US20080300045A1 - Method and system for prize contests in a game - Google Patents

Method and system for prize contests in a game Download PDF

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Publication number
US20080300045A1
US20080300045A1 US11/806,487 US80648707A US2008300045A1 US 20080300045 A1 US20080300045 A1 US 20080300045A1 US 80648707 A US80648707 A US 80648707A US 2008300045 A1 US2008300045 A1 US 2008300045A1
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prize
contest
method
game
participants
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US11/806,487
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Trey Ratcliff
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ELECTRIC BAT INTERACTIVE LLC
JG Games Holdings LLC
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JG Games Holdings LLC
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Publication of US20080300045A1 publication Critical patent/US20080300045A1/en
Assigned to ELECTRIC BAT INTERACTIVE, LLC reassignment ELECTRIC BAT INTERACTIVE, LLC CHANGE OF NAME (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: WEBWARS, LLC
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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
    • G07F17/3276Games involving multiple players wherein the players compete, e.g. tournament
    • 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

A method and system is provided for operating prize-contest in a gaming space. In a virtual space associated with an online game having a plurality of participants, a prize-contest operation is conducted to promote a prize contest to the participants of the online game. At the completion of the prize-contest, information associated with the participants is updated based on the outcome of the prize-contest.

Description

    BACKGROUND
  • 1. Field of Disclosure
  • The inventions presented herein relate to methods and systems for conducting an electronic lottery. More specifically, the inventions relate to methods and systems offering and conducting an electronic lottery in a gaming environment.
  • 2. Discussion of Related Art
  • The rapid growth in the Internet technologies and electronics has presented new ways to conduct transactions between business entities and individuals. Goods are now offered for sale over the Internet. Interested purchasers can view those goods through a variety of interfaces installed on various types of electronic devices.
  • Contests where contestants are offered the chance to win prizes have historically been and continue to be very popular. People love to enter contests to win prizes. Lotteries and sweepstakes are conducted all over the world. Typically, entering prize contests involves some manual process. Examples include bidding on an auction, buying a lottery ticket, and filling out a sweepstakes form.
  • These entry methods have several shortcomings. First, they often require a manual process. To make an entry, the contestants may need to, e.g., make a transit driving to a location in order to, e.g., make a bid, submit a form, or buy a lottery ticket. Second, even when the applicants do not need to make a transit drive to submit a form, it is often required that the applicants mail the filled form to a specific address. Third, in conventional lottery systems, the contestants are usually not provided with feedback unless he or she is at least one of the winners. The participants who do not win are usually ignored.
  • There is recently a new electronic means for entering prize contests via a mobile phone. Prize contest organizers offer or advertise a prize or a series of prizes via mobile phones to the phone users. For example, the contest organizer may correspond to the phone service provider. To advertise, the contest organizer may broadcast a text message to all of its users. The contest organizer may also broadcast a voice message to its users. When a mobile phone user receives the message, text or voice, and is interested in entering the contest, the user can send a message via a short message service (SMS) to a particular address, usually indicated in the advertisement from the contest organizer. Upon receiving the user's SMS message, the user is automatically entered into the contest. In such a scheme, the entry fee for a participant, who is a mobile phone user, may be charged to his/her mobile phone service account. Via the same mechanism, after one or more winners are selected, the contest organizer then announces the outcome through either the text message means or voice message means.
  • The business model behind this mobile-SMS entry technique is quite simple. The contest organizer may offer, for example, a trip to Hawaii. If the trip may cost the contest organizer $1000 and the number of participants is 5,000 each with a $2 entrance fee, the contest organizer can still make a sizable profit margin after paying the costs associated with the contest such as the advertising and operational expense.
  • This SMS-mobile prize contest method has several shortcomings. It is often not easy for a mobile phone user to enter a contest unless the user knows how to send an SMS message. In addition, quite a high percentage of mobile users may be afraid to enter a contest in such a manner because they may not have trust in the company offering the prize. Furthermore, people may not have enough credit on their mobile account to pay for the required entry fee. As in case of the conventional prize contest, participants are rarely informed when they do not actually win.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • The inventions claimed and/or described herein are further described in terms of exemplary embodiments. These exemplary embodiments are described in detail with reference to the drawings. These embodiments are non-limiting exemplary embodiments, in which like reference numerals represent similar structures throughout the several views of the drawings, and wherein:
  • FIG. 1 a depicts an exemplary framework in which a prize-contest operation is performed in a gaming or chat-room environment, according to an embodiment of the present teaching;
  • FIG. 1 b depicts a different exemplary framework in which a prize-contest operation is performed in a gaming or chat-room environment, according to an embodiment of the present teaching;
  • FIG. 1 c depicts an exemplary framework in which a prize-contest operation is performed in a gaming or chat-room environment via a service provider, according to an embodiment of the present teaching;
  • FIG. 2 illustrates exemplary types of prizes, according to an embodiment of the present teaching;
  • FIG. 3 depicts exemplary interconnections between a game/chat-room operator and a prize-contest operator, according to different embodiments of the present teaching;
  • FIG. 4 illustrates exemplary types of information stored in a prize-contest system, according to an embodiment of the present teaching;
  • FIG. 5 is a flowchart of an exemplary process in which a player in a gaming/chat-room environment participates in a prize contest, according to an embodiment of the present teaching;
