Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ:ATVI) of Santa Monica, CA, is an American publisher of video games which has made some big business moves in recent weeks. First, Activision made a huge splash in mobile app gaming, which is increasingly becoming a bigger sector within the entire video game industry, for its $5.9 billion acquisition of Ireland-based King Digital Entertainment (NYSE:KING), the creator of wildly successful gaming apps such as Candy Crush Saga. Remarks from company executives indicate that the deal makes Activision the world’s largest, most profitable interactive entertainment company.
Back in the U.S., the company announced the creation of an entertainment production studio that will be active in adapting Activision’s video game titles like Call of Duty and Skylanders into films and television series. Activision Blizzard Studios will leverage the huge player bases which those and other games enjoy and the company believes that its intellectual property in this field helps it to rival competitors like Marvel Entertainment. Activision CEO Bobby Kotik recently told Nightly Business Report that “We have such rich intellectual property that it lends itself very well to storytelling.” Near the end of October, Activision also announced the creation of a new eSports division headed by the former CEO of ESPN and the NFL Network. Details are light at the moment but the decision means that Activision is wading further into the growing waters of the electronic sporting sector.
Activision holds its IP in high regard even if it isn’t heavily focused on patenting technological innovations. According to Innography’s patent portfolio analysis tools, the company has only earned 15 patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in the past year. Still, with all of the intriguing business news coming from this game developer, we thought that some of our readers who love video games might be interested to get a behind-the-scenes look on what Activision has been developing. The text cluster posted here shows various areas of video game development in which Activision has been active, including virtual worlds and music-based video gaming.
Activision’s Issued Patents: Social Networks for AI Characters and Free Play for Music Games
The social aspects of video gaming have been a recent focus of Activision research and development activity, as is reflected by the issue of U.S. Patent No. 8911296, entitled Social Network System and Method for Use With and Integration Into a Video Game. It protects a system configured to provide a social network integrated into one or more video games, the system having a video game platform executing computer software to generate visual and audio stimulus associated with a video game and a server executing computer software to provide a social network to a plurality of players available outside of the video game and with which virtual artificial intelligence characters from the game may also interact. This system enables interactions between players and virtual characters on a social network to have an impact in actual video game play. The social aspects of video gaming are also the focus of U.S. Patent No. 9076292, titled Encouraging Player Socialization Using a Nemesis and Avenger System. This patent, issued to Activision subsidiary Blizzard Entertainment, protects a method of detecting that a particular event has occurred within a game where the event involves player characters controllable by a first account and a particular computer-controlled character and then performing steps consisting of selecting a second account, storing data associated with the second account which flags the second account for invasion by computer-controlled characters and detecting an invasion condition in a second game instance. This innovation is designed to help players who have connected as friends within an online multiplayer game to play collaboratively without requiring connection to the video game servers at the same time.
Activision, which is the distributor for the Guitar Hero game series, has made some intriguing developments in the field of music-based video gaming, which we noted above. U.S. Patent No. 9056249, titled Device and Method for a Streaming Video Game, discloses a device for use in a video game capable system which has an input for receiving a transmission stream of input data including audiovisual and instructive cue information for a music-based game over the Internet, communication reception circuitry that receives game controller signals and a processor that generates instructive cue display information and determines the extent of player compliance with the instruction cue information displayed. This invention is designed to both provide music-based video game users with a multitude of recordings and to present at different times to users music they enjoy. The creation of a free play feature for musical instrument controllers is the focus of U.S. Patent No. 9061205, which is titled Music Video Game with User Directed Sound Generation. It claims a method of generating tracks in a music video game by receiving a first input signal indicating status of a plurality of input devices of a controller, outputting a polyphonic audio compilation based on the first input signal including at least two audio tracks featuring a sequence of notes or chords of different instruments, receiving a second input signal indicating the status of a second plurality of input devices, selecting one of the two audio tracks based on the second input signal and muting the other track. This technology gives music-based video game players the ability to be creative with the musical instrument controllers they use to play the game.
A technology for ensuring that virtual worlds are able to scale up their resources to handle large numbers of avatars is discussed within U.S. Patent No. 9152914, which is titled Automatic Increasing of Capacity of a Virtual Space in a Virtual World. It claims a system for allowing an avatar to experience a virtual space in a virtual world, the system having a processor that detects an attempt by an avatar to enter a virtual space in a virtual world, determines whether a maximum amount of avatars is present in the virtual space, spawns a replicate new virtual space on a different server and allows the avatar to enter the replicate new virtual space. This innovation is intended to prevent users of virtual worlds to have to sit in a waiting list while waiting to enter a place in the virtual world if there are too many users already in that section.
