US20080102933A1 - Systems and methods for organizing and distributing revenue within online communities - Google Patents

Systems and methods for organizing and distributing revenue within online communities Download PDF

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US20080102933A1
US20080102933A1 US11553180 US55318006A US2008102933A1 US 20080102933 A1 US20080102933 A1 US 20080102933A1 US 11553180 US11553180 US 11553180 US 55318006 A US55318006 A US 55318006A US 2008102933 A1 US2008102933 A1 US 2008102933A1
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player
community
given
trait
revenue
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Killian Jones
Aidan Lynch
Michael Kelly
Stephan Daniels
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Killian Jones
Aidan Lynch
Michael Kelly
Stephan Daniels
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    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/326Game play aspects of gaming systems
    • G07F17/3272Games involving multiple players
    • G07F17/3274Games involving multiple players wherein the players cooperate, e.g. team-play
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting

Abstract

Methods for apportioning revenue in an online game-playing community include: maintaining a trait summation ladder, the trait summation ladder comprising a hierarchy of player communities, each player community comprising one or more player groups all having a given trait; receiving a request from a user to play an online game, wherein the user is a member of a player group comprising one or more players sharing a given trait; receiving a request from the user to play a session of the online game in a forum corresponding to a given community, wherein the community includes the user's player group; computing an amount of revenue derived from the player during the session; and determining, based on a level of the given community within the trait summation ladder, a given percentage of the revenue amount to allocate to the player group. Corresponding systems are also described.

Description

    FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention relates to means of online communication and entertainment, and more specifically, to systems and methods for organizing communities for the playing of online games.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • Players of online games face several dilemmas. One is that playing a game online may require more trust than playing face to face, as participants in an online game are not able to see other player's faces or demeanor, and do not necessarily have any shared experiences in common. To solve this problem, online communities may be created allowing players having certain traits in common to play together. For example, a community might be created which included alumni of a given school. Alumni of the school might have a higher level of trust and camaraderie with other alumni, and thus be more willing to play online games with them.
  • However, this approach may have the drawback of creating communities with insufficient numbers of players to provide a good gaming experience. In the above example, if a player is a graduate of a small college, there might not be enough alumni of the college online at any one time to form a game the player is interested in playing.
  • Thus, there exists a need to organize online communities in a way which allows players to balance the desire to play with other players having traits in common, with the desire to have a high number of available players for a given game.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • In one aspect, the present invention is a method for apportioning revenue in an online game-playing community. In one embodiment, the method comprises: maintaining a trait summation ladder, the trait summation ladder comprising a hierarchy of player communities, each player community comprising one or more player groups all having a given trait; receiving a request from a user to play an online game, wherein the user is a member of a player group comprising one or more players sharing a given trait; receiving a request from the user to play a session of the online game in a forum corresponding to a given community, wherein the community includes the user's player group; computing an amount of revenue derived from the player during the session; and determining, based on a level of the given community within the trait summation ladder, a given percentage of the revenue amount to allocate to the player group. Some embodiments may further include executing an electronic transaction transferring the computed percentage of revenue to an account corresponding to the player group.
  • In a second aspect, the present invention is a computer-implemented system for apportioning revenue in an online game-playing community. In one embodiment, the system comprises: a plurality of player groups, wherein each player group comprises one or more players having a given trait; a trait summation ladder comprising a hierarchy of player communities, wherein each community comprises one or more player groups all having a common trait; a plurality of forums for playing an online game, wherein each forum is associated with a given community; a revenue computer which computes an amount of revenue derived from a player during an online game session associated with a given forum, wherein the player is associated with a given player group and which determines, based on a level within the trait summation ladder of the community associated with the given forum, a given percentage of the revenue amount to allocate to the player group.
  • In a third aspect, the present invention is a computer-implemented system for allowing hierarchical communities to exist in an online game-playing environment. In one embodiment, the system comprises: a plurality of player groups, wherein each player group comprises one or more players having a given trait; a trait summation ladder comprising a hierarchy of player communities, wherein each community comprises one or more player groups all having a common trait; a membership computer which, in response to a player indicating membership in a given player group, automatically adds the player to the membership lists of each community which includes the given player group; a plurality of forums for playing an online game, wherein each forum is associated with a given community; and an online game environment, wherein the player may choose from among a plurality of forums to play an online game, each of the plurality of forums corresponding to a community of which the player is a member.