  • FIG. 6 a is a flowchart of an exemplary process in which a game/chat-room operator facilitates a player to participate in a prize-contest conducted in a gaming or chat-room environment, according to an embodiment of the present teaching;
  • FIG. 6 b is a flowchart of a different exemplary process in which a game/chat-room operator facilitates a player to participate in a prize-contest conducted in a gaming or chat-room environment, according to an embodiment of the present teaching;
  • FIG. 7 a is a flowchart of an exemplary process in which a prize-contest operator facilitates a player to participate in a prize-contest conducted in a gaming or chat-room environment, according to an embodiment of the present teaching;
  • FIG. 7 b is a flowchart of a different exemplary process in which a prize-contest operator facilitates a player to participate in a prize-contest conducted in a gaming or chat-room environment, according to an embodiment of the present teaching;
  • FIG. 8 a is a flowchart of an exemplary process in which a third-party service provider facilitates interactions between a game/chat-room operator and a prize-contest operator to enable a prize-contest in a gaming or chat-room environment, according to an embodiment of the present teaching; and
  • FIG. 8 b is a flowchart of a different exemplary process in which a third-party service provider facilitates interactions between a game/chat-room operator and a prize-contest operator to enable a prize-contest in a gaming or chat-room environment, according to an embodiment of the present teaching.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • Online games are, nowadays, a popular platform for people to play and interact. For example, in addition to providing a game playing place, most online game operators also provide a chat system. Although most of such a chat system is mainly a text-based system, it can also be or coupled with a voice-based system. Many gamers often do not just participate in online gaming but also take part in game chat with other people who are also online. For this reason, in this disclosure, the words “user”, “gamer”, and “player” may be used interchangeably.
  • In an online gaming environment, a prize contest operation may be performed. FIG. 1 a depicts an exemplary framework 100 in which a prize-contest operation is performed in a gaming or chat-room environment, according to an embodiment of the present teaching. The framework 100 comprises a group 110 of a plurality of gamers 110-a, 110-b, . . . , 110-c, a group 120 of one or more games 120-a, 120-b, . . . , 120-c, a group 130 of one or more chat rooms 130-a, 130-b, . . . , 130-c, a game system 140, and a prize-contest system 160. In this illustrated framework 100, the game system 140 has control over the operation of the games 120, the operation of the chat rooms 130, as well as the price contest system 160. In addition, the game system 140 may have control over information associated with the gamers 110.
  • In the framework 100, garners in 110 may sign up with the game system 140 and have access to different games in 120 and chat rooms in 130. In some embodiments, each chat room in 130 may be associated with a particular game or with multiple games in 120. In some embodiments, multiple chat sessions may be associated with a particular game. Chat sessions may take place based on a number of different groupings. Gamers who are active in one area of the game may chat only with people in that area, while garners in a different area may chat with people in that different area. Accordingly, chatting may be segmented into private groups. One group of garners may create a special channel, where their chatting is kept private and not exposed to other groups. There may also be public channels where people can chat with a variety of groups of people. In addition, there may be a global chat room, where people can chat with anyone.
  • Each gamer may participate in just one chat session or in multiple chat sessions simultaneously. The game system 160 that hosts the game and the associated chat rooms may have certain properties and may impose certain requirements on the gamers. The game system 160 may require each player to have an active account with the game operator. The game system 160 may also monitor who the players are at any particular time. For example, the game operator in the game system 160 may record who is logged into which game and when.
  • Similarly, the game system 160 may also maintain a record with respect to each chat room and may monitor both the activities associated with each chat room and the garners who participate in such activities. The game system 160 may also have certain rules, which, e.g., the players may need to follow in order to communicate with one another. The game system 160 may also require a gamer to have an account that has some special feature in order to participate in chatting activities. The game system 160 may be capable of intervening in a chat room by, for example, broadcasting a message to all garners or a subset of garners who are currently participating in chatting activities in a particular chat room.
  • In the framework 150, the prize contest system 170 is part of and controlled by the game system 160. The prize contest system 170 may invite gamers, either during a game or while chatting, to participate in a prize contest. The prize contest system 170 may initiate such operations when the game system 160 determines an appropriate time. In some embodiments, it may be the prize contest system 170 that determines such an appropriate time and then obtains an approval from the game system 160 before proceeding to the operation.
  • To invite garners to participate in a prize contest, the prize contest system 170 may broadcast or send through the game system 160 one or more messages to all or a subgroup of garners in a targeted area (e.g., either in a game or a chat room). Each message may be directed to a subgroup of the targeted garners and may correspond to a different prize contest. The prize contest invitation sent to a gamer may be determined according to different considerations. For example, it may be determined based on the game in which the gamer is playing. It may also be determined based on the group of garners associated with the chat room or the subject matter the garners in a particular chat room chat about which may require intelligent detection of such subject matter on the fly. In some embodiments, the determination may also be made based on the demographics of the gamer such as the personal profile of the gamer, preference of the gamer, etc.
  • The participants in each game or each chat room may be classified into one or more target groups based on the above mentioned criteria. The prize contest system 170 may send each target group a message offering the opportunity for the participants in that target group to enter into a contest that is determined to be appropriate to that target group. That is, different garners participating in the same game or in the same chat room may receive and view a different message inviting an entrance to an individually selected prize contest.
