Disney has announced that its Virtual Magic Kingdom will close May 21, 2008,… for good. The VMK is no longer accepting new users, either. Disney’s VMK was launched in 2005 as a promotional tool, and turned out to be much more. About 15,000 people per day still log in and, chat, play, and explore in the VMK. The news has come as quite a shock to some, and over 10,000 people have even signed a petition asking Disney to keep it open. The shuttering of VMK, and the public response, demonstrate that even though virtual worlds and MMOGs are governed by end-user license agreements (EULAs) or Terms of Service (ToS), players inherently create a vested interest in the game, irrespective of the contractual nature of the player-provider relationship. Players make friends, create bonds, develop groups, and in some sense even come to rely on the virtual world being there the next day. So for those trying to get Disney to keep it open, I wish you luck. And when it comes to the Mouse, you’ll need it!
IBM said today that it would become the first company to host private regions of the virtual world Second Life on its own computer servers.
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The project is in testing and will go live within several weeks. This appears to be part of “the Grid,” which marks a new focus by Second Life’s parent company, Linden Lab, on providing software and services to corporate customers who want to use the virtual world for collaboration and teleconferencing with more assurances of privacy and security than is offered by Linden Labs.
As Second Life matures, they are taking some fairly customary steps, one of which is to take a more proactive role to protect their own intellectual property. In this vein, Linden Labs has created the Second Life Brand Center, which details the proper and improper use of Linden Labs trademarks. In addition, Linden Labs has created the “inSL” mark for users to use under certain conditions to signify their presence in Second Life. The Brand Center is online here.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office agreed to re-examine online-gaming patent 6,264,560 after the Electronic Frontier Foundation challenged it on the grounds that the technology covered by the patent had been used extensively before it was issued.
The patent is entitled “Method and system of playing games on a network” and allegedly claims all Internet gaming systems that use tournament-style play, display advertisements and have real-time updates of rankings in multiplayer games. Seems pretty broad, except for the fact that it potentially has priority back to December, 1996. The patent issued on July 24, 2001.
Abstract from patent: The present invention is a game playing method and apparatus for automating games such as blackjack, poker, craps, roulette, baccarat and pai gow, wherein players may play continuously and asynchronously, and information related to advertised items can be exchanged between players and advertisers. In one embodiment, each instance of a game is likely unique from all other current game instances. The games do not require a manual dealer and in one embodiment, played in a gaming establishment using low cost gaming stations. The present invention may also be used to play such games on the Internet or an interactive cable television network wherein a game controller communicates with players at network nodes in their homes and at their leisure since there is no game tempo requirement. During a game, advertising is selectively provided by comparing player personal information with a desired demographic profile. Player responses to advertising are used for evaluating advertising effectiveness. The invention is useful for test marketing of products, advertisements, and reduces advertising costs.
Claim 1: A method for conducting one or more tournaments, comprising:
identifying players requesting to join one of the tournaments, wherein each tournament includes a plurality of instances of a game for playing by each of the players identified, wherein for each of the players, at least one of the following (a) and (b) must be satisfied for the player to complete one of the tournaments:
(a) a predetermined number of instances of the game must be played by the player;
(b) a predetermined amount of time must elapse between the commencement of the tournament and the termination of the tournament;
for each tournament, the following steps are performed:
(A1) selecting the identified players to be included in the tournament;
(A2) grouping the players into groups, wherein for each group, the players therein compete against one another in playing instances of the game;
(A3) determining one or more winning players for each group;
(A4) establishing a modified version of the game by changing a rule of the game while retaining another rule for the game;
(A5) combining the winning players from different groups into one or more new groups for competing against one another in playing instances of the modified version of the game.
Claim 81: A method of playing a game on the Internet, comprising:
first receiving player identification at a game playing Internet accessible node (GPIAN) for first and second players;
transmitting, via the Internet, from the GPIAN, first information related to communications between: (a) the GPIAN, and (b) a first Internet accessible node from which the first player communicates with the GPIAN;
wherein said first information is utilized in subsequent Internet communications between the GPIAN and the first Internet accessible node;
causing said first information to be stored on the first Internet accessible node so that it is available in subsequent different Internet connections by the first player;
second receiving, via the Internet, at the GPIAN, first responsive information indicative of said first information being present on said first Internet accessible node;
first playing with the first player a first game, wherein one or more game play representations are transmitted to the first player via the first Internet accessible node;
second playing with the second player a second game, wherein one or more game play representations are transmitted to the second player and from the GPIAN while the first player is playing the first game;
playing of a third game between said GPIAN and the second player, wherein a third collection of one or more game play representations is transmitted to the second player, and wherein the transmissions of the game play representations for the third collection and the first collection overlap in time;
wherein said step of second receiving at the GPIAN occurs when the first player has reconnected the first Internet accessible node to the Internet after said first information has been stored on the first Internet accessible node and said first Internet accessible node has disconnected from the Internet.
