarizes record information and/or profit and loss information for each video game played by the user. An example of a game P&L page 1102 is illustrated by the screen display of FIG. 11. Also, a “player profile” link 914E can be provided to navigate users to a page or function that permits review of skill levels for a player 112, 114, 116 on a video game and/or game mode basis for wagered video games. An example of a player profile page 1202 is shown in the screen display of FIG. 12.
  • [0026]
    Also, on the toolbar 914, users may be presented with a “Current Wagers” section 914F that includes a list of wagers currently stored for the user on the database 102B of the wagering system 102. For each wager, a button 914G, 914H or other function can be provided that allows removal of the wagers from the database 102B. It can be appreciated that the number of wagers in the “Current Wagers” section 914F varies depending on the number of wagers stored by the user. If a user does not have any wagers stored, then a “None” designation may be presented in the “Current Wagers” section 914F.
  • [0027]
    At step 210, the user may select a video game for which the user wants to review, store or accept a wager. Selecting the one-on-one football link (e.g., “Madden NFL”) on the toolbar 912, for example, directs the user to the wager page 1002 screen display shown in FIG. 13. In general, the wager page 1302 is substantially representative of the characteristics of all wager pages that may be provided for different video games in accordance with various embodiments of the invention. As shown, the wager page 1302 includes a list of wagers 1304 that players 112, 114, 116 have stored on the wagering system 102 for a particular video game. The list 1304 may include the username 1306 of each player 112, 114, 116 who stored a wager; the user rating 1308 of each player 112, 114, 116; the skill level 1310 of each player 112, 114, 116; and/or, a wager amount 1312 associated with each wager. On the wager page 1302, the user may accept a particular stored wager with the intent of playing the video game for the wager amount 1312. In addition, the wager page 1302 may include a “store wager” option 1314 that allows users to add wagers to the list of wagers 1304 by inputting wager amounts 1312. In various embodiments, the wagering system 102 may refuse to accept wager amounts 1312 less than a predetermined minimum level or greater than a predetermined maximum level.
  • [0028]
    Once the “store wager” option 1314 is selected, the notification 1402 shown in FIG. 14 may be displayed to the user with a wager amount field 1304 that permits entry of the wager amount 1312. If the user attempts to store a wager amount 1312 greater than the credit amount available in the wager account 102D of the user, a notification 1502 as shown in the screen display of FIG. 15 may be presented to the user. As shown, the notifications 1402, 1502 may also include payment options links 1404, 1504 that may navigate the user to the payments option page 702, for example, such as to instruct the payment processor 122 to transfer additional funds into the wager account 102D of the user.
  • [0029]
    In addition, the wager page 1302 may be configured to permit users to sort the list of stored wagers 1304 according to wager amount 1312 or skill level 1310, for example. The wager page 1302 may also be provided with a conventional search functionality that permits users to search the list 1304 for a specific wager amount 1312, a specific skill level 1310, and/or the username 1306 of a particular player 112, 114, 116. In a normal mode of operation, the list of stored wagers 1304 can be ordered according to when the wagers were initially stored, such that the first wager on the list 1304 may be the most recently stored or the oldest stored wager.
  • [0030]
    In various embodiments, a credit balance 9141 of the wager account 102D of a user can be displayed on the vertical toolbar 914, for example, of various pages of the wagering system 102. In addition, users may be permitted to view a breakdown of gross transactions that have impacted the credit balance 9141 by navigating to a credit balance page 1602 using the associated link on the horizontal toolbar. The credit balance page 1602 can be configured to display transactions including total amounts transferred to the wagering system 102 from the payment processor 122, total amounts withdrawn by the user, and/or amounts won or lost by the user. The credit balance page 1602 may also present billing details and password information for the user and provide functionality to modify this information. An example of the credit balance page 1602 is shown in the screen display of FIG. 16. If users wish to make a withdrawal from the wager account 102D, the “Withdraw Money” link 914B may be accessed on the credit balance page 1602. The “Withdraw Money” link 914B may direct the user to a withdrawal options page 1702 wherein the user can specify how much of the credit balance should be disbursed. An example of the withdrawal options page 1702 is illustrated in the screen display of FIG. 17. In certain embodiments, the user may not be permitted to withdraw any portion of the credit balance in the wager account 102D that may be required to cover an outstanding wager, or the largest wager of multiple outstanding wagers, previously stored by the user with the wagering system 102.