  • There may be different types of prizes. FIG. 2 illustrates exemplary types of prizes 200, according to an embodiment of the present teaching. A prize may correspond to a virtual prize 220 or a real-world prize 230. A virtual prize may correspond to a virtual item only to be used in a virtual world, such as a new set of virtual tires or a virtual sword. A virtual prize 220 may include a game specific award 240 or a non-game specific award 250. The game specific award 240 may include a particular component or tool that is useful in playing a particular game. For instance, a car engine in a car racing game may be such a game specific award.
  • The non-game specific award 250 may include some virtual article that can be generally useful to a gamer in a manner that is not specific to a game. For example, a virtual non-slippery joystick can be a useful tool that can be applied in many different games such as a car racing game, airplane flying game, or a star wars game. A virtual award may correspond to a virtual item only to be used in the game, such as a new set of virtual tires or a virtual sword, a set of virtual items, a month of free online service, a set amount of online credits.
  • The real world award 230 includes awards that are useful in real life, whether tangible or intangible. For example, a cash award 260 is an award that has practical use in real world day-to-day life. In addition, goods 270 awarded to a gamer such as a cooking pot also has practical use. There may be other types of awards in the category of real-world awards such as a car, a trip, a music player, or a certificate to a restaurant.
  • The contest-prize system may comprise a database that lists at least one prize with a description, e.g., the total number of entries for that prize, the conditions under which the prize will be awarded such as the date/time, the number of winners, etc. The prize contest system may retrieve appropriate information from the database to create an offering for the target group(s) of gamers. Every prize offering may include various descriptive elements such as a prize description, the criterion to enter, the conditions to be met to win the prize, the selection procedure, and the date/time the announcement of the winner(s) is to be made.
  • The invitation message sent by the prize contest system or the game system may be displayed on a gamer's screen. When a gamer, who is participating in the game or chat room views the displayed message, the gamer may elect to participate by accepting the invitation. In this case, the gamer may express the acceptance by simply clicking on the message or via other automatic means performed online by following the instructions in the invitation message.
  • Once a gamer expresses the acceptance to the invitation, the decision of entering the contest is sent to the prize contest system 160, either directly or indirectly, so that the gamer can be automatically entered into the contest. When different garners who are invited to different contests elect to enter into these different contests, the prize contest system 160 automatically, upon receiving the gamers' indication of acceptance, registers the individual garners with the corresponding prize contests the individual garners were invited to enter.
  • Invitations to enter into a prize contest may have a specific cut-off date/time for entrance. At the closing date/time, the prize contest system 160 may process information associated with all the participants to prepare for the selection of winner(s) according to certain criteria or conditions set forth in the invitations. The selection may be made based on information about the participants. In this case, it is more like a contest. The selection may also be made on a random basis, much like in a lottery system.
  • When one or more winners for a prize contest are chosen in a particular prize contest, the prize contest system 160 proceeds to inform the winner(s) and losers. The notification is sent to only those who participated in this specific contest. Such participants may be garners from a single game or a single chat room and may or may not correspond to the entire population of the game or the chat room at the time of entering the contest. The fact that all participants come from the same game/chat room may be due to the fact that the invitation to enter the contest was sent at the time only to participants in a single game/chat room or because only the garners from this specific game/chat room decided to participate even though the invitation was sent to garners in other games/chat rooms. The prize contest system 160 may analyze the situation and record the result, e.g., whether a gamer who is interested in a specific game(s) is interested in which kind of prize contest. Such recorded information may serve as feedback to the prize contest system to help to determine, adaptively in the future, which gamers to invite to enter what kind(s) of prize contest.
  • Participants in a particular prize contest may also be from more than one game or chat room. Similarly, the participants from each game or chat room may constitute the entire population in that game or that chat room at the time the invitation was sent and the decision to enter was made. The prize contest system 160 may analyze the distribution of the participants as feedback for future adaptive decisions as to sending what kinds of contest invitations to which garners based on their likings expressed in the past.
  • The notification of winner/loser status of a participant may be sent individually to each participant. For example, the prize contest system 160 may send a notification directed to a participant only when the prize contest system detects that the participant is presently online. Thus, different participants may receive their notifications at different times and in different settings in the game world. At the time the notification is sent, the participant may or may not be in the same game/chat room as the one the participant was in at the time the entry to the contest was made. To notify, the prize contest system 160 may send a message to the gamer's display screen, whichever game/chat room the gamer is in at the time, to inform the gamer the outcome of the prize contest that he/she elected to enter previously.
  • The prize contest system 160 may record the outcome, e.g., winner or loser, of each participant for a prize contest. The prize contest system 160 may then proceed with other steps to implement the outcome of the contest. For example, for a winner, if the prize involves a virtual award such as a game tool, the prize contest system 160 automatically updates or invokes the game system 140 to update the winner's inventory. If the contest award involves a real-world award, the prize contest system or the game system may automatically process papers that are needed for sending the real-world award to each winner gamer based on information about the winner gamer stored in the system (e.g., contact information such as home address, etc.). Such papers may subsequently be forwarded to some other service provider(s) or appropriate components within the game system (not shown in Figs.) to deliver the real-life award to the winner gamer.