  • In a fourth aspect, the present invention is a computer-implemented system for selling player statistics in an online game-playing community. In one embodiment, the system comprises: a statistics collection engine which collects player statistics corresponding to one or more instances of a first player playing an online game; and a transaction server in communication with the statistics collection engine which offers for sale, to a second player, at least one collected player statistic corresponding to the first player.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • The foregoing and other objects, aspects, features, and advantages of the invention will become more apparent and may be better understood by referring to the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:
  • FIG. 1 depicts one embodiment of a computer network useful for enabling hierarchical online game-playing communities;
  • FIGS. 2A and 2B depict block diagrams of a typical computer 200 useful as client computing devices and server computing devices;
  • FIGS. 3A and 3B depict examples of a trait summation ladder;
  • FIG. 4 depicts a forum selection screen allowing the user to select a forum for playing an online game;
  • FIG. 5 depicts an example screen which allows a user to create a group;
  • FIG. 6 depicts one embodiment of a method for apportioning revenue in an online game-playing community; and
  • FIG. 7 depicts one embodiment of an input screen enabling the selling of player statistics.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • Referring now to FIG. 1, one embodiment of a computer network useful for enabling hierarchical online game-playing communities is shown. In brief overview, a number of clients 113 a, 113 b, 113 n (generally 113) are connected to an online game server 100. The clients may exchange communications to the game server 100 relating to the playing of an online game, and communications relating to joining, maintaining, or communicating within any online communities associated with one or more games. The game server 100 is in communication with a statistics collection server 120, which stores and processes statistics from one or more online games; a community management server 110 which receives, stores and processes data relating to communities of game players; and a transaction server 115, which processes monetary transactions relating to one or more games, communities, and statistics.
  • Still referring to FIG. 1, now in greater detail, a server or client 113 may comprise any computing device, including without limitation computing devices such as the ones described in FIGS. 2A and 2B. The client 113 may comprise any device functionality for displaying a graphical interface, such as a monitor or display screen.
  • A server, such as the servers 100, 110, 115, 120 may comprise any computing device or devices capable of sending and receiving information. In some embodiments, a server may comprise a group of servers which act as a logical unit, such as, for example, a server farm or a number of distributed data centers with servers performing related functions. In some embodiments, two or more of the game server 100, statistics collection server 120, community management server 110 and transaction server 115 may reside on the same physical machine. In some embodiments, two or more of the game server 100, statistics collection server 120, community management server 110 and transaction server 115 may share one or more resources including without limitation processors, memory, and bandwidth.
  • A game server 100 may comprise any computing device capable of storing, processing, transmitting, and receiving information relating to the playing of an online game. A game server may comprise functionality for enabling any game to be played online, including without limitation bridge, chess, checkers, backgammon, poker, solitaire, blackjack, roulette, craps, baccarat, keno, bingo, sports betting or video poker. A game server may comprise any functionality associated with the playing of an online game. In some embodiments, a game server 100 may comprise functionality for players to play online games in forums associated with a community, as will be discussed with respect to FIG. 4.
  • In some embodiments, a game server 100 may be used to generate revenue from players playing an online game. Revenue may be generated by any means, including without limitation subscription fees, membership fees, hourly or daily rates, displaying advertisements to players, and collecting bets and rakes from players.
  • In one embodiment, a game server 100 may comprise a revenue computer which computes an amount of revenue derived from a player during an online game session. This revenue computer may comprise any hardware and software described herein, and may share some or all of its hardware and software with a game server 100. As one example, a revenue computer may track the amount of rakes collected from a given player during a poker game. As another example, a revenue computer may track the amount of hourly fees a player has paid during a given game session. As a third example, a revenue computer may track the number of advertisements shown to a player, and compute the amount of revenue that is derived from the showing of those advertisements. As a fourth example, a revenue computer may track the amount of bets that a player places, and compute a portion of those bets which were revenue for an online game operator.
  • In one embodiment, a game server 100 may receive and store relevant player details and information. Player information may comprise any information relating to any of the users of the online game, including without limitation real names, in-game names, preferences, contact information, billing information, and interaction histories. In some embodiments, player information may be stored and processed on a separate server or servers.
  • In the embodiment shown, the game server 100, is connected to a community management server 110. A community management server may comprise software and hardware for storing, processing, receiving and transmitting information corresponding to one or more online communities. The online communities may be organized into hierarchies via a trait summation ladder, as will be discussed in conjunction with FIGS. 3A and 3B. In some embodiments, a community management server 110 may be in communication with a plurality of game servers 100. The community management server may comprise any functionality relating to creation, management, and support of online communities, including without limitation storing, editing, and viewing membership lists, providing for e-mail or other communication among community members, and storing, viewing, and editing community information such as a trait summation ladder. In one embodiment, a community management server may comprise a membership computer, which in response to a player indicating membership in a given player group, automatically adds the player to the membership lists of each community which includes the given player group.