  • [0031]
    With general reference to FIGS. 1 through 2B, in operation of the wagering system 102, players 112, 114, 116 may log into the multiplayer gaming network 104 at step 252 with sufficient credit in their wager accounts 102D to compete against other players 112, 114, 116 on the network 104. If a player 112, 114, 116 cannot find a compatible wager stored on the wagering system 102 to select at step 254, the player 112, 114, 116 can store a wager at step 256, and remain logged into the multiplayer gaming network 104 and await another player 112, 114, 116 to accept the stored wager. Users may also be permitted to store multiple wagers on the wagering system 102 for a particular video game or multiple video games to promote an increased probability that an opponent player 112, 114, 116 will be available to play for one of the multiple wagers. With respect to multiple wagers, the wagering system 102 can be configured to verify that the player 112, 114, 116 has enough credit in the wager account 102D to cover the largest of the multiple stored wagers. Players 112, 114, 116 who stored wagers may be automatically notified at step 258 by e-mail, instant messenger, or another communication method, if another player 112, 114, 116 has selected or accepted a stored wager. It can be seen that players 112, 114, 116 who had previously stored wagers on the wagering system 102 can await notification of wager acceptance while working on a computer system or other access device (wireless phone, PDA, notebook, etc.), in addition to being logged into the gaming consoles 106, 108, 110.
  • [0032]
    If the user stores a wager substantially compatible with a wager previously stored by another player, and if the wagering system 102 determines through application of its competency structure 102E that the skill levels associated with the players 112, 114, 116 who made the wagers are compatible, then the players 112, 114, 116 associated with the wagers may then be automatically directed into video game match play at step 260. The wagering system 102 may be configured to define compatible wager amounts as substantially the same amounts or within a certain acceptable range of deviation between the amounts. The competency structure 102E of the wagering system 102 may not permit players 112, 114, 116 of comparatively higher skill levels to accept wagers from players 112, 114, 116 at comparatively lower skill levels, but the converse may be permitted (i.e., lower skill level players 112, 114, 116 can be permitted to accept wagers stored by higher skill level players 112, 114, 116). Also, the competency structure 102E of the wagering system 102 may be configured to not permit a player 112, 114, 116 having a first skill level to play against a player 112, 114, 116 at a second skill level, wherein the absolute magnitude or percentage difference between the first and second skill levels exceeds a predetermined maximum level. For example, the wagering system 102 may permit two players 112, 114, 116 to compete if a second higher skill level is not more than 10% higher than a first lower skill level. If the wagering system 102 matches compatible wagers, or if a user accepts a stored wager on the wager page 1302, for example, then the user can be presented with a confirmation page 1802 as shown in the screen display of FIG. 18. The confirmation page 1802 prompts the user to accept or decline the video game match wager subject to the terms and conditions displayed on the confirmation page 1802.
  • [0033]
    If a user enters into video game competition with another user on the multiplayer gaming network 104 for a wager, then that particular wager can be removed from the wager page 1302 by the wagering system 102. If a user had multiple wagers on the wager page 1302, and the user enters into competition for one of the wagers, then all of the other wagers can be removed from the wager page 1302. If the connectivity software 106A, 108A, 110A notifies the wagering system 102 that a user has logged off the multiplayer gaming network 104, then all outstanding wagers for the user may be removed from the wager page 1302. In certain embodiments, if a first user had stored a wager that was later accepted by another user, and the first user did not indicate his or her readiness to compete within a predetermined time period, then the wagering system 102 can be configured to remove all of the first user's wagers from the wager page 1302.
  • [0034]
    To select a wager at step 254, users may be required to have logged into the multiplayer gaming network 104; to have loaded enough credit into the wager account 102D to cover the wager amount; and, to have challenged another user of a compatible skill level. If a user attempts to select a wager without meeting these criteria, among possibly others, then the wagering system 102 may present the user with a notification 1902 as shown in the screen display of FIG. 19 for attempting to compete with another player having an incompatible skill level; and/or a notification 2002 as shown in the screen display of FIG. 20 for attempting to accept a wager of an amount greater than the credit balance of the wager account 102D of the user. In the latter case, the wagering system 102 may be configured to automatically direct the user on how to transfer additional funds into the user's wager account 102D.
