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Publication numberUS20070265092 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/409,173
Publication dateNov 15, 2007
Filing dateApr 21, 2006
Priority dateApr 21, 2006
Also published asWO2008108778A1
Publication number11409173, 409173, US 2007/0265092 A1, US 2007/265092 A1, US 20070265092 A1, US 20070265092A1, US 2007265092 A1, US 2007265092A1, US-A1-20070265092, US-A1-2007265092, US2007/0265092A1, US2007/265092A1, US20070265092 A1, US20070265092A1, US2007265092 A1, US2007265092A1
InventorsAlbert Betteridge
Original AssigneeAlbert Betteridge
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Exchange-based and challenge-based networked video game wagering
US 20070265092 A1
Abstract
In various embodiments, wagering systems, processes and computer-readable media are provided. The wager system may include a server configured for processing at least one wager on a video game match to be played on a multiplayer gaming network; at least one database operatively associated with the server, the database being configured for storing information related to the wager; and, a challenge system operatively associated with the server, the challenge system being configured to permit a challenger player to challenge an opponent player to a challenge wager associated with the video game match. In certain embodiments, the server may be configured to enable wagered video game play through a directly operatively associated game server or a directly operatively associated multiplayer gaming network to facilitate challenge-based and/or exchange-based wagering.
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Claims(35)
1. A wagering system comprising:
a server configured for processing at least one wager on a video game match to be played by players on a 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,
a challenge system operatively associated with the server, the challenge system being configured to permit a challenger player to challenge an opponent player to a challenge wager associated with the video game match.
2. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising a confirmation system configured to receive confirmation of the outcome of the video game match.
3. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising at least one web site page operatively associated with the server to allow selection from among a set of video games that can be played for wagers.
4. The wagering system of claim 3, further comprising the set of video games being 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.
5. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising at least one web site page operatively associated with the server to allow storage of a wager in association with at least one video game.
6. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising at least one web site page operatively associated with the server to allow acceptance of a wager in association with at least one video game.
7. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising at least one player profile stored on the database.
8. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising the server being configured to transfer a wager amount based on the outcome of the video game match.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising the database being configured to permit removal of an unaccepted, stored wager.
12. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising the server being configured to automatically communicate to the players that they should compete upon determining compatibility of stored wagers.
13. The wagering system of claim 12, wherein determining compatibility includes comparing skill levels associated with the players.
14. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising a ratings system operatively associated with the server, the ratings system being configured to adjust a rating of at least one player.
15. The wagering system of claim 1, wherein the video game includes a video game that can be played by multiple players as a team.
16. The wagering system of claim 2, further comprising the confirmation system being configured to award a prize to the winning player upon receiving the same confirmation of the wager outcome from both players.
17. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising a ratings system operatively associated with the server, the ratings system being configured for adjusting a rating of at least one of the players.
18. The wagering system of claim 17, further comprising the ratings system being configured to not allow a player to accept a wager if a rating of the player falls below a threshold level.
19. The wagering system of claim 2, further comprising a dispute settlement system operatively associated with the server, the dispute settlement system being configured for determining a wager outcome if the confirmation system receives a different confirmation of the wager outcome from each player.
20. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising the challenge system being configured for permitting the challenger player to configure the challenge wager to be sent to the opponent player.
21. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising the challenge system being configured for permitting the opponent player to select an action from the group consisting of accept, decline, and counter with respect to the challenge wager.
22. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising a challenge room system for permitting challenger players to challenge opponent players in networked video game play.
23. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising the server being configured to facilitate a video game tournament.
24. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising the server being accessible through a game console.
25. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising the server being accessible through a cable network connection.
26. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising at least one web site operatively associated with the server, the web site being accessible through a game console.
27. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising at least one web site operatively associated with the server, the web site being accessible through a cable network connection.
28. A method for facilitating wagering on a video game, the method comprising:
processing at least one wager on a video game match to be played by players on a multiplayer gaming network;
storing information related to the video game wager; and,
permitting a challenger player to challenge an opponent player to a challenge wager associated with the video game match.
29. A computer-readable medium including instructions for causing a computer system to execute a method for facilitating wagering on a video game, the medium comprising:
instructions for processing at least one wager on a video game match to be played by players on a multiplayer gaming network;
instructions for storing information related to the video game wager; and,
instructions for permitting a challenger player to challenge an opponent player to a challenge wager associated with the video game match.
30. A wagering system comprising:
a server configured for processing at least one wager on a video game match to be played on a multiplayer gaming network, wherein the server is configured to enable wagered video game play through at least one electronic environment selected from the group consisting of a directly operatively associated game server and a directly operatively associated 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,
at least one of the following:
(i) a challenge system operatively associated with the server, the challenge system being configured to permit a challenger player to challenge an opponent player to a challenge wager associated with the video game match; or,
(ii) an exchange-based wagering system operatively associated with the server, the exchange-based wagering system being configured to match opponents to wager on a video game.
31. The wagering system of claim 30, further comprising a confirmation system configured to facilitate confirmation of the outcome of the video game match.
32. The wagering system of claim 30, further comprising an outcome monitoring system configured to automatically verify the outcome of the video game match.
33. The wagering system of claim 30, further comprising the server being configured to facilitate a video game tournament.
34. A method for facilitating wagering on a video game, the method comprising:
processing at least one wager on a video game match to be played on a multiplayer gaming network, including enabling wagered video game play through at least one electronic environment selected from the group consisting of a directly operatively associated game server and a directly operatively associated multiplayer gaming network;
storing information related to the video game wager; and,
at least one of the following:
(i) permitting a challenger player to challenge an opponent player to a challenge wager associated with the video game match; or,
(ii) matching opponents to a wager on the video game match through an exchange-based wagering system.
35. A computer-readable medium including instructions for causing a computer system to facilitate wagering on a video game, the medium comprising:
instructions for processing at least one wager on a video game match to be played on a multiplayer gaming network, including instructions for enabling wagered video game play through at least one electronic environment selected from the group consisting of a directly operatively associated game server and a directly operatively associated multiplayer gaming network;
instructions for storing information related to the video game wager; and,
at least one of the following:
(i) instructions for permitting a challenger player to challenge an opponent player to a challenge wager associated with the video game match; or,
(ii) instructions for matching opponents to a wager on the video game match through an exchange-based wagering system.
Description
FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention generally relates to processing wagers in association with networked or online video game play.

BACKGROUND

The technological landscape for online multiplayer video gaming is rapidly evolving into exciting new areas. Online video game play through multiplayer gaming networks and game servers provides an entertaining experience by offering players the opportunity to compete with live opponents on different networked gaming devices. There are presently many multiplayer gaming networks and game servers available that allow players to compete in video games against each other, and at least some of these electronic environments have the capability to permit interaction among players on a global scale.

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 in multiplayer electronic environments.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

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.

FIG. 1 includes a system architecture diagram illustrating various exemplary aspects of a wagering system configured in accordance with embodiments of the invention;

FIG. 2A includes a process flow diagram illustrating certain aspects of wagering processes that may be conducted in accordance with embodiments of the invention;

FIG. 2B includes a process flow diagram illustrating certain aspects of wagering processes that may be conducted in accordance with embodiments of the invention;

FIG. 2C includes a process flow diagram illustrating certain aspects of wagering processes that may be conducted in accordance with embodiments of the invention;

FIG. 2D includes a process flow diagram illustrating certain aspects of wagering processes that may be conducted in accordance with embodiments of the invention; and,

FIGS. 3 through 65 illustrate examples of screen displays that may be provided in accordance with various wagering system, process, and computer-readable media embodiments of the invention.

DESCRIPTION

As applied herein, a “wager” or “wagering” involves players staking something of value (e.g., money, tokens, or points) 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, tokens, or points) 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.