  • In the embodiment shown, the game server 100 is also connected to a transaction server 115. The transaction server may comprise any server capable of processing information corresponding to transferring funds between two parties, such as for example, processing credit card charges, credit card credits, bank account withdrawals and bank account deposits. In some embodiments, the transaction server may be used to collect revenue associated with one or more online games. For example, the transaction server 115 may receive credit card payments from players corresponding to subscription fees, membership fees, hourly or daily rates, or bets. Or, for example, the transaction server 115 may distribute funds back to player accounts, or through any of the revenue distribution mechanisms discussed herein. In another embodiment, the transaction server may be used in conjunction with the buying or selling of player statistics, as will be discussed with respect to FIG. 7.
  • In the embodiment shown, the game server 100 is also connected to a statistics collection server 120. A statistics collection processor may comprise any server capable of processing information corresponding to game or player statistics. In some embodiments, a statistics collection server 120 may be in communication with a plurality of game servers 100 and may collect and transmit statistics relating to a plurality of games and players.
  • In some embodiments, one or more of the servers discussed may comprise web servers, which may comprise any server capable of delivering content readable by a web browser, including without limitation HTML pages, Javascript, Java applets, Ajax, XML, WML, and images. In other embodiments, the servers may receive and transmit any other content or services.
  • In some embodiments, one or more of the servers discussed may be owned or operated by separate companies or other entities. For example, one company may own and operate the community management server.
  • The client 113 and the servers may be connected in any manner, and via any network or networks. For example, in some embodiments, the clients 113 may communicate directly with the community management server 110, the statistics collection server 120 or the transaction server 115. Connections and networks included in the connections may comprise the Internet, local networks, web servers, file servers, routers, databases, computers, servers, network appliances, or any other computing devices capable of sending and receiving information. The network may comprise computing devices connected via cables, IR ports, wireless signals, or any other means of connecting multiple computing devices. The network and any devices connected to the networks may communicate via any communication protocol used to communicate among or within computing devices, including without limitation SSL, HTML, XML, RDP, ICA, FTP, HTTP, TCP, IP, UDP, IPX, SPX, NetBIOS, NetBEUI, SMB, SMTP, Ethernet, ARCNET, Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI), RS232, IEEE 802.11, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g and direct asynchronous connections, or any combination thereof. The network may comprise mobile telephone networks utilizing any protocol or protocols used to communicate among mobile devices, including AMPS, TDMA, CDMA, GSM, GPRS or UMTS.
  • FIGS. 2A and 2B depict block diagrams of a typical computer 200 useful as client computing devices and server computing devices. As shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B, each computer 200 includes a central processing unit 202, and a main memory unit 204. Each computer 200 may also include other optional elements, such as one or more input/output devices 230 a-230 b (generally referred to using reference numeral 230), and a cache memory 240 in communication with the central processing unit 202.
  • The central processing unit 202 is any logic circuitry that responds to and processes instructions fetched from the main memory unit 204. In many embodiments, the central processing unit is provided by a microprocessor unit, such as those manufactured by Intel Corporation of Mountain View, Calif.; those manufactured by Motorola Corporation of Schaumburg, Ill.; the Crusoe and Efficeon lines of processors manufactured by Transmeta Corporation of Santa Clara, Calif.; the lines of processors manufactured by International Business Machines of White Plains, N.Y.; or the lines of processors manufactured by Advanced Micro Devices of Sunnyvale, Calif.
  • Main memory unit 204 may be one or more memory chips capable of storing data and allowing any storage location to be directly accessed by the microprocessor 202, such as Static random access memory (SRAM), Burst SRAM or SynchBurst SRAM (BSRAM), Dynamic random access memory (DRAM), Fast Page Mode DRAM (FPM DRAM), Enhanced DRAM (EDRAM), Extended Data Output RAM (EDO RAM), Extended Data Output DRAM (EDO DRAM), Burst Extended Data Output DRAM (BEDO DRAM), Enhanced DRAM (EDRAM), synchronous DRAM (SDRAM), JEDEC SRAM, PC100 SDRAM, Double Data Rate SDRAM (DDR SDRAM), Enhanced SDRAM (ESDRAM), SyncLink DRAM (SLDRAM), Direct Rambus DRAM (DRDRAM), or Ferroelectric RAM (FRAM). In the embodiment shown in FIG. 2A, the processor 202 communicates with main memory 204 via a system bus 250 (described in more detail below). FIG. 2B depicts an embodiment of a computer system 200 in which the processor communicates directly with main memory 204 via a memory port. For example, in FIG. 2B the main memory 204 may be DRDRAM.