  • [0035]
    If users met the necessary criteria and accept a stored wager, then the users may receive a prompt 2102 as shown on the screen display of FIG. 21, advising the user to prepare the game console 106, 108, 110 for video game play. At step 262, the wagering system 102 may communicate with the connectivity software 106A, 108A, 110A on the game consoles 106, 108, 110 of the players 112, 114, 116 to ascertain whether the competing players 112, 114, 116 have loaded the video game to be played. If the wagering system 102 determines that both players 112, 114, 116 have loaded the video game, then the players 112, 114, 116 may proceed to play the video game. If either player 112, 114, 116 does not load the video game, the wagering system 102 may notify the non-loading player 112, 114, 116 accordingly to load the video game in the game console 106, 108, 110 in order to compete for the wager. An example of a video game loading notification 2202 is shown in the screen display of FIG. 22. A non-loading player 112, 114, 116 may have only a limited amount of time in which to load the video game before the competition is terminated. If a competition is terminated, and if the player 112, 114, 116 opposing the non-loading player 112, 114, 116 had previously stored a wager or wagers, then those wagers may be reinstated by the wagering system 102; and, the wagering system 102 may negatively adjust a user rating of the non-loading player 112, 114, 116. An example of a notification 2302 that can be displayed to a non-loading player is shown in the screen display of FIG. 23. Also, an example of a notification 2402 that can be displayed to the player 112, 114, 116 intending to oppose the non-loading player 112, 114, 116 in the now terminated video game competition is illustrated in the screen display of FIG. 24.
  • [0036]
    If the players 112, 114, 116 load the video game into their respective game consoles within the required time limit, then the players 112, 114, 116 can be permitted to play the video game. Before competing, however, the players 112, 114, 116 may be required to confirm their willingness to enter into the wager at step 264 by reviewing a wager summary page containing the details of the wager. This gives the players 112, 114, 116 another chance to decline the wager and promotes assurance that the players 112, 114, 116 are ready to compete for the wager. An illustration of a wager summary page 2502 is shown in the screen display of FIG. 25. If one of the players 112, 114, 116 decides not to compete for the wager or takes too long to indicate willingness to compete for the wager, then the players 112, 114, 116 may each receive a notification from the wagering system 102 that the competition has been terminated. An example of a notification 2602 received by a player 112, 114, 116 that declines the wager, or by a player 112, 114, 116 who takes too long to respond, is illustrated in the screen display of FIG. 26. The wagering system 102 may then negatively adjust the user rating of the player or players 112, 114, 116 who declined the wager and/or permitted the wager to lapse.
  • [0037]
    After both players 112, 114, 116 have confirmed the summary page, they may compete for the wager by playing the video game on the multiplayer gaming network 104 at step 266, in substantially the same manner as if they were engaging in non-wagered competition on the network 104, and independently of the operation of the wagering system 102. During play, either player 112, 114, 116 may forfeit the wager by quitting the video game prior to its normal conclusion or otherwise logging off the network 104.
  • [0038]
    When wagered video games conclude, the connectivity software 106A, 108A, 110A on the game consoles 106, 108, 110 may be configured to verify which player 112, 114, 116 won the match at step 268. In certain embodiments, the connectivity software 106A, 108A, 110A may be configured with a conventional screen capture software such as “Poker Tracker” (or a functional equivalent) which can ascertain elements of ongoing game play by analyzing screenshots of the video output of electronic games. The screen capture software can recognize designated alphanumeric characters, if it knows what to look for and where to look on the screen. The screen capture software allows for the verification of winners or losers by screening the video output generated by video game play for a set of alphanumeric patterns that denote which player won. The software would recognize set alphanumeric characters that appear in the same place in each match, which would allow it to associate a player's 112, 114, 116 network 104 identification, for example, with the particular individual or team played in the video game match. Examples of screen displays that permit the connectivity software 106A, 108A, 110A to associate a network username with a competitive identity in a game are depicted in FIGS. 27 and 28. After associating a player 112, 114, 116 with a competing identity in the video game, the screen software may verify the winner by analyzing standard screens that show final outcomes. For example, after a “Fight Night: Round 2” match concludes, a screen can be presented that states which character in the game won the competition. In another example, in “NCAA Football 2005”, a screen depicting a final score board demonstrates who won the match. Examples of these screen displays are illustrated in the screen displays of FIGS. 29 and 30.
  • [0039]
    In general, by analyzing screen displays, the wagering system 102 acting through the connectivity software 106A, 108A, 110A does not need to gain access to specific video game software code to verify winners of video game matches. In other embodiments, verifying the winner of the video game may also be performed by permitting the wagering system 102 to access software code used for programming the video game, or by permitting the wagering system 102 to access game results through the data stream connection 120 with the multiplayer gaming network 104. At the conclusion of video game competitions on the multiplayer gaming network 104, competitors may be notified of the outcome of the match, including which player won and which player lost, final scores, and so forth. In certain embodiments, the players 112, 114, 116 may communicate the outcome and final score information directly to the wagering system 102 for a determination of who has won or lost the wager. After the wagering system 102 has verified which player won the video competition through communication with the connectivity software 106A, 108A, 110A, for example, the players 112, 114, 116 can be presented with a summary page 3102 displayed on their game consoles 106, 108, 110, as shown in FIG. 31. The summary page 3102 may include a recap of the outcome of the video game match and how that outcome will impact the respective wager account 102D balances of the players 112, 114, 116.