Claim 87. A method of playing a game on a communications network, comprising:
receiving, at a game playing node of the network, a request for selecting a pace of play of an instance of the game by a first user at a first node of the network;
first transmitting game plays between said game playing node and the first user using network communications between the game playing node and the first node, wherein at least a second user has played an instance of the game; and
transmitting to the first node a ranking of said second user, wherein the ranking is indicative of a proficiency of the second user in playing the game.
Claim 92. A method of playing a game on a communications network, comprising:
receiving at a game playing node on the network, a contact by each of a plurality of users, via a corresponding node on the network for the user, for initiating a corresponding instance of the game between the game playing node and the user’s corresponding node, and at least some of said instances overlap in time;
transmitting game plays between said game playing node and a first of the users, for the corresponding instance of the game;
transmitting from the game playing node to the corresponding node of the first user, the ranking of a second of the users, wherein said ranking is indicative of a proficiency of the second user in playing the game, and said ranking is updated to present a change in said ranking while the first user is playing the game.
Claim 94. A method of playing a game on a communications network, comprising:
first receiving, from each of a plurality of users via a corresponding node for the user on the network, a contact at a game playing node on the network, so that each of the users initiates a corresponding instance of the game between the game playing node and the user’s corresponding node, and at least some of said instances overlap in time;
second receiving, at the game playing network node from a first of the users via the first user’s corresponding network node, a request for selecting a pace of play of the corresponding game instance;
playing, by the first user, the corresponding instance of the game with the game playing node at the pace selected by the first user.
Claim 95. An apparatus for playing a game on a network, comprising:
a display area for electronically displaying an instance of the game to a first user;
an input area for allowing the first user to input a game play;
a communications network connection for communicating, on a network, game related information, between: (a) one or more of said display and said input area, and (b) an addressable node on said network accessible by a network address available to said apparatus;
wherein a plurality of users communicate with said addressable node for playing instances of the game; and
wherein between at least a majority of game plays by the first user, there is a game play related network transmission via said communications connection; and
a game speed of play control for allowing the first user to control the pace of the instance of the game.
Claim 102. An apparatus for playing a game on a network, comprising:
a display area for electronically displaying an instance of the game;
an input area for allowing a first user to input a game play for said instance of the game;
a communications network connection for communicating game related information between said apparatus and a game controller, wherein said game controller communicates with said apparatus via a network, said network also connected to additional network nodes for allowing simultaneous play of instances of the game with the game controller by a plurality of users;
a control for allowing the first user to cancel a previously entered wager;
a card reader, wherein when an identification card identifying the first user is provided thereto, data identifying the first user is communicated to the game controller.
Claim 103. An apparatus for playing a card game electronically, comprising:
a card generator for generating one or more electronic card representations for playing the card game;
a game playing engine for playing a first electronic instance of the card game between a first player and a substantially electronic dealer module, wherein the first player is dealt a first sequence of the card representations, and wherein a second player plays a second instance of the card game with the dealer module so that said first and second card game instances overlap in time, and wherein the second player receives a second sequence of the card representations; and
wherein, for an initial series of one or more plays by said first player using said first sequence, when said second player also initially plays said initial series of one or more identical plays using said second sequence, then for corresponding identical plays by said first and second players, their corresponding hands of card representations are identical.
Claim 104. An apparatus for playing a card game electronically, comprising:
a card generator for generating card representations for playing said card game electronically;
a game playing engine for playing said card game with a plurality of players simultaneously, wherein said game playing engine transmits, for each player, a corresponding collection of one or more of said card representations through a communications network to the player;
a timer in operative communication with said game playing engine for changing a time limit for accepting an input from a first of said players when said first player transmits a communications network request to change a speed of play of said game.
Ok, “saves lives” may be a bit of an exaggeration, but what is true is that a North Carolina man assisted passengers from an SUV he saw flip on a highway, using skills he learned playing America’s Army. Paxton Galvanek, who pulled people from vehicle after it flipped, said he learned about controlling bleeding from playing section two of the “medic” class training in America’s Army, a game developed by the Army as a recruitment tool.
The trend continues, and MMOGs are getting even more popular. Here are a couple recent articles that you might find of interest:
From WIRED, this article discusses three new MMOGs being released in 2008 that have potential to be huge.
From the NY Times, this article discusses the popularity of MMOGs among kids.
As reported by Virtually Blind, Shanda, developer of MMORPG The World of Legend, has been ordered to pay 5,000 Yuan (US $679) and apologize to a gamer for taking away his virtual tools, reports Pacific Epoch. The gamer discovered six virtual items worth more than 1,500 Yuan (US $204) missing from his game account on November 22, 2006 (perhaps the Sword of 1,000 Truths), and contacted Shanda regarding the disappearance. Shanda said that the company had taken the items in accordance with a police investigation regarding the sale of stolen virtual items. But Shanda failed to follow police instruction and return the items after the investigation ended.
Sorry I’ve been radio silent for a while. Life has been busy, you know how it goes…
In any event, it appears that Cory Ondrejka, employee No. 4 at San Francisco-based Linden Lab, which owns Second Life, quit Tuesday and will depart at the end of the year. Ondrejka spearheaded the company’s decision to allow users to retain intellectual property rights to their creations. That’s encouraged a thriving e-commerce market where users spend real dollars to buy virtual real estate, clothes, cars and other items. So it will be interesting to see where the company goes next.