  • FIGS. 2A and 2B depict embodiments in which the main processor 202 communicates directly with cache memory 240 via a secondary bus, sometimes referred to as a “backside” bus. In other embodiments, the main processor 202 communicates with cache memory 240 using the system bus 250. Cache memory 240 typically has a faster response time than main memory 204 and is typically provided by SRAM, BSRAM, or EDRAM.
  • In the embodiment shown in FIG. 2A, the processor 202 communicates with various I/O devices 230 via a local system bus 250. Various busses may be used to connect the central processing unit 202 to the I/O devices 230, including a VESA VL bus, an ISA bus, an EISA bus, a MicroChannel Architecture (MCA) bus, a PCI bus, a PCI-X bus, a PCI-Express bus, or a NuBus. For embodiments in which the I/O device is an video display, the processor 202 may use an Advanced Graphics Port (AGP) to communicate with the display. FIG. 2B depicts an embodiment of a computer system 200 in which the main processor 202 communicates directly with I/O device 230 b via HyperTransport, Rapid I/O, or InfiniBand. FIG. 2B also depicts an embodiment in which local busses and direct communication are mixed: the processor 202 communicates with I/O device 230 a using a local interconnect bus while communicating with I/O device 230 b directly.
  • A wide variety of I/O devices 230 may be present in the computer system 200. Input devices include keyboards, mice, trackpads, trackballs, cameras, video cameras, microphones, and drawing tablets. Output devices include video displays, speakers, inkjet printers, laser printers, and dye-sublimation printers. An I/O device may also provide mass storage for the computer system 800 such as a hard disk drive, a floppy disk drive for receiving floppy disks such as 3.5-inch, 5.25-inch disks or ZIP disks, a CD-ROM drive, a CD-R/RW drive, a DVD-ROM drive, tape drives of various formats, and USB storage devices such as the USB Flash Drive line of devices manufactured by Twintech Industry, Inc. of Los Alamitos, Calif.
  • In further embodiments, an I/O device 230 may be a bridge between the system bus 250 and an external communication bus, such as a USB bus, an Apple Desktop Bus, an RS-132 serial connection, a SCSI bus, a FireWire bus, a FireWire 800 bus, an Ethernet bus, an AppleTalk bus, a Gigabit Ethernet bus, an Asynchronous Transfer Mode bus, a HIPPI bus, a Super HIPPI bus, a SerialPlus bus, a SCI/LAMP bus, a FibreChannel bus, or a Serial Attached small computer system interface bus.
  • General-purpose computers of the sort depicted in FIG. 2A and FIG. 2B typically operate under the control of operating systems, which control scheduling of tasks and access to system resources. Typical operating systems include: MICROSOFT WINDOWS, manufactured by Microsoft Corp. of Redmond, Wash.; MacOS, manufactured by Apple Computer of Cupertino, Calif.; OS/2, manufactured by International Business Machines of Armonk, N.Y.; and Linux, a freely-available operating system distributed by Caldera Corp. of Salt Lake City, Utah, among others.
  • For embodiments comprising mobile devices, the device may be a JAVA-enabled cellular telephone, such as the i55sr, i58sr, i85s, or the i88s, all of which are manufactured by Motorola Corp. of Schaumburg, Ill.; the 6035 or the 7135, manufactured by Kyocera of Kyoto, Japan; or the i300 or i330, manufactured by Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., of Seoul, Korea. In other embodiments comprising mobile devices, a mobile device may be a personal digital assistant (PDA) operating under control of the PalmOS operating system, such as the Tungsten W, the VII, the VIIx, the i705, all of which are manufactured by palmOne, Inc. of Milpitas, California. In further embodiments, the client 113 may be a personal digital assistant (PDA) operating under control of the PocketPC operating system, such as the iPAQ 4155, iPAQ 5555, iPAQ 1945, iPAQ 2215, and iPAQ 4255, all of which manufactured by Hewlett-Packard Corporation of Palo Alto, Calif.; the ViewSonic V36, manufactured by ViewSonic of Walnut, California; or the Toshiba PocketPC e405, manufactured by Toshiba America, Inc. of New York, N.Y. In still other embodiments, the mobile device is a combination PDA/telephone device such as the Treo 180, Treo 270, Treo 600, Treo 650, Treo 700, or the Treo 700w, all of which are manufactured by palmOne, Inc. of Milpitas, Calif. In still further embodiments, the mobile device is a cellular telephone that operates under control of the PocketPC operating system, such as the MPx200, manufactured by Motorola Corp. A typical mobile device may comprise many of the elements described above in FIGS. 2A and 2B, including the processor 202 and the main memory 204.