  • [0040]
    At step 270, the wagering system 102 may award a prize to the winning player 112, 114, 116 by transferring a credit equivalent to the funds staked in the wager from the wager account 102D of the losing player 112, 114, 116 to the wager account 102D of the winning player 112, 114, 116. The wager amount may be reduced by a transaction fee charged by the wagering system 102. In this manner, no cash needs to be transferred directly between users of the wagering system 102; the server 102A merely updates wager accounts to reflect the results of wagers won or lost by the players 112, 114, 116.
  • [0041]
    Following the credit transfer, at step 272 the wagering system 102 may be configured to process the outcome of the concluded match to alter a competency structure 102E maintained by the wagering system 102 for the players 112, 114, 116. The competency structure 102E may be created and configured as follows. Each user of the wagering system 102 can be given skill levels in a particular video game based on a combination of factors including the amount of money won or lost, as well as a win-loss record or other score achieved, by playing the video game against other users for wagers. For example, users might be given a skill level between one and ten, one representing an extremely poor player and ten representing an exceptional player. In this example, the skill level in a given video game would increase if a win-loss record or a wagered amount won by the user improved, according to established algorithms. The users may access their skill levels, as well as win-loss records or other scores achieved, by clicking on the “Player Profile” link 914E on the toolbar 914 included on each member page. An example of the player profile page 1202 is illustrated in the screen display of FIG. 12 (see discussion above). If a user had not yet played a particular video game for a wager, then an initial, mid-range starting skill level could be given to the user, for example. The wagering system 102 may be configured to not set the initial skill level to the lowest possible skill level, because the user might be relatively experienced playing the video game but may not have played the video game for a wager using the wagering system 102. Based on the operation of the competency structure 102E, the wagering system 102 can be configured to permit players 112, 114, 116 of lower skill levels to challenge other players 112, 114, 116 with substantially the same or better skill levels, but the converse situation may or may not be permitted by the wagering system 102.
  • [0042]
    Users of the wagering system 102 may also have user ratings displayed next to their stored wagers, based on rating factors such as how often wagers are accepted, how often stored wagers are later declined, and/or how often the user did not indicate readiness to compete in an established time period. For instance, new users could start with an initial predetermined percentage user rating that can be adjusted in accordance with subsequent actions of the users in view of the rating factors. While users may have multiple skill levels for different video games and gaming modes, the users may be provided with a single user rating, which would be impacted by the manner in which they utilized the wagering system 102 with respect to wagered video game play. Over time, it can be seen that the user rating system would become a self-regulating device to penalize users whose use of the wagering system 102 led to improperly terminated matches. It can be seen that the time a player 112, 114, 116 with a lower user rating may wait for a video game opponent to select his or her wager generally would be greater than the time that a player 112, 114, 116 with a higher user rating would have to wait. Application of the user rating system thus reduces the possibility that a user could frequently store wagers and then never accept a video game match.
  • [0043]
    In various embodiments of the invention, video game tournament play may be conducted for wagers through use of the wagering system 102. To set up a successful online tournament, the wagering system 102 can create an attractive betting and payout structure to encourage a large number of participants to play. This would entail offering a big enough prize and paying it out in manner that is attractive to the players 112, 114, 116. For instance, if the entire prize were paid out to the winner, then the chances of winning might be too remote, particularly to less skilled players 112, 114, 116, and they might not enter the tournament. To prevent this, smaller tournaments might pay out, for example, fifty percent of the total prize to the winner, twenty-five percent to the other finalist, and split the remainder between the two other quarterfinalists. On the other hand, larger tournaments might only pay twenty percent of the total prize to the winner, for example, and split the remainder between/among many contestants who made it through the introductory rounds. There may also be several different entry points to tournament competitions to appeal to the largest possible demographic, since more experienced players 112, 114, 116 might be willing to pay a higher buy-in, while less experienced players 112, 114, 116 might not be. Because the wagering system 102 would want to attract both types of players 112, 114, 116 to better finance the tournament prize, lower buy-in tournaments could also be conducted that were played, at least in part, to gain entrance to the higher buy-in tournaments.
  • [0044]
    In operation, the wagering system 102 can schedule a combination of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and/or annual tournaments, for example, each of which may have successively larger prizes inversely related to the frequency with which it was held. Each of these tournaments may be limited to a fixed number of players. Prior to a tournament, the wagering system 102 may create separate contests for an established number of players 112, 114, 116, according to the order of their registration. For instance, in daily tournaments, the first sixty-four players 112, 114, 116 to indicate their desire to participate might be in the first group, the second sixty-four players 112, 114, 116 in another group, and so forth, until an entry cut off time before the tournament and when the final tournament grouping was filled. The size of tournaments may be crafted to strike the right balance between having enough participants to generate a large tournament prize with a relatively low buy-in, while not having so many rounds that players 112, 114, 116 would lose interest in continued game play as the tournament progressed.
