Title:
Networked video game wagering with player-initiated verification of wager outcomes
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Embodiments of a wagering system are provided. The wagering system may include a server configured for processing at least one wager on a video game to be played by players on a multiplayer gaming network, and at least one database operatively associated with the server, the database being configured for storing information related to the video game wager. The server may be configured to operate independently of the multiplayer gaming network and may include a confirmation system configured to receive confirmation of the outcome of the video game wager from the players.



Inventors:
Betteridge IV, Albert Edwin (Greenwich, CT, US)
Application Number:
11/297692
Publication Date:
06/14/2007
Filing Date:
12/08/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
463/42, 463/43
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
VO, PETER DUNG BA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KIRKPATRICK & LOCKHART PRESTON GATES ELLIS LLP (535 SMITHFIELD STREET, PITTSBURGH, PA, 15222, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A wagering system comprising: a server configured for processing at least one wager on a video game match to be played by players on a multiplayer gaming network; at least one database operatively associated with the server, the database being configured for storing information related to the video game wager; the server being configured to operate independently of the multiplayer gaming network; and, the server including a confirmation system configured to receive a confirmation of the outcome of the video game wager from at least one of the players.

2. The wagering system of claim 1, wherein the server includes a web server.

3. The wagering system of claim 2, wherein the web server includes at least one web site having at least one page configured for receiving wagering information.

4. The wagering system of claim 3, wherein at least one of the web site pages is configured to allow the players to select from among a set of video games that can be played for wagers.

5. The wagering system of claim 3, wherein at least one of the web site pages is configured to allow the players to store a wager in association with at least one video game.

6. The wagering system of claim 3, wherein at least one of the web site pages is configured to allow the players to accept a wager in association with at least one video game.

7. The wagering system of claim 3, wherein at least one of the web site pages includes multiple video game links separated into multiple sections according to a factor selected from the group consisting of a multiplayer gaming network associated with the video game, a type of video game, and a gaming mode.

8. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising at least one wager account stored in the database, the wager account being associated with a credit balance of at least one of the players.

9. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising at least one player profile stored on the database.

10. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising the server being configured to transfer a wager amount based on the outcome of the played video game.

11. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising a competency structure operatively associated with the server, the competency structure being configured for maintaining at least one skill level of at least one of the players.

12. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising the database being configured to store multiple wagers for a particular video game or for multiple video games.

13. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising the database being configured to permit removal of an unaccepted, stored wager.

14. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising the server being configured to automatically communicate to players that they should compete upon determining compatibility of wagers.

15. The wagering system of claim 14, wherein determining compatibility includes comparing skill levels associated with the players.

16. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising a ratings system operatively associated with the server, the ratings system being configured to adjust a rating of at least one player.

17. The wagering system of claim 1, wherein the video game includes a video game that can be played by multiple players as a team.

18. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising the confirmation system being configured to award a prize to the winning player upon receiving the same confirmation of the wager outcome from both players.

19. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising a ratings system operatively associated with the server, the ratings system being configured for adjusting a rating of the players based on communication of the wager outcome using the confirmation system.

20. The wagering system of claim 19, further comprising the ratings system being configured to display at least one list of player rankings in association with ratings information stored in the ratings system.

21. The wagering system of claim 19, further comprising the ratings system being configured to not allow a player to accept a wager if a rating of the player falls below a threshold level.

22. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising a dispute settlement system operatively associated with the server, the dispute settlement system being configured to help to determine a wager outcome if the confirmation system receives confirmation of the wager outcome from neither player or only one player.

23. The wagering system of claim 1, further comprising a dispute settlement system operatively associated with the server, the dispute settlement system being configured for determining a wager outcome if the confirmation system receives a different confirmation of the wager outcome from each player.

24. The wagering system of claim 1, wherein the server is accessible through a game console.

25. The wagering system of claim 1, wherein the server is accessible through a cable network connection.

26. The wagering system of claim 3, wherein at least one of the websites is accessible through a game console.

27. The wagering system of claim 3, wherein at least one of the websites is accessible through a cable network connection.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention generally relates to processing wagers in association with networked video game play.