“Exchange-based wagering” refers to the process by which players of similar preferences, who may or may not know each other and want to wager on a particular form of game play, are matched as opponents by an online wagering system, according to various wagering, skill level, ratings criteria and/or other criteria. By way of comparison, “challenge-based wagering” refers to the process by which a challenger player challenges an opponent player to a challenge wager associated with a video game match.

A “multiplayer gaming network” or “gaming network” includes any networked medium that enables players to engage in a video game or any other electronic gaming activity between/among the players. One example of a third-party “multiplayer gaming network” suitable for use with various embodiments of the present invention is the “Xbox Live” gaming network operatively associated with the “Xbox” gaming system (Microsoft Corporation). Another example is a multiplayer gaming network that is operatively associated with a wagering system, in order to enable users to engage in wagered competition.

A “video game” includes any electronically executed game that can be played over a multiplayer gaming network, game server, or other electronic gaming environment in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. Examples of video games include, without limitation, wireline console-based games, such as those played on the “Xbox” gaming system; wireless console-based games, such as those played on the “PSP” gaming system (Sony Corporation); personal computer (“PC”) games; wireless telephone-based games; and, a variety of other types of electronic games.

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. In another example, cable controllers configured for access to cable network media may include interactive features, so that users can employ cable boxes as game consoles, for example, to practice various aspects of the invention described herein.

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, wire line data networks, satellite networks, or cable network connections.

The term “web site” may refer to any set of at least one page generated by at least one server in accordance with the various embodiments of the invention, such as, pages accessed through a computer system, as well as data screens that can be manipulated to produce designated functions related to a multiplayer gaming network accessed through a game console, such as, for example, an introductory data screen that a player would see after accessing the “Xbox Live” network through his or her “Xbox” gaming system.

The term “web server” may include any server utilized to generate at least one web site, while the term “game server” may include any server that enables game play on at least one multiplayer gaming network or other electronic environment.

Unless otherwise noted or readily evident from the context as applied herein, the term “player” refers to players participating on a multiplayer gaming network or other electronic environment 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.

With reference to FIGS. 1 through 2D, general aspects of an exemplary wagering system architecture and wagering processes that may be provided in accordance with various embodiments of the invention are illustrated. In various embodiments, a wagering system 102 includes a server 102A configured to receive and process wagers that can be placed and settled in association with networked video game play. The server 102A may include a web server and/or game 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 and/or other data communicated to/from the wagering system 102. For example, information may be communicated to the wagering system 102 from various players 112, 114, 116 using multiple game consoles 106, 108, 110 (respectively), to play video games on a multiplayer gaming network 104. In various embodiments, the players 112, 114, 116 may also be users with respect to accessing and using various features of the wagering system 102.

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 store wagers; to accept the wager of an opponent with whom they would like to compete; to remove or modify unaccepted wagers; as well as to perform various other functions. In certain embodiments, the wagering system 102 may be configured to enable video game play between/among the players 112, 114, 116 through a multiplayer gaming network 104 operatively associated with the wagering system 102. In other embodiments, however, the wagering system 102 may not enable video game play between/among the players 112, 114, 116. For instance, the software that permits communication and interaction between/among the game consoles 106, 108, 110 during video game play can be executed by a multiplayer gaming network 104 operated by a third-party. In certain embodiments, 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 a third-party multiplayer gaming network 104 to conduct video game play. In certain embodiments, the wagering system 102 may be configured to enable wagered game play for certain video games on an operatively associated multiplayer gaming network 104, in addition to facilitating wagering on game play executed on at least one third-party multiplayer gaming network 104. The dotted line 118 is intended to represent an association, with or without a direct connection or communication, between the operative functions of the wagering system 102 and the multiplayer gaming network 104, depending on whether the multiplayer gaming network 104 is or is not directly operatively associated with the wagering system 102.

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 allow players 112, 114, 116 who wish to wager in a variety of video games to locate one another for competition on a third-party multiplayer gaming network 104; to confirm outcomes of video game matches with a confirmation system 102E; to apply ratings to users with a ratings system 102F that reflect their conduct with respect to the wagering system 102 and interactions with competitors; to transfer an amount indicative of the wager at the conclusion of video game matches, for example; to store outcomes of played video games, including a competency structure 102G that tracks and maintains the skill levels of players 112, 114, 116 with respect to various video games; to settle disputes between players 112, 114, 116 associated with wager outcomes by employing a dispute settlement system 102H; to allow players 112, 114, 116 to wager with specific other players 112, 114, 116 using a challenge system 1021; to permit players 112, 114, 116 to create and maintain a member profile that is accessible by other players 112, 114, 116, using a member profile system 102J; to allow players 112, 114, 116 to wager with other players 112, 114, 116 who are ready to engage in wagered competition, using a challenge room system 102K; to enable wagered competition on a directly operatively associated multiplayer gaming network 104 or directly operatively associated game server 126, through the application of a networked game wagering system 102L, for example; and/or other functions.

As shown in FIG. 1, one or more communication media 120 may be provided to enable communications between one or more of the game consoles 106, 108, 110 and the wagering system 102. Also one or more access devices 122 may be employed by the players 112, 114, 116 or other users to communicate with the wagering system 102, for example, through one or more of the communication media 120. Examples of access devices 122 include, without limitation, computer systems, personal data assistants (PDA's), telephones (of wireless or wire line variety), and/or any other access device suitable for accessing the functions of the wagering system 102.

Prior to entering into wagered video game play, the players 112, 114, 116 may be required to register as users with the wagering system 102 in a variety of ways. For example, a visitor home page 352 may include: a registration link 354 to direct new users to one or more registration pages 502, 602 to register at step 202; and a conventional login area 356 wherein existing or registered members can enter usemame and password information to access wager account 102D information maintained by the wagering system 102 at step 206. Otherwise, visitors or members who have not yet logged-in may be prompted to register or log into their accounts 102D, if they attempt to engage in wagering activity within one or more web sites 102C of the wagering system 102. The users may be presented with a prompt 404 as shown in the screen display 402 of FIG. 4 that permits entry of login information (e.g., username and password information) to access the wagering system 102, and/or permits unregistered users to access the registration pages 502, 602. In this manner, it can be seen that visitors, as well as members who have not yet logged in, can be permitted to view substantially the same wagering activity on the web site 102C as members who had logged into their accounts 102D. The system 102 can be configured, however, to not permit wagering activity by visitors or unregistered users until registration and login procedures are completed.

To register at step 202 and gain access to the wagering system 102, new users may be presented with the registration pages 502, 602. On the registration page 502, new users may enter various name and contact information 504, as well as the third-party gaming networks 506 on which they compete and/or the network identifications 508 that the user employs when playing video games on at least one third-party multiplayer gaming network 104. New users may also enter desired usemame 510 and password 512 information to permit account 102D access on the wagering system 102. On the registration page 602, a user may enter information to be displayed on a member profile, through the application of the member profile system 102J, which may be a computer system or software module that tracks, stores, and/or presents member profile information. For example, players 112, 114, 116 may input data regarding which video game titles they own to be included as part of their member profiles. Data collected on the registration pages 502, 602 may be stored in the wager database 102B.

In association with registration, new users may be directed to a “deposit options” page 702, as illustrated by the screen display of FIG. 7, to select or edit deposit options at step 204. The “deposit options” page 702 permits the user to select a payment method for establishing a wager account 102D with the wagering system 102. Users may be able to deposit funds in a service account or the wager account 102D using a credit card, bank transfer, or through a variety of payment processors 124 (examples of which are included in the payment method section 704) that provide payment processing services to the wagering system 102. The payment processors 124 can facilitate the transfer of funds to/from the wager account 102D of the user, for example. To load credit into a wager account 102D, a user may transfer money into the wagering system 102 by using one or more accounts managed for the user by the payment processor 124, and/ or by using a credit card or bank transfer. Once established, the wager account 102D may be employed by the wagering system 102 to credit or debit wager amounts for the user to settle wagers made in association with video game play (i.e., wins or losses) on the multiplayer gaming network 104, for example.