  • [0045]
    The weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual tournaments may be held with more rounds than the daily tournaments to allow for a larger tournament prize without making the buy-in too excessively high. For example, the wagering system 102 could allow 4,096 players to register for $250, in which an approximately $1 million tournament prize could be awarded. To motivate players 112, 114, 116 to compete in multiple rounds without tiring or losing interest, the wagering system 102 may establish set breaks, after a fixed number of rounds during larger tournaments to give players a chance to recuperate, as is done in poker tournaments, for example.
  • [0046]
    For conducting tournament play, the wagering system 102 may employ the same or similar processes and platforms as those utilized in match play described above. Such tournaments may involve a player 112, 114, 116 paying a fixed buy-in, however, as opposed to selecting a wager and would have successive rounds in which players 112, 114, 116 are eliminated, as opposed to a single match. These structural differences between match play and tournament play may require certain modifications to the processes and systems described above. Prior to the designated start time of a tournament, participants can be required to register. To register, participants may be directed to a tournament scheduling page that can be accessed through various links 906, 908 on the home page 902 (see FIG. 9), for example. An example of the tournament scheduling page 3202 is depicted in the screen display of FIG. 32. On a tournament registration page 3302 (an example of which is illustrated by the screen display of FIG. 33), users can indicate their desire to participate in a tournament and confirm their agreement to the terms and conditions of the competition. If the participant does not have sufficient credit in the wager account 102D, then the participant may be prompted to transfer more credit into the wager account 102D, as shown in the prompt 3402 of FIG. 34. In various embodiments, a player 112, 114, 116 and potential tournament participant may only be allowed to register for tournaments which are compatible with the game console 106, 108, 110 of the player 112, 114, 116.
  • [0047]
    In operation, the tournament would require players to log into the multiplayer gaming network 104, or risk forfeiture of the registration fee, prior to the scheduled start time of the tournament. The wagering system 102 may then notify each player 112, 114, 116 through the connectivity software 106A, 108A, 110A on each game console 106, 108, 110 of the player's 112, 114, 116 next opponent in the tournament. Then each set of competitors can be prompted to indicate their readiness to play, and after both had done so, play between them commences. At the end of each video game match in the tournament, the connectivity software 106A, 108A, 110A can transmit the outcome of the match, including the identity of the player 112, 114, 116 who won the contest, to the wagering system 102. Based on the outcome, the wagering system 102 may then establish the next match between the winner and another victorious player 112, 114, 116. Then the second round of the tournament would progress, and so forth into the remaining rounds until the final match of the tournament. In this manner, players 112, 114, 116 would probably not have to wait long between successive rounds, since those participants who finished earlier than others could play each other. The tournament could be configured such that no two players 112, 114, 116 would be allowed to compete who had played different numbers of matches, in order to assure that they were in the same round of the competition. This winnowing down of the playing field would continue until one winner remained, at which point the wagering system 102 recognizes that the tournament has concluded and credits the pooled buy-ins to the credit balances in the wager accounts 102D of the participants who had made it far enough into the tournament to warrant part of the prize, according to the payout structure of the tournament. As in the case of match play, the wagering system 102 may subtract a transaction fee from the tournament prize prior to updating user credit balances in the wager accounts 102D. This transaction fee may be established prior to the tournament and may be either a fixed amount or calculated as a percentage of the tournament prize.
  • [0048]
    Embodiments of the invention may also include a myriad of manifestations of team game play, from two-on-two competitions to games where multiple players 112, 114, 116 compete on the same team against a similar number of opponents on an opposing team. Additional links may be added to the toolbar 912, for example, for different modes of team play, as well as creating distinct lists of wagers for each type of game and game playing mode. For instance, there could be separate links to different lists of wagers for one-on-one competitions, as compared to two-on-two competitions. For each team game playing modality, a similar mode of operation to what has been described previously herein would permit wagering on match play. To permit multiple players 112, 114, 116 to compete together for a wager, for example, one player 112, 114, 116 may access the page of the web site 102C that displayed the list of stored wagers for the game and game-playing mode that his or her team wished to play. If that user decided to accept or store a wager, identities of the user's teammates can be entered into the wagering system 102 by the user. An example of a stored list of wagers for team game play is illustrated in the sample screen display of FIG. 35. If a wager is accepted for a team of players 112, 114, 116, or a team opponent accepted a stored wager, then the team members could be presented with a summary page containing the details of the wager on the screens of their respective game consoles. If all team members indicate willingness to compete for the wager, then team video game play can commence. After the competition concludes, the wager may be distributed evenly from each member of the losing team's wager accounts to each member of the winning team's wager accounts. Similar to match play, the wagering system 102 may charge a transaction fee as a percentage of the total wager, for example, prior to distributing credit to the wager accounts 102D of the winning players.