  • Referring now to FIG. 3A, one example of a trait summation ladder is shown. In brief overview, a trait summation ladder 300 comprises a number of communities grouped in a hierarchy according to common traits. Each labeled box represents a community, and each labeled oval represents a person who is a member of a community. The arrows indicate membership—an arrow from one item to another indicates that the source of the arrow is a member of the destination of the arrow. The ladder is constructed so that for each community, the community is a subset of the community above it in the ladder, and a combination of the communities below it in the ladder.
  • Still referring to FIG. 3A, now in greater detail, in the example shown, communities sharing given traits are arranged in a hierarchy so that for each community, the community is a subset of the community above it in the ladder, and a superset of each community below it in the ladder. A community may have any number of people as members. In the trait summation ladder, if community A is a member of a second community B, all people who are members of community A are also members of community B. The lowest-level communities—those communities that have people as members rather than other communities—may also be referred to as player groups.
  • In a trait summation ladder 300, each community has a defining trait, which may be a geographic location, a personal characteristic, a personal affiliation, an interest, or any other distinguishing feature of people or groups. For example, a community with a defining trait related to a geographic location may be a community including residents of California, a community including people who have visited Ireland, or a community including people who own land in Dublin. Or, for example, a community with a defining trait related to a personal characteristic may be a community including people over 65 years old, a community including redheads, or a community including architects. Or, for example, a community with a defining trait related to a personal affiliation may be a community including people who have attended a certain school, a community including fans of a particular sports team, a community including members of a particular political party, or a community including friends of a particular person. Or, for example, a community with a defining trait related to an interest may be a community including people who like golf, a community including people who enjoy cribbage, or a community including people whose favorite color is green. Or for example, a community may correspond to a physical community, such as a bar, restaurant or casino, and may include as members people who work or play at the physical establishment. In some cases, a trait for the purposes of defining a community may comprise a combination of other traits. For example, a community may have as its defining trait as being over 30 years old and living in Canada. Or, for example, a community may have as its defining trait being a golfer and being a parent.
  • In some embodiments, the trait summation ladder may be controlled and managed by a central authority. For example, a system administrator may create one or more communities, and determine the place of each community within the trait summation ladder. In another embodiment, some or all of the management of the trait summation ladder may be decentralized or participant-driven. For example, users of the system may be able to create their own communities, and arrange them within the trait summation ladder as they desire. In still other embodiments, the trait summation ladder may be both user-driven and centrally managed. For example, a user may be able to create groups, but then must submit a description of the group to a central administrator who will determine the placing of the group within the trait summation ladder.
  • In some embodiments, communities may have open membership policies, such that any person may join a community simply by signing up. In other embodiments, one or more community may have user-managed membership policies, such that a person may only join the group upon receiving approval from one or more members of the group. In still other embodiments, one or more communities may have centrally managed membership policies. For example, someone wishing to join an “over 18 years old” community may be required to submit proof of age to a central administrator in order to join the group. Or for example, a user may be allowed to form and self-manage a community comprising beginning golfers, but may have to petition an administrator for permission to have the community become a member of a larger community comprising all golfers.
  • In some embodiments, a trait summation ladder may be managed so that the ladder has a fixed number of layers between the player groups (the lowest-level communities) and the top level community. In other embodiments, player groups may exist at varying levels within a trait summation ladder.
  • In the ladder 300 shown, Bob, Steve, Carol, and Jane, are members of one or more communities. Bob is a member of the Cornell community, and Steve is a member of the NYU and Cornell communities, while Carol and Jane are both members of the Fordham communities. The Cornell, NYU, and Fordham communities are in turn members of the New York Colleges community, since Cornell, NYU, and Fordham are colleges in New York State. The New York Colleges community is in turn a member of the U.S. colleges community, which is in turn a member of the All Colleges community. The All Colleges community is a member of the “Official” community, which may comprise all communities which correspond to a pre-existing community or organization which has sanctioned membership qualifications. Examples of traits defining communities included in the “Official” community may include school attendance, professional qualifications, or membership in an outside organization. The “Official” community is in turn a member of the “All Communities” community. This “All Communities” community is the broadest community, and includes as a member every person who is a member of any community.
  • In some embodiments, a community may be a member of more than one community. For example, a “New York tennis players” community might be a member of both an “All New Yorkers” community and an “All tennis players” community, such that the members of the “New York tennis players” would have access to both groups.
  • In one embodiment, a trait summation ladder may comprise one or more open communities, which are open for anyone to join, and which do not require a person to be a part of a player group to join. For example, new players may be able to directly join the “All communities” community without first becoming a member of a player group. In this manner, a trait summation ladder may provide an opportunity for new players to experience one or more online games before they join a particular player group. This may be desirable for attracting new members on a trial basis, or to allow players to participate in games while their membership in a given player group is still pending, for example if they are waiting for the organizer of a player group to process their application.