Once a registered account is accessed by a previously registered user or a new user at step 206, a member home page 802 as seen in the screen display of FIG. 8 may be displayed by the wagering system 102. The member home page 802, like the visitor home page 352, may includes links 804 to the most popular wager pages, links 806 to “featured wager pages” that the service may want to highlight, links 808 to various pages that display player rankings based on competition for a wager in a particular game and/or overall competition on the wagering system 102, as well as “Wager Center” links 810 to various networked video games that a user can play either for free and/or for a wager on a multiplayer gaming network 104 operatively associated with the wagering system 102.

Various screen displays presented by the web sites 102C, such as the member home page 802, may include a toolbar 812 of links positioned horizontally across the screen display as shown. The links in the toolbar 812 may include a “home page” link 812A to access the member home page 802, a “terms and conditions” link 812B to display terms and conditions of using the wagering system 102, and/or an “instructions” link 812C to access written instructions or a visual demonstration, for example, explaining how the service operates. Various screen displays presented by the web site 102C may also include a toolbar 814 of links positioned vertically across the screen display, as shown on the member home page 802, for example. The toolbar 814 may be separated into distinct sections for a variety of third-party multiplayer gaming networks 104 on which users may compete for wagers using the wagering system 102. Within these sections on the toolbar 814, there may be different links for disparate types of video games that can be played on the given multiplayer gaming network 104 (e.g., “Fighting,” “Racing,” “RPG,” “Shooter,” “Sports,” etc.). For instance, there could be a link devoted to “Xbox Live” (Microsoft Corporation) “Sports” games or “Sony Online” (Sony Corporation) “Fighting” games. In addition, the toolbar 814 may be configured to display only those links to multiplayer gaming networks 104 and types of video games that are compatible for play with the particular game console 106, 108, 110 of the user (e.g., links for “Sony Online” games only).

Each game type link may allow users to access a pull-down menu 904 of sub-links 906 related to video game titles of that game type, as shown in screen display 902 of FIG. 9, for example. In certain embodiments, a video game title link may allow a user to access another pull-down menu 1004 of sub-links 1006 related to the video game, as depicted in screen display 1002 of FIG. 10. In various embodiments, the sub-links 1006 may allow a user to access wager pages for different network game-playing modes for the game, a challenge room page for the game, a tournament-scheduling page for the game, as well as a page displaying user rankings 1102 related to wagering on the game, as shown in the screen display of FIG. 11, for example.

Referring again to FIG. 8, various screen displays presented by the wagering system 102 may also include a vertically positioned toolbar 816 of links as shown, for example, on the member home page 802. The links on the toolbar 816 may allow users to access functions and processes relevant to the management of the wager account 102D. For example, an “account statement” link 816A may allow access to an “account statement” page 1202 that displays wager account 102D statements and allows users to modify contact/password information, as well as to register with the wagering system 102 for other third-party multiplayer gaming networks 104, for example, on which they can compete. An example of an “account statement” page 1202 is shown in the screen display of FIG. 12. In addition, a “confirm outcome” link 816B may allow users to access a function or page on which they can confirm the outcome of wagers, which were entered into using the wagering system 102 and competed for on a third-party multiplayer gaming network 104. An example of a “confirm outcome” page 1302 is shown in the screen display of FIG. 13. A “deposit money” link 816C provides navigation to the “deposit options” page 702 to permit users to add credit to wager accounts 102D. A “withdraw money” link 816D can direct users to a function or page that facilitates withdrawal of available credit or the amount of the credit balance in the wager account 102D not otherwise needed to cover any outstanding wager, for which a user still needs to confirm the outcome, in addition to the largest stored wager, as well as the sum of all sent and/or accepted challenges or counter-challenges. An example of a “withdrawal options” page 1402 is illustrated in the screen display of FIG. 14. A “player profile” link 816E may direct users to a function or page that summarizes a user's skill levels competing in games and/or game modes for a wager; records win/loss records for each game and/or game modes for a wager; records profit and/or loss information associated with playing games and/or game modes for a wager; and/or, allows users to update their member profiles through application of the member profile system 102J. An example of a “player profile” page 1502 is shown in the screen display of FIG. 15. In addition, a “challenge mailbox” link 816F may direct users to a function or page that depicts wager challenges or counter-challenges that have been received and/or sent by a user from/to other players 112, 114, 116. An example of a “challenge mailbox” page 1602 is depicted in FIG. 16.

Also, on the toolbar 816, users may be presented with a “Stored Wagers” section 816G that displays a list of outstanding, stored wagers for the user on the database 102B of the wagering system 102. For each wager, a button or other function can be provided that allows for the removal of the wagers from the database 102B, if desired. It can be appreciated that the number of wagers in the “Stored Wagers” section 816G varies depending on the number of wagers stored by the user. If a user does not have any wagers stored, then a “None” indication may be presented in the “Stored Wagers” section 816G.

At step 208, a user may access a wager page to select a video game for which the user wants to review, store or accept a wager. Selecting the “head-to-head” football link on the pull-down menu 1004, for example, directs a user to the exemplary wager page 1702 shown in the screen display of FIG. 17. In general, the wager page 1702 may be substantially representative of the characteristics of all wager pages that may be provided for different video games in accordance with embodiments of the invention. As shown, the wager page 1702 includes a list of wagers 1704 that the players 112, 114, 116 have stored on the wagering system 102 for a particular video game. The list 1704 may include the usemame 1706, user rating 1708, and/or the skill level 1710 of each player 112, 114, 116 who stored a wager, as well as a suggested competition time 1712 and a wager amount 1714. On the wager page 1702, the user may accept a particular stored wager with the intent of playing the video game for the wager amount 1714. In addition, the wager page 1702 may include a “store wager” option 1716 that allows users to add wagers to the list of wagers 1704 by inputting wager amounts 1714. In various embodiments, the wagering system 102 may refuse to accept wager amounts less than a predetermined minimum level or greater than a predetermined maximum level. Once the “store wager” option 1716 is selected, a “wager form” 1802, an example of which is depicted in the screen display of FIG. 18, may be presented to the user with a wager amount field 1804 that permits entry of the wager amount 1714. If the user attempts to store a wager amount 1714 greater than the credit amount available in the user's wagering system 102 wager account 102D, a notification 1904, an example of which is shown in screen display 1902 of FIG. 19, may be presented to the user.

In addition, the wager page 1702 may be configured to permit users to sort the list of stored wagers 1704 according to user rating 1708, skill level 1710, suggested competition time 1712, and/or wager amount 1714, for example. In various modes of operation, the list of stored wagers 1704 may be ordered so that the wager with the most imminent suggested competition time 1712 is listed first on the list 1704.

In various embodiments, a credit balance 81 6H of the wager account 102D of a user can be displayed on the toolbar 816, 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 816H by navigating to the “account statement” page 1202, using the associated link 816A on the toolbar 816, for example. As shown, the “account statement” page 1202 can be configured to display transactions including total amounts deposited to the wagering system 102, total amounts withdrawn, total fees taken from winning wagers, and/or total amounts won and/or lost by the user.

In operation of the wagering system 102, if a player 112, 114, 116 cannot find a compatible wager stored on the wagering system 102 to accept at step 254, the player 112, 114, 116 can store a wager at step 256, and/or log into a third-party multiplayer gaming network 104 at the suggested competition time. 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 a competitor 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 available credit in the wager account 102D to cover the largest of the multiple stored wagers. A player 112, 114, 116 who stores a wager may be automatically notified at step 258 by e-mail, instant messenger, text message, or another communication method, if another player 112, 114, 116 has accepted their wager and may be given their competitor's multiplayer gaming network 104 identification, among other information. 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 122 (wireless telephone, PDA, notebook, etc.), in addition to the gaming console 106, 108, 110.