  • [0049]
    In addition, the competency structure 102E may then be altered to raise or lower the skill level of each of the players 112, 114, 116 on either team, with respect to the game and the game playing mode. So a user could have multiple skill levels in the same game for disparate gaming modes. Although only one player 112, 114, 116 may accept or store a wager, all members of the team could be required to be registered users of the wagering system 102, to be logged into the multiplayer gaming network 104, and have the designated video game loaded in their respective game consoles 106, 108, 110 prior to team play. Each teammate may be required to have enough credit in the wager account 102D to cover an equivalent portion of the total wager to allow the wager to be stored or accepted by the wagering system 102.
  • [0050]
    In the case of team tournament play, similar processes to those addressed previously herein would occur. Each member of a team could register for a tournament through a link found on the home page 902 regarding news about upcoming tournaments. The first member of a team to register may be required to input teammate network 104 identities into the registration form. Having done so, when the teammates subsequently register, they can be notified that another user had selected them as a potential teammate, and they could confirm that they wished to play on that team. When the final member of the team registers, the buy-in for the tournament may be equivalently deducted from each wager account 102D of the team members, and the team can enter a tournament grouping. On the day of the tournament, play may be conducted according to a process similar to a one-on-one tournament play format. At the conclusion of the tournament, the prize can be equally split between the winning team members' credit balances in their wager accounts 102D. Such team tournaments can be made exclusive to teams composed of a distinct number of users.
  • [0051]
    Members of multiplayer gaming networks 104 may also be able to wager through the wagering system 102 on a variety of games in which players compete against multiple opponents simultaneously on the network 104. For instance, players 112, 114, 116 can compete against multiple other opponents in racing type video games. To play such multiplayer video games, and in addition to following applicable processes described above, players 112, 114, 116 may click on a link listed on the toolbar 912 for video games that support this mode of play on the network 104. This link can be configured to direct players 112, 114, 116 to a registration page displaying a schedule of competitions available in this mode on the network 104. Each of these competitions may be distinguished based on the fixed wager that participants need to risk in order to compete, the number of competitors registered, and/or the amount of time prior to the start of the game. A sample registration page 3602 for such multiplayer games is illustrated in the screen display of FIG. 36.
  • [0052]
    The wagering system 102 may be configured to automatically add competitions for different wagers to the list according to how quickly a given competition was being filled. For instance, if over the last hour it has taken an average of only three minutes to fill a $2 competition, but fifteen minutes to fill a $20 competition, then the system 102 may automatically add $2 competitions at a more rapid rate than $20 competitions. The wagering system 102 may thus more frequently add competitions to the list that are more popular compared to less popular competitions. The competitions scheduled to start in the shortest time frame may be shown at the top of this list, while the most recently added competitions may be shown at the bottom of the list. Whenever a competition becomes filled with the maximum number of users who could play at one time in a particular game on the network 104, or if the competition reaches its scheduled starting time, then play can commence. In this way, users might play against fewer than the maximum number of competitors who could play in the network 104 competition; however, they would know approximately how long it could take before the competition would begin.
  • [0053]
    To register for such competitions, players 112, 114, 116 may select a desired competition, taking into consideration how much to wager, the number of players 112, 114, 116 who had already indicated that they would like to compete in a competition, and the amount of time remaining before the competition began. For instance, if the user wanted to wager $20 on a car race, but wanted to play immediately and the only open $20 competition was scheduled to begin in thirty minutes, then the user might instead choose to play a $10 competition scheduled to begin in three minutes. An example of a confirmation page 3702 in which the user confirms registration for this type of competition is illustrated in the screen display of FIG. 37.
  • [0054]
    After registering for a multiplayer competition, players 112, 114, 116 may log into the network 104 and await a summary page that confirms the details of the wager and the willingness of the players 112, 114, 116 to compete. An illustration of this summary page 3802 is shown in the screen display of FIG. 38. The players 112, 114, 116 may then receive a prompt advising them to load the designated video game into their game consoles 106, 108, 110, if the video game is not already loaded. At this point, if each participant has indicated readiness to compete and loaded the video game, then the participants may compete. If a participant did not indicate readiness to compete or did not load the video game in a set time period, then the competition may be initiated with only those players who indicated readiness to compete and loaded the game. In this case, non-competing users may not be required to forfeit wagers, but the user rating of such users may be negatively adjusted by the wagering system 102. An example of a notification 3902 received in this event by non-competing players 112, 114, 116 is provided in the screen display of FIG. 39. If insufficient competitors are available to compete in a multiplayer competition for any reason, then a notification 4002 may be sent indicating that the competition has been terminated due to lack of participation. An example of this notification 4002 is illustrated in the screen display of FIG. 40. When the competition concludes, the wager account 102D of the winning player 112, 114, 116 may be credited with the sum of all opponents' wagers, optionally reduced by a transaction fee assessed by the wagering system 102. The transaction fee may be calculated as a percentage of the sum of all wagers, for example.