  • In framework 100, the game system 140 is in full control of the prize contest system 160 or the prize contest system 160 is a subcomponent of the game system 140. Therefore, the game system 140 operates to control the interactions with the gamers, the game operations, and the chat room operations. In some embodiments, such controls may be channeled to the prize contest system 160 when appropriate. In some embodiments, control of such interactions may be handed over from the game system 140 to the prize contest system 160 temporarily when it is appropriate.
  • FIG. 1 b depicts a different exemplary framework 150, in which a prize-contest operation is performed in a gaming or chat-room environment, according to an embodiment of the present teaching. The framework 150 has the same components as those in the framework 100, shown in FIG. 1 a, except that the game system, labeled as 165 here, and the prize contest system, labeled as 170 here, are now two independent yet connected systems, operating in a separate but coordinated manner. In framework 150, the game system 165 may not be in full control of the prize contest system 170 and the prize contest system 170 is not a subcomponent of the game system 165.
  • In framework 150, the game system 165 and the prize contest system 170 may coordinate to interact with the gamers, for either gaming or prize contest purposes. While the game system 165 may have control of the games and chat rooms, it may, either in its own initiative or upon request by the prize contest system 170, temporarily hand over control to the prize contest system for operating the prize contests. That is, in some embodiments, such controls may be channeled from the game system to the prize contest system 170 when appropriate. In some embodiments, controls of such interactions may be handed over when it is appropriate.
  • In framework 150, the game system 165 and the prize contest system 170 are two separate systems, each of which may have independent access to the game and chat room environments, as shown in FIG. 1 b. However, the two systems may communicate in order to coordinate their activities or operations. In the framework 150, the prize contest system 170 may still be a system that is directed to online gaming prize contests. Details of exemplary types of coordination are described in reference to FIGS. 6 a, 6 b, 7 a, and 7 b.
  • FIG. 1 c depicts an exemplary framework 190 in which a prize-contest operation is performed in a gaming or chat-room environment via a service provider, according to an embodiment of the present teaching. The framework 190 has substantially the same components as those in the frameworks 100 and 150, as shown in FIGS. 1 a and 1 b, except that prize contests in the gaming environment are conducted via a third party inter-operational service provider 180 by offering garners prize contests enlisted by an independent prize contest enlistment system 172 through a game system 165.
  • As depicted in FIG. 1 c, the game system 165 now has control over the interactions with the gamers, the games, and the chat rooms. All operations and activities related to prize contests in the gaming or chat room environments are conducted through the game system 165. This includes updating a gamer winner's inventory according to the outcome of a prize contest. Although the game system 165 controls those aspects of the prize contest, the game system 165 may operate in a more passive manner because it may not control what prizes are offered, rules governing each prize contest, or selection of the winner, etc.
  • To facilitate online prize contests in a gaming environment, in this embodiment, the game system 165 may provide the inter-operational service provider 180 information related to online gamers and other information needed to determine what prizes to offer to which gamers. In addition, the game system 165 may also update gamers' records according to the outcome of the prize contests conducted.
  • The inter-operational service provider 180 may act as a contest operator. For example, it may gather, from the game system 165, information useful in determining appropriate prize contest(s) given the population currently online in the gaming environment. The inter-operational service provider 180 may also acquire information from the prize contest enlistment system 172 on all contests enlisted that can be offered to gamers in an online gaming environment. Based on the information from the game system 165 and the information from the prize contest enlistment system 172, the inter-operational service provider 180 may then determine prize contest(s) that are appropriate for garners currently online in the gaming environment operated by the game system 165.
  • A determination of which prize contests may be appropriate may be made based on an analysis of the online gamers' profiles, preferences, or other demographic data as well as the descriptions of the available prize contests provided by the prize contest enlistment system 172. Such descriptions may include the criteria for entrance, conditions to win, procedures to be followed during the contest, or the prizes and terms according to which the prizes are to be delivered. By matching the prize contests with the population currently online in the game environment operated by the game system 165, the inter-operational service provider 180 may further make determinations as to which online garners are to be offered which prize contests to maximize the percentage of enrollment.
  • In some embodiments, the inter-operational service provider 180 may select appropriate prize contests for the game system 165 without matching the contests with the gamers. For example, the game system 165 may contract with the inter-operational service provider to perform only that function so that the game system 165 can maintain more control as to how the prize contests are to be offered or conducted. In such situations, the game system may determine, based on its own considerations, whether to broadcast the contests to the entire online population or selectively broadcast to subgroups of online gamers.
  • In some embodiments, the inter-operational service provider 180 may serve simply as a pass through agent. It may regularly check what prize contests are enlisted in the prize contest enlistment system 172 and select the ones that are appropriate for a gaming environment. If such contests are available, the inter-operational service provider may then pass on the information related to such relevant contests to the game system 165. The role played by the inter-operational service provider 180 may vary depending on the contractual terms between the game system and the inter-operational service provider. For example, the role played by the inter-operational service provider 180 may change depending on the size of the online gamer population. When the online gamer population is very small, the inter-operational service provider 180 may play a role as a simple pass through agent. When the population exceeds a certain size, the inter-operational service provider 180 may start to match available prize contests with online gamers. Such terms may be stipulated to maximize the efficiency in running the prize contests.