If the user stores a wager substantially compatible with a wager previously stored by another player 112, 114, 116, and if the wagering system 102 determines through the application of its competency structure 102G that the skill levels associated with the players 112, 114, 116 who stored the wagers, as well as the suggested competition times, are compatible, then the players 112, 114, 116 associated with the wagers may be directed to compete in networked 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 102G of the wagering system 102 may be configured to 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 comparatively higher skill level players 112, 114, 116). Also, the competency structure 102G 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.

If the wagering system 102 matches compatible wagers, or if a user accepts a stored wager on the wager page 1702, for example, then the user can be presented with a confirmation page 2002, an example of which is shown in the screen display of FIG. 20. The confirmation page 2002 prompts the user to accept or decline the video game wager subject to the terms and conditions displayed on the confirmation page 2002. On the other hand, if a user stores a wager, then the user can be presented with the confirmation page 2102, an example of which is shown in the screen display of FIG. 21. These confirmation pages 2002, 2102 may display one or more reference numbers attributed to stored or accepted wagers by the wagering system 102.

If a user accepts another user's stored wager, then that particular stored wager can be removed from the wager page 1702 by the wagering system 102. If a user had multiple stored wagers on the wager page 1702, or on multiple wager pages 1702, and the user enters into competition for one of the wagers, then all of the wagers can be removed from that wager page 1702, and/or all of the wager pages 1702.

To accept a wager at step 254, users may be required to have sufficient available credit in 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 accept a wager without meeting these criteria, among possibly others, then the wagering system 102 may present the user with a notification 2204 shown in the screen display 2202 of FIG. 22, for example, for attempting to compete with another player 112, 114, 116 having an incompatible skill level; a notification 2304 shown in screen display 2302 of FIG. 23, for example, for attempting to compete with another player 112, 114, 116 and having too low of a user rating; and/or, a notification 2404 shown in the screen display 2402 of FIG. 24, for example, for attempting to accept a wager of an amount greater than the available credit of the wager account 102D. In this event, the wagering system 102 may be configured to automatically direct the user as to how to transfer additional funds into the wager account 102D.

If users have met the necessary criteria and have stored a wager, then they may receive a prompt 2504 shown in the screen display 2502 of FIG. 25, for example, notifying them to prepare their game console 106, 108, 110 and await a challenger to compete in the designated video game on the third-party multiplayer gaming network 104 at the suggested competition time. If the users have met the necessary criteria and have accepted a stored wager, then they may receive a prompt 2604 as shown on screen display 2602 of FIG. 26, advising them to prepare their game console 106, 108, 110 for game play, in the designated networked video game at the suggested game time, and telling them the network identification of their competitor, so that they can locate them on the third-party gaming network 104 for game play. After the user who accepted the wager locates the user who stored it on the third-party multiplayer video game network 104, they may compete for the wager at step 260, in the same manner as if they were engaging in non-wagered competition on the third-party multiplayer gaming network 104 independently of the operation of the wagering system 102.

At step 262, using the confirmation system 102E, the competitors may confirm the outcome of their wager in various embodiments of the confirmation system 102E. For example, the users may confirm the outcome through a link in an email sent by the wagering system 102 to both competitors after one of them accepted the stored wager of the other. This link may take them to the “confirm outcome” page 1302 as is seen in the screen display of FIG. 13 associated with their wager account 102D. This page 1302 may display information regarding any wagers 1304, 1306 that they may have stored, which another user had accepted, or they may have accepted themselves, in addition to any wager challenges that they may have sent and another player 112, 114, 116 accepted or wager challenges that they may have received and accepted. Furthermore, the page 1302 may allow them to confirm the outcome of the wager or wagers 1304, 1306 through associated buttons and/or other functions (e.g. “won,” “lost,” or “did not play”). In general, users may confirm the outcome of a wager in a variety of ways. For example, in certain embodiments, users may confirm wager outcomes by using a wireless telephone, or another wireless access device 122, to communicate a text message to the confirmation system 102E, or by using another mobile interactive feature.

At step 264, if both players 112, 114, 116 confirm the same outcome of their wager, such as by using the confirmation system 102E, then the wagering system 102 may award a prize to the winning player 112, 114, 116 at step 266 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. In various embodiments, the wager amount may be reduced by a transaction fee charged by the wagering system 102. In this manner, no funds need to be transferred directly between users of the wagering system 102; instead, the server 102A can be configured to update balances of the wager accounts 102D to reflect the results of wagers won or lost by the players 112, 114, 116.

At step 264, if neither player 112, 114, 116 confirms the outcome, if only one player 112, 114, 116 confirms the outcome, or if the players 112, 114, 116 confirm different outcomes, then no prize may be transferred between wager accounts 102D. In this event, at step 270, the dispute settlement system 102H may be invoked to help to determine or settle the outcome of the video game wager. If one or both of the players 112, 114, 116 did not confirm the outcome, then the non-confirming player 112, 114, 116, or players 112, 114, 116, may be sent another email, reminding them to confirm the wager outcome and of the possible consequential adjustment to their user ratings if they do not confirm.

Otherwise, if the two players 112, 114, 116 confirm different outcomes at step 264, then the players 112, 114, 116 may receive each other's email addresses, for example, from the dispute settlement system 102H at step 270, in order to jointly resolve the discrepancy in reported outcomes. Also, the players 112, 114, 116 may be notified by the wagering system 102 of possible consequential adjustment to their user ratings, if they do not confirm matching outcomes. Through a link in this email communication, for example, the players 112, 114, 116 may be provided with a chance to re-confirm the outcome of the wager.

If the dispute can be satisfactorily resolved at step 272, then the credit transfer of step 266 can occur. If the dispute cannot be resolved at step 272, however, one or both players 112, 114, 116 may have their user ratings adjusted by the ratings system 102F, at step 268, as follows. If, after invoking the dispute settlement system 102H, neither player 112, 114, 116 confirms the outcome, then both players 112, 114, 116 user ratings may be adjusted by the ratings system 102F. If only one player 112, 114, 116 confirms the outcome, then only the other player's 112, 114, 116 user rating may be adjusted by the ratings system 102F. In certain embodiments, if the players 112, 114, 116 do not confirm the same outcome, then both players 112, 114, 116 user ratings may be adjusted by the ratings system 102F.

Users of the wagering system 102 may have user ratings displayed next to their stored wagers, based on the aforementioned rating factors. 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 game modes, the users may be provided with a single user rating, which may be impacted by the manner in which they utilize the wagering system 102 with respect to wagered video game play. Over time, it can be seen that the user ratings system 102F can become a self-regulating device to penalize users who do not accurately, or who never, confirm the outcome of their wagers. 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. Moreover, a user may not be allowed to accept wagers of other players 112, 114, 116 wagers, if that user's rating falls below a specified threshold level. The application of the user rating system 102F thus reduces the possibility that a user can misuse or ignore the confirmation system 102E.

Following the credit transfer at step 266, the wagering system 102 may be configured to process the outcome of the concluded match, at step 274, to alter a competency structure 102G maintained by the wagering system 102 for the players 112, 114, 116. The competency structure 102G 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, for example, 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 on the “player profile” page 1502 by clicking on the “player profile” link 816E on the vertical toolbar 816 included on each member page. If a user has not yet played a particular video game for a wager, then an initial, mid-range skill level may 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 has not yet played the game for a wager using the wagering system 102. Based on the function of the competency structure 102G, 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 may or may not be permitted by the wagering system 102.

Embodiments of the invention may also include a myriad of manifestations of team game play (e.g. “cooperative”), 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 pull-down menu 1004, for example, for different modes of team play and distinct wager pages 1702 may be created for each type of network game-playing mode. For instance, there could be separate links to different wager pages 1702 for one-on-one competitions, as compared to two-on-two competitions. For each team game playing mode, 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 displays the list of stored wagers for the game and network game-playing mode that his or her team wishes to play. An example of a wager page 2702 for team game play is illustrated in the screen display of FIG. 27. If the user decides to accept or store a wager, his or her teammates' third-party gaming network 104 identities and/or usemames can be entered into the wagering system 102, through a “team wager form” page 2802, an example of which is shown in the screen display of FIG. 28. Information of the team member who stored a wager may be listed on the wager page 2702 for team game play, or player 112, 114, 116 information for all team members may be listed.