  • [0055]
    In certain embodiments of the invention, the wagering system 102 may be configured with features that allow non-player users to bet on individual players 112, 114, 116, or a team of players 112, 114, 116 competing in a tournament, for example. In various embodiments, such betting activity may be limited to certain types of tournament play with bets being placed prior to the start of the tournament or prior to the start of each round in the tournament. The types of tournaments for which betting may be permitted by third parties could be configured to showcase the best video game playing talent. For example, participants may be winners of qualifying tournaments, in which the prize was to gain entrance to a “master's tournament”, or the participants may be famous video game players invited by the administrator of the wagering system 102 to compete against one another for a prize. To facilitate betting on tournaments, the wagering system 102 can be configured to display pages that have brackets for tournaments, depicting which players 112, 114, 116 are competing and against whom. An illustration of a tournament bracket page 4102 is provided in the screen display of FIG. 41. Users may place bets by staking a portion of the balances of their wager accounts 102D. The amount staked for the bet may then later be debited from the wager account 102D if the bet is lost, or credited to the wager account 102D if the bet is won.
  • [0056]
    Betting activity facilitated and processed by the wagering system 102 may include offering users access to statistics relevant to how competitors have fared in past video game match play and tournaments. For instance, player 112, 114, 116 names on the tournament bracket page 4102 may include links to player biographies and statistical data. An example of a player biography and statistical data page 4202 is illustrated in the screen display of FIG. 42.
  • [0057]
    To facilitate non-player users betting on players 112, 114, 116, the wagering system 102 may be configured with a handicapping system 102F. The handicapping system 102F may display a competitor's odds of beating his or her opponent or winning an entire tournament, and then reflect these odds in the amount that a user could win by betting on a player 112, 114, 116. For example, handicapping might mean offering a comparatively higher payout for betting on an underdog player 112, 114, 116 versus betting on a favored player 112, 114, 116. Those skilled in the art can appreciate that the handicapping system 102F can be configured based on generally accepted bookmaking principles. For example, the wagering system 102 may have a money line on “JLD396” at −200 (as the favorite) and “Bruins47” at +180 (as the underdog). In this example, a user would have to bet $200 for every $100 that he would hope to win on JLD396; while a user would have to bet only $100 to win $180, if he were to bet on Bruins47. In various embodiments, the wagering system 102 may offer a variety of other betting options to users. For instance, users may be permitted to place point spread bets, wherein users wager that one player 112, 114, 116 will beat another player 112, 114, 116 by a certain number of points; to place propositional bets, wherein the user bets on a specific occurrence in a match, such as a particular player 112, 114, 116 will score five touchdowns in the first half in a football video game; and/or various other conventional types of sport bets are possible.
  • [0058]
    In various embodiments, the video games played in accordance with the present invention may include gambling-oriented video games, for example. Such gambling-oriented video games may include, without limitation, poker, blackjack, roulette, craps, or other traditional casino games. In the case of poker, for example, players 112, 114, 116 on the multiplayer gaming network 104 could use the wagering system 102 to compete in ring games, in which the players 112, 114, 116 see their cards on the video output displays of their game consoles 106, 108, 110 and bet using their game console controllers. In certain casino type games, the process by which a player 112, 114, 116 would bet using the wagering system 102 service may involve the player 112, 114, 116 risking a portion of the wager account 102D credit balance on the chance that a randomly generated event may occur yielding an established payout. For example, while playing a roulette game, a player 112, 114, 116 might risk $5 of credit that the ball would end up on the eight for a potential payoff of thirty-five to one or $175.
  • [0059]
    The examples presented herein are intended to illustrate potential and specific implementations of the present invention. It can be appreciated that the examples are intended primarily for purposes of illustration of the invention for those skilled in the art. For instance, many screen displays included herein are based on the “Xbox Live” multiplayer gaming network (Microsoft Corporation). It can be appreciated that these screen displays are intended merely for purposes of illustration and are meant to be substantially representative of screens that can be generated and presented to players on game consoles in functionally analogous situations in a variety of different multiplayer gaming networks. No particular aspect or aspects of the examples included herein are necessarily intended to limit the scope of the present invention.