  • As described above, a player who is targeted to enter a prize contest, may enter a contest in a variety of ways. For example, the player may click on the contest-offering message itself or may click on a particular word or series of words in the offering message. The offering message may also include another address such as an address for a web page that lists all the prize contests offered at that time. In this case, the targeted gamer may follow the link for viewing other prize contests and subsequently may select one to enter. In some embodiments, the additional web page linked in the offering message may be operated by the game system 165. In some embodiments, the additional web page linked in the offering message may be operated by a third party service provider that is contracted with the game system 165 or the inter-operational service provider 180.
  • The inter-operational service provider 180 may be connected to a plurality of prize contest enlistment systems (only one is shown in FIG. 1 c). It may contract with both the game system 165 and the prize contest enlistment system to be paid to identify online prize contests for a gaming environment and the delivery thereof. The payment from the game system 165 and the prize contest enlistment system 172 may vary depending on the materialization of the contest and the economics of the contests conducted. For example, if the inter-operational service provider 180 identifies an enlisted contest and passes the information thereof to the game system 165, the inter-operational service provider 180 may be paid, by the game system 165, for the service for finding such information. When the game system 165 actually advertises the contest and there are garners enrolled in the contest, the inter-operational service provider 180 may be paid by the prize contest enlistment system 172.
  • In different embodiments in which the online prize contests are conducted in a gaming environment, it may be required that an online gamer who elects to enter into an advertised contest have an active account that can be debited for the cost of entering into a contest. If such a gamer does not yet have an account at the time of electing the entrance, the gaming system (140 or 165) may provide the option for the gamer to set up an account or make a payment to cover the entrance fee prior to registering the gamer with the contest. The account may be required to have certain features such as online debit, etc.
  • When a gamer elects to enter into a prize contest and acts to indicate so, various operations may be carried out to facilitate the rest of the activities. FIG. 3 depicts exemplary system interconnections between the game system and the prize-contest system, according to an embodiment of the present teaching. The game system may comprise a game operator 320, a chat room operator 325, a system administration 340, and a various databases 345 storing different types of information needed to carry out the operations. Example types of information stored in the databases include database 350 for storing gamers' information, database 355 for storing gamer's inventory information, a database 360 for storing game logs, and a database 365 for storing chat logs.
  • The game operator 320 is responsible for running different games, e.g., game i 310 as shown in FIG. 3. In each game, e.g., game i, there may be a plurality of gamers, e.g., the garners in 305. Similarly, the chat room operator 325 is responsible for running chat rooms, e.g., chat room j, and there may be a plurality of gamers, e.g., the gamers in 335, in each chat room. The game operator 320 and the chat room operator 325 may independently have access to the databases in 345. For instance, the game operator 320 may log a gamer in the game log when it detects that the gamer enters the game. The chat room operator 325 may access gamer's information whenever a gamer enters into the chat room.
  • The game operator 320 and the chat room operator 325 may interact with each other or with the system administrator 340. The system administrator 340 may instruct the game and chat room operators to perform certain functions. For example, the system administrator may instruct the game operator 320 to broadcast an announcement to all garners that are online playing games. The system administrator 340 may, for example, analyze gamers' profiles and make determinations as to which garners should receive an advertisement for a particular prize contest. The system administrator 340 may also instruct the chat room operator 325 to make the similar announcements to all garners who are participating in some chat rooms. Such announcements may be related to a prize contest to advertise or to invite the garners to enter into the contest.
  • The game operator 320 and the chat room operator 325 may also interact with the prize contest system 370. For example, the chat room operator 325 may send information to the prize contest system 370 indicating which garners have decided to enter into a prize contest. The game operator may perform similar acts. There may be other interactions between the game system and the prize contest system. For example, the prize contest system may access information stored in the databases of the game system. The prize contest system 370 may also sometimes take control temporarily and interface with the gamers directly.
  • The prize contest system 370 may have its own prize contest system database, which stores information useful to facilitate operating prize contests. The prize contest system may determine the prize contest that is appropriate at certain time based on the information accessible from both the game system database 345 and the prize contest system database 375. For example, the game system database 345 may provide information that indicates not only who is presently online but also provide the profiles of these online gamers.
  • The prize contest system database 375 may provide information regarding available prize contests, including the entrance criteria, the conditions to win, the selection process, as well as the prize involved. By analyzing the description of the available prizes and the profiles of the online gamers, the prize contest system 370 may determine which prize contests it should send to the game system so that the game system can advertise to the online gamers. When a plurality of prize contests are sent to the game system, the game system may further perform matching to determine which prize contests to advertise to which subgroups of online gamers.
  • FIG. 4 illustrates exemplary types of information stored in a prize-contest system, according to an embodiment of the present teaching. The prize contest system database 375 comprises a gamer information database 420, a prize database 430, a gamer activity log 440, and a gamer inventory database 450. The information stored in the prize contest databases may relate to the prize contests. For example, the gamer information database 420 may include information relating to the gamer's account information for, e.g., entry fee payment or for cash reward purposes. The prize database 430 stores descriptions related to all available prizes. The gamer's activity database 440 and the gamer inventory database 450 may record information useful to the prize contest system in making determination as to winners. They may also simply be duplicated copies of what is stored in the game system.