Each teammate may need to confirm storage or acceptance of the team wager, such as by indicating confirmation on a web site 102C, for example, or by accessing a link in an email communicated by the wagering system 102. If all team members indicate their willingness to compete for the wager, then those users who accept the wager will receive the opposing team members' network identifications. Team video game play may then commence when the teams locate one another on the third-party multiplayer gaming network 104. After the competition concludes, each member of either team or a single representative player elected by each team, may confirm the outcome of the wager, substantially in accordance with the process described above. The wager, possibly deducted by a transaction fee, may then be distributed evenly from each member of the losing team's wager accounts 102D to each member of the winning team's wager accounts 102D.

In various embodiments, the competency structure 102G may be altered to raise or lower the skill level of each of the players 112, 114, 116 on either team, with respect to the video game and/or the network game-playing mode. For this reason, in certain embodiments, a user could have multiple skill levels in the same game for disparate game modes. Although one player 112, 114, 116 may accept or store a wager, all members of the team may be required to be registered users of the wagering system 102 and have sufficient available credit in their respective wager accounts 102D to cover a pro rata portion of the total team wager to allow the wager to be stored or accepted pursuant to team play.

In various embodiments, a member profile may be created for each user as a part of registration, and then updated using, for example, an “update profile” link 1504 on the “player profile” page 1502, through an application of the member profile system 102J. Member profile pages 2902 may be accessed, for example, through a “player profile” function 1718 on wager pages 1702, which allows users to search for member profiles by usemame, user rating, and/or skill level in a game. An example of a member profile page 2902 is shown in the screen display of FIG. 29. Various types of information may be stored and accessible to all users on member profile pages 2902. For example, information stored through the registration page 602, regarding a user's gaming preferences, as well as those games and/or third-party multiplayer gaming networks 104 in which a user competes, may be stored in the wager database 102B using the member profile system 102J. Moreover, certain wager account 102D data may be visible on this page 2902, such as a user's skill levels. It can be seen that the information displayed within the profile may facilitate wagering between players 112, 114, 116 by allowing them to determine those games on which a possible competitor likes to wager and how competent they are playing them.

In various embodiments of the invention, each member profile page 2902 may include a “challenge” button or function 2904 that allows challengers to access at step 280 a “challenge form” 3004, an example of which is shown in the screen display 3002 of FIG. 30, through which a challenger may challenge the user associated with the profile to compete in a game for a particular wager in association with operation of the challenge system 1021. At step 281, the challenger may configure one or more features of the challenge, such as those shown in box 282, for example. By clicking on the “select game” button or function 3006, for example, challengers may access a pull-down menu comprising those video games that the opponent player 112, 114, 116 has engaged in wagered competition in previously. Likewise, by clicking on the “select network” button or function 3008, challengers may access third-party multiplayer gaming networks 104 in which an opponent has previously competed in the selected video game. If there is only one third-party multiplayer gaming network 104 in which an opponent has competed in the selected video game, then that gaming network 104 may automatically appear in this field. By clicking on the “game time” button or function 3010, a user may be able to suggest a time for the wagered competition to the opponent player 112, 114, 116. In certain embodiments, challengers may offer an opponent player 112, 114, 116 favorable odds or unfavorable odds on a wager (e.g., a user may challenge another member to compete for a $ 10 wager with 2-1 odds, in which case the challenger would receive $5, if he or she won, but pay $ 10, if he or she lost). In this manner, user/challengers can be permitted by the wagering system 102 to challenge player/opponents to mutually compatible competitions.

In order to send a challenge at step 283, the challenger may need to click on the “send” button or function 3012 on the “challenge form” 3004 and then agree to the terms and conditions on a confirmation page 3102. If players 112, 114, 116 indicate their agreement on the confirmation page 3102, then a notification 3204, an example of which is seen in screen display 3202 of FIG. 32, may be displayed which states the manner by which the challenger may be informed that the challenge has been accepted. In certain embodiments of the wagering system 102, users may be able to challenge players 112, 114, 116 who have lower skill levels. The wagering system 102 may be configured to require that, in order for a challenge to be sent, the challenger needs to have sufficient available credit in the wager account 102D. Received challenges may be accessible to opponent players 112, 114, 116 on the “challenge mailbox” page 1602, which displays links 1604, 1606 to access received challenges and/or links 1608, 1610, 1612 to access sent challenges. For example, the page 1602 may adopt a layout common to electronic mail mailboxes (e.g., with an “Inbox” for received challenges, and an “Outbox” for sent challenges).

At step 284, by clicking on a link 1604, 1606 to a received challenge, opponent players 112, 114, 116 may access a “received challenge form” 3304 that may display, for example, an “accept” button or function 3306, a “decline” button or function 3308, and/ or, a “counter” button or function 3310, through which they may “accept” (at step 285A), “decline” (at step 285B), or “counter-challenge” (at step 285C, e.g., suggest to the challenger that they compete for a different wager), the received challenge. An example of the “received challenge form” 3304 is shown in the screen display 3302 of FIG. 33.

In order to compete for a received challenge, the opponent may click on the “accept” button or function 3306 on the “received challenge form” 3304 at step 285A, and then indicate acceptance of the terms and conditions of the wager on a confirmation page 3402, an example of which is illustrated in FIG. 34. If the opponent indicates acceptance on the confirmation page 3402, then the opponent may receive a notification 3504, an example of which is seen in screen display 3502 of FIG. 35, stating the procedures by which competition for the challenge wager is to be conducted. If the opponent accepts the received challenge at step 285A and agrees to the associated terms and conditions, then the competitors may engage in wagered competition at step 286 using the above-described process as if the opponent had accepted the challenger's stored wager. The wagering system 102 may be configured to permit an opponent to accept a received challenge only if there is sufficient available credit in the wager account 102D of the opponent.

On the other hand, if the opponent player 112, 114, 116 clicks on the “decline” button or function 3308 at step 285B, then the received challenge may be deleted from the opponent's “Inbox” of received challenges, as well as from the challenger's “Outbox” of sent challenges.

If the opponent clicks on the “counter” button or function 3310 at step 285C, then a “counter-challenge form” 3604, an example of which can be seen in screen display 3602 of FIG. 36, may be displayed at step 287. On the “counter-challenge form” 3604, the opponent may revise or configure various features or aspects of the originally configured challenge at step 288, including features listed in box 282. For instance, the opponent may change the wager amount, the game to be played, the third-party multiplayer gaming network 104 in which competition may take place, and/or the suggested competition time of the original challenge, among other features. Again, users may only be able to indicate that they wish to compete in games and on third-party multiplayer gaming networks 104, in which the players 112, 114, 116 that they are counter-challenging have engaged in wagered competition. This counter-challenge may then be sent at step 289 to appear in the original challenger's “Inbox” or by another means of communication to be accessed by the challenger at step 290. The wagering system 102 may be configured to permit opponents to send counter-challenges only if there is sufficient available credit in the wager account 102D of the opponent.

In certain embodiments, it can be seen that challenges and counter-challenges may be exchanged repeatedly or iteratively until a challenge configuration suitable to both challenger and opponent can be achieved. At step 291, the players 112, 114, 116 involved in the challenge wager may confirm the outcome of their match in one of the ways previously described herein.

Challenges may be deleted from “challenge mailbox” pages 1602 in the following cases, in addition to the aforementioned case of when a received challenge is declined at step 285B. The challenger may cancel a sent challenge by clicking on its link 1608, 1610, 1612, in order to access the relevant “sent challenge form” 3704 and then clicking on, for example, a “cancel challenge” button or function 3706. An example of a “sent challenge form” 3704 is shown in screen display 3702 of FIG. 37. If a challenger cancels a challenge, it may be deleted from both the “Outbox” of the challenger, as well as the “Inbox” of the opponent. In certain embodiments, an unaccepted challenge may be automatically be deleted by the wagering system 102 from the challenge mailboxes, following a certain period of non-acceptance (e.g., after a number of hours or days).