  • [0060]
    It is to be understood that the figures and descriptions of the present invention have been simplified to illustrate elements that are relevant for a clear understanding of the present invention, while eliminating, for purposes of clarity, other elements. For example, certain operating system details and modules of network platforms are not described herein. Those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize, however, that these and other elements may be desirable in a typical computer system or database system. However, because such elements are well known in the art and because they do not facilitate a better understanding of the present invention, a discussion of such elements is not provided herein.
  • [0061]
    Any element expressed herein as a means for performing a specified function is intended to encompass any way of performing that function including, for example, a combination of elements that perform that function. Furthermore the invention, as defined by such means-plus-function claims, resides in the fact that the functionalities provided by the various recited means are combined and brought together in a manner as defined by the appended claims. Therefore, any means that can provide such functionalities may be considered equivalents to the means shown herein.
  • [0062]
    In general, it will be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art that some of the embodiments as described hereinabove may be implemented in many different embodiments of software, firmware, and/or hardware. The software code or specialized control hardware used to implement some of the present embodiments is not limiting of the present invention. For example, the embodiments described hereinabove may be implemented in computer software using any suitable computer software language type such as, for example, C or C++ using, for example, conventional or object-oriented techniques. Such software may be stored on any type of suitable computer-readable medium or media such as, for example, a magnetic or optical storage medium. Thus, the operation and behavior of the embodiments are described without specific reference to the actual software code or specialized hardware components. The absence of such specific references is feasible because it is clearly understood that artisans of ordinary skill would be able to design software and control hardware to implement the embodiments of the present invention based on the description herein with only a reasonable effort and without undue experimentation.
  • [0063]
    Moreover, the processes associated with the present embodiments may be executed by programmable equipment, such as computers. Software that may cause programmable equipment to execute the processes may be stored in any storage device, such as, for example, a computer system (non-volatile) memory, an optical disk, magnetic tape, or magnetic disk. Furthermore, some of the processes may be programmed when the computer system is manufactured or via a computer-readable medium. Such a medium may include any of the forms listed above with respect to storage devices and may further include, for example, a carrier wave modulated, or otherwise manipulated, to convey instructions that may be read, demodulated/decoded and executed by a computer.
  • [0064]
    It can also be appreciated that certain process aspects described herein may be performed using instructions stored on a computer-readable medium or media that direct a computer system to perform process steps. A computer-readable medium may include, for example, memory devices such as diskettes, compact discs of both read-only and read/write varieties, optical disk drives, and hard disk drives. A computer-readable medium may also include memory storage that may be physical, virtual, permanent, temporary, semi-permanent and/or semi-temporary. A computer-readable medium may further include one or more data signals transmitted on one or more carrier waves.
  • [0065]
    A “computer” or “computer system” may be, for example, a wireless or wireline variety of a microcomputer, minicomputer, server, mainframe, laptop, personal data assistant (PDA), wireless e-mail device (e.g., “BlackBerry” trade-designated devices), cellular phone, pager, processor, fax machine, scanner, or any other programmable device configured to transmit and receive data over a network. Computer devices disclosed herein may include memory for storing certain software applications used in obtaining, processing and communicating data. It can be appreciated that such memory may be internal or external to the disclosed embodiments. The memory may also include any means for storing software, including a hard disk, an optical disk, floppy disk, ROM (read only memory), RAM (random access memory), PROM (programmable ROM), EEPROM (electrically erasable PROM), and other computer-readable media.
  • [0066]
    In various embodiments of the present invention disclosed herein, a single component may be replaced by multiple components, and multiple components may be replaced by a single component, to perform a given function or functions. Except where such substitution would not be operative to practice embodiments of the present invention, such substitution is within the scope of the present invention. Any of the servers described herein, for example, may be replaced by a “server farm” or other grouping of networked servers that are located and configured for cooperative functions. It can be appreciated that a server farm may serve to distribute workload between/among individual components of the farm and may expedite computing processes by harnessing the collective and cooperative power of multiple servers. Such server farms may employ load-balancing software that accomplishes tasks such as, for example, tracking demand for processing power from different machines, prioritizing and scheduling tasks based on network demand, and/or providing backup contingency in the event of component failure or reduction in operability.
  • [0067]
    While various embodiments of the invention have been described herein, it should be apparent, however, that various modifications, alterations and adaptations to those embodiments may occur to persons skilled in the art with the attainment of some or all of the advantages of the present invention. The disclosed embodiments are therefore intended to include all such modifications, alterations and adaptations without departing from the scope and spirit of the present invention as set forth in the appended claims.
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Classifications
U.S. Classification463/42
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/32
European ClassificationG07F17/32