  • In one embodiment, a trait summation ladder may be used to organize communities of players for an online game. In another embodiment, a trait summation ladder may be used for organizing any other activities, including socializing, business networking, marketing, dating, retailing, commercial transport, and sharing of a common interest, such as regional events or news.
  • Referring now to FIG. 3B, a second example of a trait summation ladder is shown. In this example, example communities which might be found under the “personal” community are shown. In the diagram shown, “personal” communities may comprise communities organized around any trait that is not “official.” Examples of communities which may fall under this heading include communities including friends of a particular person, communities including fans of a particular sports team, communities who use a particular product, and communities who watch a given television show.
  • Referring now to FIG. 4, a forum selection screen allowing the user to select a forum for playing an online game is shown. In brief overview, the forum selection screen comprises a list of available forums for a given player, each forum corresponding to a given community of which the player is a member. This list of communities may be derived from a trait summation ladder 300 as described herein. Each forum indicates the number of players currently playing who are members of the given community. Each forum also may indicate a portion of revenue which will be returned to the player's player group for games played within the forum.
  • Still referring to FIG. 4, now in greater detail, a forum selection screen may indicate that the user is currently signed in as a member of a given player group (in the example shown, the group is the NYU group). Although a player may be a member of more than one player group, a player may be limited to only being signed in under one player group at a time.
  • The player may then choose a forum corresponding to a community of which the player is a member. The forums may offer different advantages in terms of how many players are available for a given game, and how close they are to the player group of which the player is a member. In some embodiments, a forum selection screen 400 may indicate to a player how many players in a particular forum are members of the player's player group.
  • In some embodiments, each forum may return a given portion of revenue derived from a player playing a game within the forum to the player group of the player. The percentage of revenue returned to the player group may depend on the degree of separation in the trait summation ladder between the player group and the forum in which the player is playing. Any formula or method may be used to determine the percentage of revenue returned to a player group. In some embodiments, a higher percentage of revenue may be returned to the player group for games played by members of the group in forums more closely related to the player group. In these embodiments, the percentage returned to the player group may be determined in order to give player groups an incentive to expand their number of players, such that players from the player group will more often be able to find enough players within the player group to play games.
  • The list below, also reflected in FIG. 4, shows a sample revenue distribution table indicating the percentage of revenue which might be returned to the NYU player group for games played in the given forums.
  • All Communities 20%
    Official 25%
    All colleges 30%
    New York Colleges 40%
    NYU 50%
  • Another example revenue distribution table for an NYU player group might be the following:
  • All Communities 10%
    Official 10%
    All colleges 15%
    New York Colleges 30%
    NYU 55%
  • In some embodiments, the revenue returned to the player group may be kept by the player group organizer. In other embodiments, some or all of the revenue returned to the player group may be distributed among the players in the player group. In still other embodiments, some or all of the revenue returned to the player group may be distributed to the player from whom the revenue was derived. In some embodiments, the revenue distribution model may be set to create incentives for organizers of player groups to seek out new members for the player groups. In other embodiments, the revenue distribution model may be set to create incentives for players to play games in forums associated with their player groups, or closely related in a trait summation ladder to their player groups. In still other embodiments, the revenue distribution model may be set to create incentives for players to play in forums which may be lacking in participation.
  • Referring now to FIG. 5, an example screen which allows a user to create a group is shown. In brief overview, the screen 500 allows a user to name a group, and set properties for the group, including a group name, one or more groups of which the created group will be a subgroup, membership properties, and revenue distribution. These properties may be set in accordance with any of the embodiments described herein. In some embodiments, the group creation screen shown may be used by any player of an online game. In other embodiments, the group creation screen may be limited to administrators, or players with certain privileges.
  • Referring now to FIG. 6, one embodiment of a method for apportioning revenue in an online game-playing community is shown. In brief overview, the method comprises: maintaining a trait summation ladder, the trait summation ladder comprising a hierarchy of player communities, each player community comprising one or more player groups all having a given trait (step 601); receiving a request from a user to play an online game, wherein the user is a member of a player group comprising one or more players sharing a given trait (step 603); receiving a request from the user to play a session of the online game in a forum corresponding to a given community, wherein the community includes the user's player group (step 605); computing an amount of revenue derived from the player during the session (step 607); determining, based on a level of the given community within the trait summation ladder, a given percentage of the revenue amount to allocate to the player group (step 609); executing an electronic transaction transferring the computed percentage of revenue to an account corresponding to the player group (step 611); and executing an electronic transaction transferring some or all of the computed percentage of revenue to one or more accounts corresponding to members of the player group, according to a predetermined allocation schedule (step 613). In some embodiments, the method may be performed by one or more servers as described in conjunction with FIG. 1.