In various embodiments, the challenge system 102I can be utilized to permit spontaneous challenging between/among players 112, 114, 116 who have indicated readiness to engage in wagered competition in a particular networked video game, using the challenge room system 102K. To engage in this form of wagering, a challenger may click on a “Challenge Room” link in the pull-down menu 1004 of sub-links 1006 for a game, for example, which then directs the challenger to the related challenge room page 3802, an example of which may be seen in FIG. 38. In order to access a challenge room page 3802, players 112, 114, 116 may need to indicate that they are already logged into a third-party multiplayer gaming network 104 and are prepared to compete in a designated game by accepting an entrance prompt 3904, an example of which can be seen in the screen display 3902 of FIG. 39. If the player 112, 114, 116 accepts this prompt 3904, then the usemame, user rating, and skill level for the game for the player 112, 114, 116 can be listed in a column displaying information related to all of the players 112, 114, 116 currently in the challenge room page 3802. Users in the challenge room may challenge one another to compete for wagers by clicking on a “challenge” button or function 3804 alongside a competitor's information. If a user clicks on a “challenge” button or function 3804, then a “challenge room form” 4004 will appear, through which the challenger may challenge the associated opponent to wagered competition. The “challenge room form” 4004 may allow a challenger to input a proposed wager amount 4006, for example. A challenger may also be able to challenge an opponent to compete for a wager with associated odds, so as to make a challenge more appealing to the prospective opponent.

In order to send a challenge, users may need to click on a “send” button or function 4008 and then indicate their acceptance of the terms and conditions on a confirmation page 4102, an example of which can be seen in the screen display of FIG. 41. If the players 112, 114, 116 indicate their agreement, then they may see a notification 4204 explaining the process by which they will know if their challenge has been accepted and how they should compete. An example of the notification 4204 is illustrated in the screen display 4202 of FIG. 42. In order to send a challenge in the challenge room 3802, a user may need to have sufficient available credit in the wager account 102D. Similar to the challenge-based features of the wagering system 102 described above for various embodiments, challengers may be able to challenge opponents who have comparatively lower skill levels in the game.

In various embodiments, opponents may be presented with a “challenge room notification” 4304 after a challenge is sent, an example of which may be seen in the screen display 4302 of FIG. 43. The opponent may then utilize an “accept” button or function 4306, a “decline” button or function 4308, or a “counter” button or function 4310 on the “challenge room notification” 4304 to accept, decline, or counter-challenge, respectively, the received challenge. In order to accept a challenge in the challenge room 3802, a player 112, 114, 116 may need to click on the “accept” button or function 4306, and then agree to the terms and conditions on a confirmation page 4402, an example of which is seen in the screen display of FIG. 44. If an opponent indicates his or her agreement on the confirmation page 4402, then the opponent may receive a notification 4504, explaining the procedure by the competition is to be conducted. An example of the notification 4504 is shown in the screen display 4502 of FIG. 45. In contrast, if a challenged player 112, 114, 116 clicks on the “decline” button or function 4308, then the prospective wager may be canceled and the challenger may be notified that the challenge was declined. If an opponent clicks on the “counter” button or function 4310, then the opponent may see a form similar to the “challenge room form” 4004 that permits the opponent to configure a counter-challenge to send back to the original challenger.

In various embodiments of the invention, there may be certain restrictions placed on usage of the challenge room system 102K by the players 112, 114, 116. For example, challengers and/or challenged players may be limited to sending and/or accepting one challenge at a time. Once users accept a challenge, their usemame and associated information may be differentiated from the information of those users who are available to wager, so that the players 112, 114, 116 know whom they can challenge in the challenge room 3802. In certain embodiments, the information of users who have accepted challenges may appear in italics in a distinct section on the challenge room page 3802. Challenges made in the challenge room may expire, so that an opponent can no longer accept the challenge if the opponent does not respond within a certain time period, or if the challenger enters into a wager with or accepts a challenge from another user. If a user leaves a challenge room page 3802, by accessing another web page, then that user's associated information may be removed from the challenge room page 3802. In certain embodiments, a player 112, 114, 116 may only be able to enter a challenge room page 3802 if a user rating is above a designated threshold level; and may only be able to send or accept challenges if they have sufficient available credit in the wager account 102D. In certain embodiments, only members (e.g., not visitors) may be able to enter the challenge room page 3802.

In certain embodiments, competitors may be able to engage in simultaneous wagered competitions without leaving a challenge room page 3802. For example, after the wagering system 102 processes an accepted challenge, the challenger may be presented with an “opponent notification” 4604 informing the challenger that the wager was accepted and providing the network identification of the opponent in the challenge. An example of an “opponent notification” 4604 is shown in the screen display 4602 of FIG. 46. In certain embodiments, the notification 4604 may also allow direct confirmation of wager outcomes. Moreover, after the wagering system 102 processes an accepted challenge, the opponent may be able to confirm the wager outcome directly through an “instant confirmation notification” 4704, an example of which is shown in the screen display 4702 of FIG. 47. If the competitors confirm the same outcome through the notifications 4604, 4704, then they may automatically become available to send and receive further challenges in the challenge room 3802. If the competitors do not confirm the same outcome, however, then they may be automatically directed to the member home page 802, or to another part of the wagering system 102, to attempt to resolve the outcome of the video game match.

With respect to challenges sent through member profiles to challenge mailboxes and challenges sent in challenge rooms, after a challenge has been accepted, the wagering system 102 may deal with it in substantially the same functional manner as if it were an accepted stored wager. For example, the confirmation system 102E and the dispute settlement system 102H may be applied to ascertain challenge wager outcomes. One difference between the exchange-based (e.g., storing/accepting wagers) and challenged-based (e.g., sending/accepting challenges) wagering processes with respect to the confirmation/dispute settlement process is that players 112, 114, 116 in the challenge room page 3802 have the opportunity to confirm wager outcomes in a more immediate, direct manner within the room 3802, in addition to other means of confirmation described above. Moreover, the ratings system 102F and the competency structure 102G may be updated in certain embodiments subsequent to competition and/or confirmation (e.g., ratings and skill levels may be altered), in substantially the same manner as if an accepted challenge were an accepted stored wager.

In various embodiments, with reference to FIG. 2D, the wagering system 102 may be utilized in conjunction with the operation of a directly operatively associated multiplayer gaming network 104, or directly operatively associated game server 126, in order to enable wagered competition, through the application of the networked video game wagering system 102L. For example, to access wagered competition on a directly operatively associated gaming network 104, players 112, 114, 116 may click on a video game title link in the “Wager Center” section 810 of the member home page 802. Having done so, the players 112, 114, 116 may access or enter a networked game wagering room page 4802 for the video game at step 302. An example of a networked game wagering room page 4802 is shown in the screen display of FIG. 48. The wagering system 102 may be configured such that only members may be able to access a networked game wagering page 4802.

The networked game wagering room page 4802 may be functionally similar to the aforementioned challenge room page 3802 in many respects. For example, when the players 112, 114, 116 enter the networked game wagering room page 4802, their usemames, user ratings, and skill levels competing in the game can be depicted in a section 4804 devoted to information regarding players 112, 114, 116 available for wagered competition. If a player 112, 114, 116 leaves the room 4802 by accessing another web page, then that player's 112, 114, 116 information may be removed from the networked game wagering room page 4802. Te networked game wagering room page 4802 may allow both exchange-based and challenge-based wagering, instead of just challenge-based wagering, and all wagered competition may occur on a network 104 or game server 126 that is directly operatively associated with the wagering system 102 through application of the video game wagering system 102L, as opposed to a third-party gaming network 104, for example.