  • As discussed above, a gamer who elects to enter a prize contest may be required to provide account information and the account may be required to have some feature that allows a prize contest system or a game system to withdraw an entry fee from the account. For instance, it may be required for a gamer to have the ability to make “micropayments” out of the account. Micropayments are small electronic payments. By electing to make an entry in the contest-prize system, a gamer may either specify an account that can be used to pay the entry fee or may open an account for the same purpose. In this case, the entry fee is automatically charged or deducted from an existing balance. In some embodiments, the payment may be handled by sending the gamer a bill with a balance for the amount of the entrance fee.
  • FIG. 5 is a flowchart of an exemplary process in which a gamer in a gaming/chat-room environment participates a prize contest, according to an embodiment of the present teaching. The gamer may first log onto, at 505, an online game and then enter, at 510, a chat room associated with a game. The gamer may also first enter into, at 510, a chat room and then, at 505, log onto an online game. In some embodiments, the gamer may either simply log onto an online game at 505 or simply enter into a chat room at 510.
  • Either in an online game environment or in a chat room, the gamer observes, at 515, a message offering a prize or a link for available prizes. At 520, the gamer elects to enter the prize contest. If the gamer already has an account for making the required payment, determined at 530, the gamer will receive a notification, at 535, for account withdrawal to pay for the entry fee. If the gamer does not yet have an account at the time of the election, the gamer is requested, at 525, for permission to set up such an account at 525 and subsequently receives a notification for account withdrawal. The gamer then receives, at 540, a notification of entrance into the prize contest. Subsequently, the gamer then receives another notification, at 545, which reports the outcome of the prize contest, e.g., who is the winner, etc. If the gamer is a winner, the gamer receives, at 550, a prize.
  • FIG. 6 a is a flowchart of an exemplary process in which a game system facilitates a prize contest conducted in an online gaming or chat-room environment, according to an embodiment of the present teaching. The game system first establishes, at 602, an information database about the gamers/players. When the game system receives, at 604, requests from gamers to play or to enter the chat room, the game operator updates, at 606, relevant databases/logs. To run a game or a chat room, the game system activates and monitors, at 608, an online game or an online chat room. The game system may then check, at 610, whether it is appropriate for a prize contest promotion. The game system may perform such check on a regular basis with some predetermined time interval or the check can be performed in a dynamic fashion, triggered by some event or observation such as inactive behavior of the gamers.
  • If the game system reaches the conclusion that it is not an appropriate time to run a prize contest promotion, the game system keeps monitoring the game/chat room at 608. If it is decided that it is an appropriate time to run a prize contest promotion, the game system activates or invokes, at 612, the prize contest system. When the game system receives, at 614, a request from the prize contest system for handing over control, the game system hands over, at 616, the control to the prize contest system. As discussed above, when the prize contest system receives control, it may broadcast a message to the online gamers, either the entire online population or one or more subgroups of the online population, to invite participation in the prize contest. It may also request the game system to do so (not shown). The prize contest system may also receive responses directly from the garners and receive the elections for entrance and register with the prize contest system. It may also request the game system to perform such acts and then the responses are channeled from the game system to the prize contest system:
  • The control hand-over from the game system to the prize contest system may be temporary so that when the game system receives, at 618, a request from the prize contest system to hand back the control, the game system resumes control, at 620, over the game/chat room. When the prize contest system concludes the prize contest, the game system may receive, at 622, a request to update the inventory of a gamer winner according to the terms of the prize contest. In this case, the game system updates, at 624, the inventory associated with the gamer winner based on the specification provided in the request.
  • FIG. 6 b is a flowchart of a different exemplary process in which the game system facilitates a prize contest conducted in a gaming environment in a different operational mode, according to an embodiment of the present teaching. The game system operates in the same manner at steps 652-658 as that described with respect to steps 602-608 in FIG. 6 a. At 670, the game system receives a request from the prize contest system for running a prize contest promotion in the gaming environment. The game system then checks, at 672, whether it is an appropriate time for a prize contest promotion. The game system may perform such check on a regular basis with some predetermined time interval or the check can be performed in a dynamic fashion, triggered by some event or observation such as inactive behavior of the gamers.
  • If the game system reaches the conclusion that it is not an appropriate time to run a prize contest promotion, the game system keeps monitoring the game/chat room at 658. If it is decided that it is an appropriate time to run a prize contest promotion, the game system authorizes, at 674, the prize contest system to proceed. The game system then grants permission, at 676, to allow the prize contest system to access the game system's databases related to the gamers. With the authorization and permission, the prize contest system proceeds with various activities within the gaming environment to promote the prize contest, such as broadcasting offers for entering the prize contest and registering gamers who elect to participate, etc.
  • If the prize contest involves a prize associated with the gaming environment such as a virtual gaming tool, the game system receives, at 678, a request for updating the inventory database for a gamer winner. The game system then updates, at 680, the inventory associated with the gamer winner based on the specification provided in the request. As discussed above, when the prize contest system is given authorization, it may broadcast a message to the online gamers, either the entire online population or one or more subgroups of the online population, to invite participation in the prize contest. It may also request the game system to do so (not shown). The prize contest system may also receive responses directly from the gamers and receive the elections for entrance and register with the prize contest system. It may also request the game system to perform such acts and then the responses are channeled from the game system to the prize contest system.