  • Still referring to FIG. 6, now in greater detail, a method for apportioning revenue in an online game-playing community comprises maintaining a trait summation ladder, the trait summation ladder comprising a hierarchy of player communities, each player community comprising one or more player groups all having a given trait (step 601). In some embodiments, the trait summation ladder may be maintained by a community management server as discussed herein. In some embodiments, maintaining a trait summation ladder may comprise storing a copy of a hierarchy of player communities on a server. In other embodiments, maintaining a trait summation ladder may comprise adding or removing player communities from an existing trait summation ladder. In still other embodiments, maintaining a trait summation ladder may comprise, for a given player, determining a list of communities to which the player belongs based on an initial player group membership and an existing trait summation ladder.
  • In the embodiment shown, the method comprises receiving a request from a user to play an online game, wherein the user is a member of a player group comprising one or more players sharing a given trait (step 603). The request may comprise any protocol or protocols, and may correspond to any online game. In some embodiments the request may be generated by a player selecting a game to play from a menu. In other embodiments, the request may be generated when a player visits a website or activates software associated with a particular game. For example, a player may have installed software for playing online poker on the player's computer. When the software is executed, a request may be sent to a game server 100 indicating that the player would like to play poker.
  • In the embodiment shown, the method also comprises receiving a request from the user to play a session of the online game in a forum corresponding to a given community, wherein the community includes the user's player group (step 605). In some embodiments, this request may be received via a forum selection screen 400 as described herein. In other embodiments, the request may be received via any other source, and may comprise any protocol or protocols.
  • In the embodiment shown, the method also comprises computing an amount of revenue derived from the player during the session (step 607). In some embodiments, this computation may be performed by a revenue computer as described herein.
  • In the embodiment shown, the method also comprises determining, based on a level of the given community within the trait summation ladder, a given percentage of the revenue amount to allocate to the player group (step 609). The percentage may be determined in this step according to any of the embodiments described herein.
  • In the embodiment, shown, the method also comprises executing an electronic transaction transferring the computed percentage of revenue to an account corresponding to the player group (step 611). This revenue may be transferred using any form of electronic transaction, including without limitation credit card payment and bank withdrawal/deposit.
  • In some embodiments, the method may comprise executing an electronic transaction transferring some or all of the computed percentage of revenue to one or more accounts corresponding to members of the player group, according to a predetermined allocation schedule (step 613). This allocation schedule may be set according to any of the methods and embodiments described herein. In some embodiments, this revenue may be transferred directly to the members. In other embodiments, this revenue may be first transferred to a player group, and then to the respective players.
  • Referring now to FIG. 7, one embodiment of an input screen enabling the selling of player statistics is shown. In brief overview, the screen 700 comprises inputs for a player to specify which of the player's statistics the player is willing to sell, along with a price for the statistics. In some embodiments, the input screen 700 may be in communication with a statistics collection server as described herein.
  • Still referring to FIG. 7, now in greater detail, an input screen provides input for a player of an online game to offer for sale to other players the player's statistics relating to that online game. The statistics may comprise any statistics which might be of interest to another player of the game or a potential opponent, and may include, without limitation, statistics relating to numbers of wins, losses, quality of opponents, time spent playing, and playing tendencies. For example, in chess, the statistics might comprise the number of wins and losses, and the most common opening moves for a player. Or for example, in poker, the statistics might comprise the number of hands won and lost, and the percentage of times the player has folded before and after the flop, turn, and river. In some embodiments, the statistics may cover a given time period, such as the most recent week, month, or year.
  • The input screen may allow a player to set the price at which the player's statistics will be sold. In some embodiments, some or all of the money generated from the sale of a player's statistics may be given to the player. In other embodiments, some or all of the money generated from the sale of a player's statistics may be given to a player group of which the player is a member.
  • In some embodiments, a player may be provided with additional control over the selling of the statistics. In one embodiment, a player may be notified before someone purchases the player's statistics, and have the opportunity to accept the transaction, veto the transaction, or increase or decrease the purchase price. In other embodiments, a player may be able to pre-select players or groups of players which will or will not be permitted to purchase the player's statistics.
  • While the invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to specific preferred embodiments, it should be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes in form and detail may be made therein departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.

Claims (23)

  1. 1. A method for apportioning revenue in an online game-playing community, the method comprising:
    a. maintaining a trait summation ladder, the trait summation ladder comprising a hierarchy of player communities, each player community comprising one or more player groups all having a given trait;
    b. receiving a request from a user to play an online game, wherein the user is a member of a player group comprising one or more players sharing a given trait;
    c. receiving a request from the user to play a session of the online game in a forum corresponding to a given community, wherein the community includes the user's player group;
    d. computing an amount of revenue derived from the player during the session; and
    e. determining, based on a level of the given community within the trait summation ladder, a given percentage of the revenue amount to allocate to the player group.