For example, after clicking on a video game title link in the “Wager Center” section 810, an entrance notification 4904 may be displayed prompting the users to store a wager at step 304A for which they wish to compete and/or indicate whether or not they want to compete for free. An example of an entrance notification 4904 is shown in the screen display 4902 of FIG. 49. If a user stores a wager through the entrance notification 4904, then they may be presented with a confirmation page 5002 that displays terms and conditions to which they must agree in order to enter the networked game wagering room page 4802 and store the wager. An example of a confirmation page 5002 is shown in FIG. 50. If users indicate agreement on the confirmation page 5002, then the stored wagers may be listed with other personal or profile information of the users. If a player 112, 114, 116 exits the room 4802, such as by accessing another web page, the stored wager or wagers may be canceled and removed from the page 4802. The players 112, 114, 116 may need to have sufficient available credit in their wager accounts 102D in order to store a wager on the page 4802.

An “accept” button or function 4806 and/or a “challenge” button or function 4808 may be included within the room 4802 for each player 112, 114, 116. If a user clicks on an “accept” button or function 4806 at step 304B and agrees to the terms and conditions on a confirmation page 5102 (an example which can be seen in FIG. 51), then the wagering system 102 may process the accepted wager, so long as certain conditions are met. As in the aforementioned case of accepting a stored wager, users may only be able to accept those wagers of users who have the same and/or a better skill level competing in the game, while the converse may not be permissible (e.g., users accepting wagers stored by users who have lower skill levels). A user may also not be able to accept a particular wager, if the rating is below a specified threshold level, and/or if the user does not have sufficient available credit in the wager account 102D.

If a user clicks on the “challenge” button or function 4808 at step 304C, then a similar process may occur, as if the user had challenged a player 112, 114, 116 in the challenge room page 3802. In this case, a “networked game challenge form” 5204 may be displayed that allows the user to input a wager 5206 for which they would like to compete for against the challenged player 112, 114, 116, as well as a message 5208 for their intended opponent. An example of a “networked game challenge form” 5204 can be seen in the screen display 5202 of FIG. 52. In order to send a challenge, the user may click on a “send” button or function 5210, for example, and then indicate their agreement to the terms and conditions on a confirmation page 5302, an example of which is shown in FIG. 53. As in the case of other challenge-based wagering features of the wagering system 102 described herein, users may be able to challenge any other player 112, 114, 116 without consideration of the challenged player's 112, 114, 116 skill level in the particular game. In certain embodiments, a user may only be able to send a challenge, if there is sufficient available credit in the wager account 102D of the user. Moreover, in various embodiments, a challenger may be able to challenge an opponent to compete for a wager with associated odds, so as to make a challenge more appealing to the prospective opponent.

After a challenge has been sent, the opponent player or players 112, 114, 116 may see a “challenge notification” 5404 appear automatically on their screens, an example of which is shown in the screen display 5402 of FIG. 54. At step 304D, the opponent may then utilize an “accept” button or function 5406, a “decline” button or function 5408, or a “counter” button or function 5410 on the “challenge notification” 5404 to accept, decline, or counter, respectively, the received challenge. If the opponent clicks on the “accept” button or function 5406, for example, then a confirmation page 5502 may be presented that displays terms and conditions of accepting the challenge. An example of the confirmation page 5502 is shown in FIG. 55. If the opponent indicates acceptance on the confirmation page 5502, then the wagering system 102 may process the accepted challenge and enable the challenger and opponent to engage in video game competition at step 306. If the opponent clicks on the “decline” button or function 5408, for example, then the prospective wager may be canceled and the challenger may be notified that the challenge was declined. At step 304E, if an opponent clicks on the “counter” button or function 5410, for example, then the opponent may be presented with a form similar to the “networked game challenge form” 5204, except that the challenge may be automatically directed back to the original challenger. In certain embodiments, a challenge may expire, so that the opponent can no longer accept the challenge if the opponent does not respond in a designated time period, and/or if the challenger enters into wagered competition with another opponent.

After accepting a stored wager or challenge, competitors may be directly linked on a directly operatively associated multiplayer gaming network 104, or directly operatively associated game server 126, so that they can engage in wagered competition through the wagering system 102. Following networked competition, the wager outcome can be confirmed at step 308, using a similar process or processes similar to what has been described previously hereinabove, such as through voluntary confirmation of the players 112, 114, 116, and/or through automatic verification by an outcome confirmation system, for example. For example, the competitors may see an “instant confirmation notification” 6004 on their screen, through which they can confirm the outcome, in addition to through the other aforementioned manners to confirm. An example of an “instant confirmation notification” 6004 is shown in the screen display 6002 of FIG. 60. The dispute settlement system 102H may then be utilized in conjunction with the ratings system 102F. In certain embodiments, prior to or in association with awarding a prize at step 312, the competency structure 102G may be altered at step 310 as described above to promote fairness in networked game wagering room pages 4802.

In certain embodiments, wager outcomes may be verified automatically through the application of an outcome monitoring system operatively associated with the confirmation system 102E, for example. The outcome monitoring system may be provided as an alternative to competitors verifying their own wager outcomes and may be configured such that wagers can be immediately transferred to the winning competitor or competitors. The outcome monitoring system may be configured to function in a variety of ways. For example, certain networked video game software may be coded in a manner that allows network operators to collect and analyze data regarding competitions (e.g., which competitor won a match). For such video games, the outcome monitoring system can interact directly with the game software, so as to automatically verify wager outcomes.

Even if the game software is not coded to facilitate the collection and analysis of data regarding game play, however, wager outcomes still may be determined automatically by the outcome monitoring system. For instance, the wagering system 102 may be configured with a conventional screen capture software, such as the software employed by “Poker Tracker” (PJI, Inc.), or a functionally equivalent software, which can ascertain elements of ongoing game play by analyzing screenshots of the video output of video games. The screen capture software can recognize designated alphanumeric characters, if the software knows what data to look for and where to look on the screen to obtain the data. 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 or other information that denotes which player won a video game match. The screen capture software can be configured to recognize a set of alphanumeric characters, for example, or other data that appear in a designated screen location within the video game in each match. The screen capture software may also be configured to associate a player's 112, 114, 116 network identification, for example, with the particular individual or team which played in the video game match.

Examples of screen displays that permit the wagering system 102 to associate a network username with a competitive identity in a game are depicted in FIGS. 56 and 57. After associating a player 112, 114, 116 with a competing identity in the video game, the screen capture software may verify the winner by analyzing standard screens that show final outcomes. For example, as shown in FIG. 58, 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, as shown in FIG. 59, in “NCAA Football 2005”, a screen depicting a final score board demonstrates who won the match.

In various embodiments, competitors may be able to engage in simultaneous wagered competitions without having to re-enter the networked game wagering room page 4802. For example, if competitors confirm the same outcome in an “instant confirmation notification” 6004 (as shown in the sample screen display 6002 of FIG. 60), or if an automated outcome verification system is employed, then a “re-match notification” 6104 may be displayed that offers the opportunity to engage in wagered and/or free competition again prior to becoming available to other players 112, 114, 116 in the room for competition. An example of a “re-match notification” 6104 is shown in screen display 6102 of FIG. 61. For instance, if one of the users clicks on the “re-match” challenge button or function 6106, then that user may have the opportunity to challenge his or her previous opponent to compete for another wager. If both competitors click on the “exit match” button or function 6108, or a competitor declines a re-match challenge, then both competitors may receive another entrance notification 4904 that prompts them to store another wager, so as to become available for wagering with other users on the networked game wagering room page 4802.