  • FIG. 7 a is a flowchart of an exemplary process in which a prize-contest operator facilitates a prize-contest conducted in a gaming environment, according to an embodiment of the present teaching. The prize contest system receives, at 702, a request from the game/chat room operator to check whether any prize contest offering is available. If no prize contest is available, determined at 704, the prize contest system does not respond or returns nothing to the game system. If any prize contest is available, the prize contest system sends, at 706, a request to the game system to gain permission to access the online gamers' information. Based on the online gamers' information accessed, the prize contest system selects, at 708, one or more prize contests that are appropriate with respect to the online gamers.
  • The prize contest system then retrieves, at 710, the descriptions associated with the selected prize contests and establishes, at 712, the criteria for winning the selected prize contest(s). Such criteria may be established based on the online players' information and other information such as funds available, etc. The prize contest system then sends a request, at 714, to the game system for promoting the selected prize contest(s). When the prize contest system receives, at 716, the authorization from the game system, it broadcasts the offering message to online gamers to invite participation. The recipients of the offering messages may be selected by matching the gamers' information to the descriptions of the offerings.
  • The prize contest system then receives, at 720, responses from the online gamers who are targeted for entering into the contest(s). With the authorization provided by the game system, the prize contest system accesses, at 722, information related to the online gamers who entered the contest and select one or more winners, at 724, based on the terms specified in the offering message. Once winners are selected, the prize contest system informs, at 726, participants as to their winner/loser status and then requests, if needed, the game system to update, at 728, the inventory of the winner.
  • FIG. 7 b is a flowchart of a different exemplary process in which a prize contest operator facilitates a prize-contest conducted in a gaming environment, according to an embodiment of the present teaching. In this flowchart, the prize contest system operates in a different mode. The prize contest system checks whether there are any suitable prize contests, determined at 754, that can be offered to online gamers based on information associated with the online garners accessed at 752. If a suitable prize is identified, the prize contest system retrieves, at 756, descriptive information associated with the identified prize contest and sends, at 758, a request to the game system to offer a prize contest promotion in the gaming environment.
  • When the prize contest system receives, at 760, an authorization from the game system, it establishes, at 762, the criteria for winning the selected prize contest(s). Such criteria may be established based on the online players' information and other information such as funds available, etc. the prize contest system then sends a request, at 764, to the game system for a permission to promote the selected prize contest(s). When the prize contest system receives, at 766, the authorization from the game system, it broadcasts, at 768, the offering message to online garners to invite participation. The recipients of the offering messages may be selected by matching the gamers' information to the descriptions of the offerings.
  • The prize contest system then receives, at 770, responses from the online garners who are targeted for entering into the contest(s). With the authorization provided by the game system, the prize contest system accesses, at 772, information related to the online garners who entered the contest and selects one or more winners, at 774, based on the terms specified in the offering message. Once winners are selected, the prize contest system informs, at 776, participants as to their winner/loser status and then requests, if needed, the game system to update, at 778, the inventory of the winner.
  • FIG. 8 a is a flowchart of an exemplary process in which a third-party inter-operational service provider facilitates a prize-contest in a gaming environment by interfacing both a game system and a prize contest enlistment system, according to an embodiment of the present teaching. When the inter-operational service provider receives, at 802, a request from the game system, it sends, at 804, an inquiry to one or more prize contest enlistment systems. The request received from the game system may include information related to online gamers. For instance, it may indicate who is online and their profiles. Upon receiving, at 806, response(s) from the prize contest enlistment systems, the inter-operational service provider selects, at 808, one or more prizes based on information related to the online gamers.
  • The inter-operational service provider then acquires, at 810, information regarding the selected prizes and forwards, at 812, such information to the game system. The inter-operational service provider then may send a request or notification to the prize contest enlistment system for service payment. When the authorization is received, at 816, the inter-operational service provider updates, at 818, the account receivable. When the prize contest result is received from the game system at 820, the inter-operational service provider updates, at 824, the service records to indicate a successful promotion and may then forward, at 826, the service record to the prize contest enlistment system for, e.g., additional service fee.
  • FIG. 8 b is a flowchart of a different exemplary process in which a third-party inter-operational service provider facilitates prize-contest in a gaming or chat-room environment, according to an embodiment of the present teaching. In this embodiment, upon receiving, at 852, a request from a prize-contest enlistment system, the inter-operational service provider sends an inquiry to one or more game systems at 854. When the inter-operational service provider receives, at 856, response(s) from game system(s), it retrieves, at 858, additional information about the advertised prize(s) and forwards, at 860, such information to the responding game system(s). The inter-operational service provider than perform other activities relating to receiving service fees in the similar manner as what is described with respect to FIG. 8 a.
  • While the inventions have been described with reference to certain illustrated embodiments, the words that have been used herein are words of description, rather than words of limitation. Changes may be made, within the purview of the appended claims, without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention in its aspects. Although the inventions have been described herein with reference to particular structures, acts, and materials, the invention is not to be limited to the particulars disclosed, but rather can be embodied in a wide variety of forms, some of which may be quite different from those of the disclosed embodiments, and extends to all equivalent structures, acts, and, materials, such as are within the scope of the appended claims.

