Sony Interactive Entertainment handles R&D, sales and production of the PlayStation gaming console, including developing and publishing video games. The patent in question was published this month but filed in 2019 before Covid became worldwide news. The ensuing global pandemic hit stock levels of Sony’s flagship PS5 console in numerous ways, such as stretching production timelines and surging demand for GPUs from crypto miners.
The patent describes a platform where users can place bets on live-streamed esports events in real-time. Or as the document puts it, ‘offer the possibility of a wide range of interesting wagers among gamers and spectators, such as the winner of the game, the next player to virtually die, etc.‘
Sony’s system would overlay a user interface on the stream to allow users to place wagers on the event currently in play. Bets may be made with fiat currencies, bitcoin, or non-pecuniary methods, such as virtual currency, game assets, or digital rights. This provides opportunities to bet with items earned during play, in-game currencies, or non-fungible tokens stored on blockchains.
There are several ways the system would calculate wagering odds. One is pari-mutuel, where all bets of a similar type go into a pool, which winners collect an equal share of, once the house take and taxes have been deducted. Another method is by calculating odds based on an analysis of past results and current performance. If wagers are made with bitcoin or money, the odds may be reduced to account for ‘government take out’.
If developed, the platform would not only be available for PlayStation owners. Users of a console made by Microsoft or Nintendo, or client computers running Linux operating systems, operating systems from Microsoft, or Unix operating system, or operating systems produced by Apple Computer or Google would also be eligible. Fans of esports on virtually any type of device would be able to have a punt.
The development of Sony’s betting platform could well have links to their recent acquisition of the Evolution Championship Series. Evo is the world’s largest fighting game tournament, where players compete in games like Street Fighter V: Champion Edition or Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate. In 2020, players clocked up 1.1 billion fighting game hours on PlayStation consoles, meaning it’s a hugely important market for the company.
The Evolution Championship Series is not without controversy. Last year’s Evo Online was cancelled after allegations of abuse were aimed at Joey Cueller, former EVO CEO. In a move of solidarity with the victims, Bandai Namco, Capcom, and NetherRealm pulled out of the event. Sony aims for a smoother tournament in 2021 and is committed to creating a ‘safe and inclusive environment for players.’
It’s worth mentioning that just because Sony has filed a patent, it doesn’t mean their gambling platform will be developed or released. Tech companies sit on all sorts of patents that they have no intention of ever developing. However, with the PS5 stock shortages, the company could well be eyeing up new revenue sources and ways of attracting players to the growing esports phenomenon.