In certain embodiments, a challenger player 112, 114, 116 may also challenge an opponent player 112, 114, 116 to a challenge wager associated with a video game match to be played on a directly operatively associated multiplayer gaming network 104 or a directly operatively associated game server 126, through a “challenge form” 3004 accessed on the opponent player's profile page 2902 and sent to the Inbox of the opponent player's challenge mailbox. In this case, the challenger may select a video game on the “challenge form” 3004 for which game play occurs on a directly operatively associated multiplayer gaming network 104 and/or a directly operatively associated game server 126, by using the game selection function 3006. The challenger may also specify a competition time at which the opponent player should be ready to compete, so that play can automatically begin on a directly operatively associated multiplayer gaming network 104 or a directly operatively associated game server 126 at that time, if the challenge wager is accepted. In various embodiments, the outcome of video game play may be confirmed, the competency structure 102G may be altered, and/or the ratings system 102F may be updated in various ways as described herein.

In various embodiments of the invention, video game tournament play may be conducted for prizes through use of the wagering system 102. 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 is 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.

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.

For conducting tournament play, the wagering system 102 may employ the same or similar processes and platforms as those that have been previously described. 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 known to those skilled in the art to the processes and systems described above. Prior to the designated start time of a tournament, participants may be required to register. To register, participants may, for example, click on a “tournament” link on the pull down menu 1004 of sub-links related to a game, which may direct them to a tournament-scheduling page 6202, an example of which is shown in the screen display of FIG. 62. On the tournament-scheduling page 6202, users can access tournament registration pages 6302 for upcoming tournaments for the game, an example of which is shown in the screen display of FIG. 63. On tournament registration pages 6302, users may indicate their desire to participate in a tournament and confirm their agreement to the associated terms and conditions. Participants may only be able to register for a tournament, if they have sufficient available credit in the wager account 102D to cover the tournament buy-in and/or if their user ratings are above a certain threshold level. 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, respectively.

In operation, prior to the beginning of a tournament, participants may be required to enter a “tournament room” page 6402, an example of which is shown in the screen display of FIG. 64, or risk forfeiture of the buy-in. “Tournament room” pages 6402 may be accessed through a “Tournament Room” link on the pull-down menu 1004 of sub-links related to the game. A designated “tournament room” page 6402 may be created for each tournament, and only the participants may be allowed to enter; otherwise, a single “tournament room” page 6402 may be created for each game, so that tournament groups may compete at different times. After all of the participants have entered the room and/ or at the scheduled starting time, tournament game play may either take place on a third-party multiplayer gaming network 104 and/or at least one directly operatively associated multiplayer gaming network 104, or a directly operatively associated game server 126. Following game play, participants may confirm match outcomes directly on their screen through an “instant confirmation notification” 6504, an example of which is seen in screen display 6502 of FIG. 65. If competitors confirm the same outcome, then the winner may progress in the tournament, while if both competitors do not confirm within a certain time period, or if the competitors confirm different outcomes, then neither participant may progress in the tournament, and the competitors' user ratings may be negatively impacted as previously above. If a single user confirms his or her victory in the competitive round, but that player's 112, 114, 116 opponent does not confirm, then solely that user may advance.

Based on the outcomes of wagered matches, 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, unless an uneven number of participants remained due to a disqualification as a result of improper confirmation, in which case the last participant to proceed to a round may be credited automatically with a win in that round. This winnowing down of the playing field would continue until one winner remained, at which point the wagering system 102 may recognize that the tournament has concluded and credit the pooled buy-ins to the credit balances of 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. 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.

Furthermore, certain video games played on third-party multiplayer gaming networks 104, due to certain aspects of game play, may require that specialized wagering interfaces be built, in order to facilitate exchange-based and/or challenge-based wagering on associated competitions. For instance, when players 112, 114, 116 compete on a “World of WarCraft” multiplayer gaming network 104 (Blizzard Entertainment), in certain cases, players 112, 114, 116 who play with one competitive party may not be permitted to compete with players 112, 114, 116 who play with the same competitive party (e.g., players who compete with “the Horde” may not be able to compete against other players who compete with “the Horde,” depending upon the game server on which the network competition takes place). For this reason, to match users who wish to wager on game play on the multiplayer gaming network 104, for example, the wagering system 102 may be configured to only allow users to accept stored wagers or received challenges, if those users compete with a different competitive party than their prospective competitor. Similarly, players may have to specify the third-party game server on which they are competing for certain games that can be played on a large number of distinct game servers. In this case, different wager pages or challenge rooms, for example, can be provided with respect to distinct game servers.

Likewise, the wagering system 102 may facilitate wagering on game play that does not involve head-to-head competition by altering the terms of the wager with respect to how it will be awarded. For instance, “Deathmatch” is a networked game-playing mode that is commonly integrated into first-person shooter video games. The goal of a “Deathmatch” game is to kill as many other players as possible until a certain condition or limit is reached, such as when the leading player has achieved a certain number of kills or a time limit. Once one of these conditions is met, the match is over, and the winner is whoever has accumulated the most kills. In order to facilitate wagering on a “Deathmatch,” the wagering system 102 may confirm which of the competitors who placed wagers has the most kills. In this manner, the wagering system 102 does not have to confirm which participant won the game played on the network (e.g., involving some players who may have wagered and some who did not), but confirms how those players who wagered on the match performed relative to each other. In certain embodiments, a similar process can facilitate wagering on network car races, for example, involving large numbers of participants through the determination of which of the competitors who had wagered had the faster time, as well as on many on other types of networked games.

In various embodiments, users of the wagering system 102 may wager other items of value other than money. For instance, the wagering system 102 could award each new member points and/or tokens upon registering, which may then be wagered instead of money. Such points and/or tokens can then be exchanged for prizes and/or discounts at an online store, for example, operatively associated with the wagering system 102, or an online store operated by a third-party.

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. No particular aspect or aspects of the examples are necessarily intended to limit the scope of the present invention. For instance, screen displays included herein are examples provided merely for convenience of disclosure for those skilled in the art.

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 sorts of focused discussions would not facilitate a better understanding of the present invention, and therefore, a more detailed description of such elements is not provided herein.

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 performs 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.

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.

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.

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 involve one or more data signals transmitted on one or more carrier waves.

A “computer” or “computer system” through which a user may access the wagering system 102 may be, for example, a wireless or wire line variety of a microcomputer, minicomputer, server, mainframe, laptop, personal data assistant (PDA), wireless e-mail device (e.g., “BlackBerry” trade-designated devices), cellular phone, cable box, pager, processor, fax machine, scanner, or any other programmable device configured to transmit and receive data over a network. Moreover, it can be seen that the game consoles 106, 108, 110 themselves may take on the functionality of a “computer” or “computer system” with respect to allowing users to directly access and/ or manipulate online content. Specifically, players 112, 114, 116 may be able to utilize the wagering system 102 through their consoles 106, 108, 110, respectively, using their consoles' 106, 108, 110 input/ output controls, in a similar manner as if they were accessing the wagering system 102 through a personal computer. Likewise, it can also be seen that cable or satellite boxes may take on the functionality of a “computer” or “computer system” with respect to allowing users to access and/ or manipulate online content. For example, players 112, 114, 116 may be able to utilize the wagering system 102 through their cable or satellite boxes, using buttons and/or other functions on a remote control to manipulate wagering features, in a similar manner as if they were accessing the wagering system 102 through a personal computer. With respect to accessing the wagering system 102 through game consoles 106, 108, 110 and cable or satellite boxes, it can be seen that the wagering system 102 may be customized for accessibility solely by one or both of these types of devices, so that its features could be more easily manipulated by, for example, a console controller and/ or a cable or satellite box remote control.

It can also be seen that a third-party network operator may utilize this wagering system 102 to offer wagering features built into its multiplayer gaming network 104. The wagering system 102 may be adapted to permit players 112, 114, 116 to wager and confirm outcomes directly though the game consoles 106, 108, 110, respectively, by accessing wager features built into the multiplayer gaming network 104 using the input/ output controls of their game consoles 106, 108, 110. In this case, the process by which wagering may take place may be substantively similar to the aforementioned description of using the wagering system 102 with respect to game play on a directly operatively associated multiplayer gaming network 104.

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.

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.

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, G07F17/3276
European ClassificationG07F17/32M8D, G07F17/32