Claims (37)

1. A method for a game operator, comprising:
operating a virtual space associated with an online game having a plurality of participants;
enabling a prize-contest operation that promotes a prize-contest to the plurality of participants;
receiving a signal indicating a status of the prize-contest;
updating information associated with one or more participants based on the signal and the outcome of the prize contest.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein the virtual space is a gaming environment.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein the virtual space is a chat room associated with the online game.
4. The method of claim 1, wherein the plurality of participants are online game players.
5. The method of claim 1, wherein the plurality of participants are participants of an online chat room associated with the online game.
6. The method of claim 1, wherein the enabling comprises:
invoking the prize-contest operation;
handing at least some control for operating the virtual space to the prize-contest operation; and
resuming the at least some control for operating the virtual space upon receiving a notification from the prize-contest operation indicating a completion of the prize-contest operation.
7. The method of claim 6, wherein the at least some control includes control to access information associated with the plurality of participants.
8. The method of claim 1, wherein the enabling comprises:
authorizing the prize-contest operation to be performed in the virtual space; and
granting a permission for the prize-contest operation to access information associated with the plurality of participants.
9. The method of claim 7 or 8, wherein the information associated with each of the plurality of participants includes at least one of:
a profile of the participant;
a game inventory of the participant;
a gaming history of the participant; and
a chat history of the participant.
10. The method of claim 7 or 8, wherein the prize-contest operation comprises:
promoting, within the virtual space, the plurality of participants to enter into a contest for a prize;
conducting the contest among one or more participants who enter the contest;
selecting at least one winner from the one or more participants;
awarding a prize in connection with the contest to the at least one winner.
11. The method of claim 10, wherein the entrance to the contest is permitted upon receiving entrance fee submitted in the form of one of real money or virtual money.
12. The method of claim 11, wherein the prize includes at least one of a virtual prize and a real-world prize.
13. The method of claim 12, wherein the virtual prize includes at least one of a game specific award and a non game specific award.
14. The method of claim 12, wherein the virtual prize includes virtual money.
15. The method of claim 12, wherein the real-world prize includes at least one of cash award and goods award.
16. The method of claim 11, wherein the at least one winner is selected based on the information associated with the one or more participants.
17. The method of claim 1, wherein the signal comprises at least one of:
one or more participants who enter the prize contest;
at least one winner selected from the one or more participants; and
a prize to be awarded to each of the at least one winner.
18. The method of claim 17, wherein the updating comprises updating an inventory associated with each of the at least one winner in accordance with the prize awarded to the winner.
19. The method of claim 1, further comprising determining an appropriate time for enabling the prize contest operation.
20. A method for a prize-contest operator, comprising:
selecting a prize contest based on information related to a plurality of participants in a virtual space associated with an online game;
accessing information relating to the selected prize contest; and
conducting a prize-contest operation that promotes the prize-contest to the plurality of participants in the virtual space.
21. The method of claim 20, further comprising receiving a request for selecting a prize contest.
22. The method of claim 21, wherein the request enables an access to the information related to the plurality of participants.
23. The method of claim 20, further comprising accessing the information related to a plurality of participants in a virtual space associated with an online game before the selecting.
24. The method of claim 20, wherein the conducting comprises:
determining at least one criterion based on which the prize contest is to be conducted;
advertising the prize contest to the plurality of participants in the virtual space with the at least one criterion;
receiving one or more responses from one of the plurality of participants to enter the prize contest; and
selecting at least one winner based on the at least one criterion.
25. The method of claim 24, further comprising updating information associated with the at least one winner based on the at least one criterion.
26. The method of claim 25, wherein the updating comprises sending a request to update the inventory associated with each of the at least one winner.
27. A method for a service provider, comprising:
receiving, from a first party in connection with an online game, a request relating to a prize contest to be conducted in a virtual space associated with the online game;
sending an inquiry, constructed based on the request, to a second party as a source for providing a prize contest;
receiving a response from the second party, wherein the response includes information associated with one or more available prize contests;
forwarding information associated with at least one of the one or more available prize contests to the first party.
28. The method of claim 27, wherein the first party is a game operator.
29. The method of claim 27, wherein the second party is a prize contest provider.
30. The method of claim 27, wherein the second party is a prize contest advertiser.
31. The method of claim 27, wherein the second party is a prize contest enlister.
32. The method of claim 27, wherein the virtual space corresponds to at least one of a gaming environment and a chat room associated with the online game.
33. The method of claim 28, wherein the request includes information relating to one or more participants associated with an online game operated by the game operator.
34. The method of claim 28, wherein the request includes information relating to one or more participants of a chat room associated with an online game operated by the game operator.
35. The method of claim 33 or 34, further comprising selecting a prize contest from the one or more available prize contests, wherein the selected prize contest is forwarded to the second party.
36. The method of claim 33 or 34, wherein the information relating to a participant comprises at least one of:
a profile of the participant;
a game inventory of the participant;
a gaming history of the participant; and
a chat history of the participant.
37. The method of claim 27, further comprising receiving a fee from the first or the second party.
US11/806,487 2007-05-31 2007-05-31 Method and system for prize contests in a game Abandoned US20080300045A1 (en)

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