Improved player feedback sent through video game controllers is described by U.S. Patent No. 9039532, entitled Interactive Video Game with Toys Having Functionality That is Unlocked Through Game Play. This patent discloses a system including a gaming device for providing a video game in which a game character interacts with a virtual world and a toy communicating with the gaming device and including an electronic payload providing perceptible effects in response to predetermined game events and circuitry for activating the electronic payload. This invention results in a toy representative of an object in a video game and which is able to interact with the game by reflecting the status of that video game object.
Patent Applications of Note: Preventing In-Game Harassment and Backwards-Compatible Interactive Toys
Virtual universes with immersive environments are a major focus right now for Activision and its IP holdings in that field would be improved if a patent were to be issued for U.S. Patent Application No. 20150127818, titled Media Playlist Construction for Virtual Environments. The computer-implemented method claimed here involves monitoring a user interacting with a virtual environment through an avatar, determining characteristics of a situational context of an avatar in response to a triggering event where the characteristics are the avatar’s locations, interactions performed by the avatar and companions of the avatar, and then generating a playlist including songs which is provided to users. The use of a playlist generating engine in this technological development is intended to allow users of virtual environments to enjoy music without having to manually find and select tracks to play. Greater supervision against harassment and other abusive behaviors is the focus of U.S. Patent Application No. 20150126276, entitled Avatar Protection Within a Virtual Universe. It would protect a method of protecting a protected avatar from actions of a second avatar within a virtual universe by identifying a banned virtual universe item, identifying the activity of the second avatar which involves adding the banned item to inventory or presenting the banned item to the protected avatar, disqualifying the avatar from engaging in the identified activity, defining a protective action associated with the identified activity and executing the protective action between the protected and second avatars in response to the identified activity. This invention is intended to prevent hostile activity in virtual universes, including threats or various forms of harassment.
Interactive toys for use with video games is another area of R&D focus for Activision and the company’s patent application filings portfolio includes U.S. Patent Application No. 20150174479, titled Interactive Video Game System Comprising Toys with Rewritable Memories. It discloses a method useful for providing video game play using a game device by loading information of a game character from a first toy into the game device through a peripheral, providing gameplay in which the character encounters another game character, determining the occurrence of a predefined game event involving the two characters, simulating transfer of the game character from the virtual world to the physical world in a sensory perceivable manner and storing information of the other game character in the memory of a second toy. This toy technology is intended to bring the video game experience into the real world and not just onto a two-dimensional display. The use of new toys with older Activision games could become possible with the innovation outlined within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140364240, issued under the title Video Game with Backwards-Compatible Toys. It would protect a video game system having a first version of a video game, a first toy associated with the video game and having a memory, a second toy associated with a second version of a video game and having a memory, a peripheral that reads data in either toy’s memory when that toy is proximal to the peripheral and a processor that executes program instructions to receive data from the first toy to conduct gameplay and receive data from the second toy to conduct gameplay depending on which version is being played. This technology for backwards compatibility is intended to allow video game players to enjoy interactive toys developed for a new video game with an earlier game within the same series.
The incorporation of a player’s real world environment into video gameplay is featured within U.S. Patent Application No. 20150314194, titled Reactive Emitters for Video Games. It would protect a method of outputting an asset in a video game by assigning a coverage zone to a secondary effect of an activity in the video game, assigning a detection zone to an object in the video game, determining the coverage and detection zone intersects and causing the object to emit an asset based on that intersection. This invention creates more immersive audiovisual effects for game events such as shockwaves from explosions.
Activision’s patent application holdings also include further developments into social media as is reflected within U.S. Patent Application No. 20150217190, titled Enhanced Social Expression Card for Use with a Videogame. It claims a computer-implemented method for providing video game gameplay by executing computer software modules on a video game platform to generate a virtual environment, receiving data involving a virtual good stored in a social expression card’s machine-readable storage and commanding presentation of the virtual good in the virtual environment. This innovation is intended to produce richer social media expression cards, such as for holidays or special occasions, over conventional cards that have limited interactivity.
Finally, we were intrigued to see an Activision invention related to gift card technologies and expressed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140358770, titled Gift Card with Principal Value and Auxiliary Value. This would protect a gift card having first machine-readable storage to store data related to the gift card’s principal value and a second machine-readable storage to store data related to the gift card’s auxiliary value redeemable in a virtual environment. This system could be leveraged by retailers to provide online stores in virtual environments developed by Activision where users could spend money associated with a gift card on virtual items.