More Second Life news: As reported in the New York Post, a half-dozen entrepreneurs are suing a Queens man, charging him with counterfeiting and selling versions of their products. Here’s the catch: The products aren’t real, and the alleged crimes took place in the virtual world of Second Life on the Web.
We’ll keep monitoring this case and let you know as we learn more.
As originally reported on Terra Nova, Linden Labs appears to have made a potentially significant change to the wording on its home page. The home page used to read:
“Second Life is a 3D online digital world imagined, created and owned by its residents” But now it reads: “Second Life is a 3D online digital world imagined and created by its residents”
The post on Terra Nova has an interesting string of comments. Check it out. It will be interesting to see if anything comes of this.
As reported on GamePolitics.com, Later today the ECA will announce its support for HR1201, known as the Fair Use Act of 2007. The proposed legislation will give consumers limited rights to circumvent technological control measures for private, noncommercial uses that would otherwise be protected under the DMCA. We will track this new legislation and keep everyone posted.
Well its old news by now, but in case you haven’t heard, Microsoft and Bungie announced on Friday that Bungie has split off from Microsoft, becoming an independent entity. Bungie will still work on the Halo franchise for Microsoft, but will be free to develop other IP as well. Bungie will continue to work with Microsoft as a publisher.
To those at Bungie on my friends list, good luck in your new roles, and may the best be yet to come. See you on Live!
I have a client that I am helping to get into the Guinness Book of World Records. For what? Well that has to wait until the record is published, but suffice it to say that it got me wondering about world records as intellectual property. Ok, I know they’re NOT technically IP, but I’ve always had a fascination with getting world record, so I figure helping someone else do it would be good enough… for now. My day will come.
In any event, I ran across this article describing the exploits of DK’ers (Donkey Kong’ers) setting world record after world record at the game. An interesting read. But a warning, there is a documentary about attempts to break the Donkey Kong world record, and the article is essentially a spoiler to the movie (in case you planned to watch it).
An Illinois man was sentenced to two years in prison for violating copyright law through the unauthorized sale of video games on his Web site, the U.S. Department of Justice announced late Thursday, August 2, 2007.
Timothy W. Hall, of Mount Vernon, Ill., pleaded guilty May 8 to one count of criminal copyright infringement for his unlawful distribution of hundreds of thousands of copyright works on his Web site, Morbidbackups.net. Hall advertised the sale of hundreds of video games, for Xbox, GameCube, PlayStation 2, and other platforms, on recordable CDs. Hall also offered DVDs containing movies and television programs, the DOJ said.
Video game crime doesn’t pay!
Read more here.
Well its not a video game lawsuit, but interesting nonetheless. And, yes, this post could be considered shameless self-promotion. Nonetheless, I was recently quoted in USA Today in an article regarding the Facebook lawsuit, and it’s even a good sound bite! Usually quotes get taken out of context or they use the quote that you wish you never said (remember the “work hard, play hard” debacle?) In any event, I thought it noteworthy, so enjoy…
Well it was really only a matter of time. When an industry gets large enough, we need awards to distinguish the good from the bad. MMOs and Virtual Worlds are the latest addition to the awards fray, with “live” ceremonies to be held in Second Life and Entropia Universe.
I guess it’s true: IP begets IP.
Linden Labs recently added voice capabilities to Second Life. Their beta test went public in March, and commentary has been, for the most part, positive. Voice is a natural extension for MMO games, and introduces new IP issues that will eventually crop up, e.g., voice theft. Digital voice means you can capture someone else’s voice relatively easily. Could you create a voice synthesizer based on someone else’s speech patterns and tone? Just a thought. In any event, Second Life just got a whole lot more interesting for the rest of the world who doesn’t already spend every waking moment as an avatar…
(Fortune Magazine) — May 14, 2007: Free software is great, and corporate America loves it. It’s often high-quality stuff that can be downloaded free off the Internet and then copied at will. It’s versatile – it can be customized to perform almost any large-scale computing task – and it’s blessedly crash-resistant.
There’s a shadow hanging over Linux and other free software, and it’s being cast by Microsoft (Charts, Fortune 500). The Redmond behemoth asserts that one reason free software is of such high quality is that it violates more than 200 of Microsoft’s patents. And as a mature company facing unfavorable market trends and fearsome competitors like Google (Charts, Fortune 500), Microsoft is pulling no punches: It wants royalties. If the company gets its way, free software won’t be free anymore.Read full story here.
Needless to say, this applies to free and open source software (FOSS) games as well.
From the April 2007 ABA Journal, citing the U.S. Department of Justice special report:
Of the 7,445 vicil intellectual property lawsuits filed in 2002:
- 140 (1.9%) made it through trial and received a trial verdict.
- In 83 cases (59.3%) the plaintiff won.
- In 53 of the 83 cases, the reward included money.
- Overall median damages award was $965,000
- Median damages in patent cases was $2.3M
- Median damages in copyright cases was $159,000
- Median damages in trademark cases was $84,500