  2. 2. The method of claim 1, wherein the online game is poker.
  3. 3. The method of claim 1, wherein the online game is one of: poker, blackjack, roulette, craps, baccarat, keno, bingo, solitaire, or video poker.
  4. 4. The method of claim 1, wherein step (b) comprises receiving a request from a user to play an online game, wherein the user is a member of one of a plurality of player groups, wherein each group comprises players sharing a given trait, and wherein the trait comprises one of: a geographic location, a personal characteristic, an affiliation, or an interest.
  5. 5. The method of claim 1, wherein step (b) comprises: receiving a request from a user to play an online game, wherein the user is a member of a plurality of player groups, each comprising a group of players sharing a given trait, and wherein the user selects a player group of the plurality of groups to be associated with a game session.
  6. 6. The method of claim 1, wherein step (c) comprises: receiving a request from the user to play a session of the online game in a forum corresponding to a given community, wherein the community comprises includes the user's player group, at least one other player group, and at least one community;
  7. 7. The method of claim 1, wherein step (d) comprises computing an amount of entry fees derived from the player during the session.
  8. 8. The method of claim 1, wherein step (d) comprises computing an amount of advertising revenue derived from the player during the session.
  9. 9. The method of claim 1, wherein step (d) comprises computing an amount of rakes derived from the player during the session.
  10. 10. The method of claim 1, further comprising the step of executing an electronic transaction transferring the computed percentage of revenue to an account corresponding to the player group.
  11. 11. The method of claim 1, further comprising the step of executing an electronic transaction transferring some or all of the computed percentage of revenue to one or more accounts corresponding to members of the player group, according to a predetermined allocation schedule.
  12. 12. A computer-implemented system for apportioning revenue in an online game-playing community, the system comprising:
    a plurality of player groups, wherein each player group comprises one or more players having a given trait;
    a trait summation ladder comprising a hierarchy of player communities, wherein each community comprises one or more player groups all having a common trait;
    a plurality of forums for playing an online game, wherein each forum is associated with a given community;
    a revenue computer which computes an amount of revenue derived from a player during an online game session associated with a given forum, wherein the player is associated with a given player group and which determines, based on a level within the trait summation ladder of the community associated with the given forum, a given percentage of the revenue amount to allocate to the player group.
  13. 13. The system of claim 12, wherein the online game is poker.
  14. 14. The system of claim 12, wherein the online game is one of poker, blackjack, roulette, craps, baccarat, keno, bingo, solitaire, or video poker.
  15. 15. The system of claim 12, wherein each player group comprises players sharing a given trait, and wherein the traits comprise one of: a geographic location, a personal characteristic, an affiliation, or an interest.
  16. 16. The system of claim 12, wherein the revenue computer computes an amount of entry fees derived from the player during the session.
  17. 17. The system of claim 12, wherein the revenue computer computes an amount of advertising revenue derived from the player during the session.
  18. 18. The system of claim 12, wherein the revenue computer computes an amount of rakes derived from the player during the session.
  19. 19. The system of claim 12, further comprising a transaction server which executes an electronic transaction transferring the computed percentage of revenue to an account corresponding to the player group.
  20. 20. The system of claim 12, further comprising a membership computer which, in response to a player indicating membership in a given player group, automatically adds the player to the membership lists of each community which includes the given player group
  21. 21. A computer-implemented system for allowing hierarchical communities in an online game-playing environment, the system comprising:
    a. a plurality of player groups, wherein each player group comprises one or more players having a given trait;
    b. a trait summation ladder comprising a hierarchy of player communities, wherein each community comprises one or more player groups all having a common trait;
    c. a membership computer which, in response to a player indicating membership in a given player group, automatically adds the player to the membership lists of each community which includes the given player group;
    d. a plurality of forums for playing an online game, wherein each forum is associated with a given community; and
    e. an online game environment, wherein the player may choose from among a plurality of forums to play an online game, each of the plurality of forums corresponding to a community of which the player is a member.
  22. 22. A computer-implemented system for selling player statistics in an online game-playing community, the system comprising:
    a statistics collection engine which collects player statistics corresponding to one or more instances of a first player playing an online game; and
    a transaction server in communication with the statistics collection engine which offers for sale, to a second player, at least one collected player statistic corresponding to the first player.
  23. 23. The system of claim 22 wherein the transaction server offers for sale, to a second player, at least one collected player statistic corresponding to the first player, wherein a price for the at least one collected player statistic is set by the first player.
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