BACKGROUND

The technological landscape for online multiplayer video gaming is rapidly evolving into exciting new areas. Online video game play through multiplayer gaming networks provides an entertaining experience by offering players the opportunity to play against multiple live opponents, rather than merely against a computer-controlled opponent, in a virtual video game world. There are presently many multiplayer gaming networks available that allow players to compete in video games against each other, and at least some of these networks have the capability to permit interaction among players on a global scale.

In view of this emerging technological landscape, what are needed are more effective ways to further enhance the excitement and entertainment value of the online video gaming experience, especially with regard to video games played on multiplayer gaming networks.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

The utility of the embodiments of the invention will be readily appreciated and understood from consideration of the following description of the embodiments of the invention when viewed in connection with the accompanying drawings.

FIG. 1 includes a system architecture diagram illustrating various exemplary aspects of a wagering system configured in accordance with embodiments of the invention;

FIG. 2A includes a process flow diagram illustrating certain aspects of wagering processes that may be conducted in accordance with embodiments of the invention;

FIG. 2B includes a process flow diagram illustrating certain aspects of wagering processes that may be conducted in accordance with embodiments of the invention; and,

FIGS. 3 through 25 illustrate examples of screen displays that may be provided in accordance with wagering system embodiments of the invention.

DESCRIPTION

As applied herein, a “wager” or “wagering” involves players staking something of value (e.g., money) for an opportunity to win something of value (e.g., a prize) subject to the outcome of an event (e.g., a video game contest between players), wherein the outcome of the event is predominantly determined by the skill of the players involved in the event and not a chance occurrence. In comparison, a “bet” or “gambling” involves staking something of value (e.g., money) for a chance to win something of value (e.g., a prize) subject predominantly to the outcome of an event (e.g., a lottery drawing) which is predominantly a chance occurrence.

A “multiplayer gaming network” or “gaming network” includes any networked medium that permits players to engage in a video game, computer system game, or any other electronic gaming activity between/among the players. One example of a “multiplayer gaming network” suitable for use with various embodiments of the present invention is the “Xbox Live” gaming network operatively associated with the “Xbox” gaming system (Microsoft Corporation).

A “video game” includes any electronically executed game that can be played over a multiplayer gaming network in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. Examples of video games include, without limitation, console-based games such as those played on the “Xbox” gaming system, personal computer (“PC”) games, and a variety of other types of electronic games.

A “game console” includes any device or apparatus that can be configured for playing one or more video games on a multiplayer gaming network. Examples of “game consoles” may include, without limitation, video gaming system consoles, computer systems, personal data assistants (PDAs), wireless telephones, or any other device that can be configured for use as a game console in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention described herein. In another example, cable controllers configured for access to cable network media may include interactive features that users can employ as game consoles, for example, to practice various aspects of the invention described herein.

The term “communication media” includes any medium capable of receiving data communications in accordance with various embodiments of the invention such as, without limitation, network connections (e.g., an intranet, extranet, or the Internet), wireless data networks, wire line data networks, satellite networks, or cable network connections.

Unless otherwise noted or readily evident from the context as applied herein, the term “player” refers to players participating on a multiplayer gaming network who may also be “users” of a wagering system provided in accordance with the present invention. The terms “player” and “user” sometimes may be used interchangeably herein.

With reference to FIG. 1, general aspects of an exemplary wagering system architecture that may be provided in accordance with various embodiments of the invention are illustrated. A wagering system 102 includes a server 102A configured to receive and process wagers that can be placed and settled in association with networked video game match play. The server 102A may be a web server, for example, and may be operatively associated with one or more wager databases 102B or other like storage media configured for storing a variety of wagering related information. The server 102A may host one or more web sites 102C including various pages or screen displays that facilitate collection, analysis and processing of wagering information and/or other data communicated to/from the wagering system 102. For example, information may be communicated to the wagering system 102 from various players 112, 114, 116 using multiple game consoles 106, 108, 110 (respectively), to play video games on a multiplayer gaming network 104. In various embodiments, the players 112, 114, 116 may also be users with respect to accessing and using various features of the wagering system 102.

In general, the wagering system 102 functions to allow the players 112, 114, 116 to select from among a diverse set of video games that can be played for wagers; to permit the players 112, 114, 116 to store wagers; to accept the wager of an opponent with whom they would like to compete; to remove or modify unaccepted wagers; as well as to perform various other functions. The wagering system 102 may not be configured to facilitate actual video game play between/among the players 112, 114, 116. Rather, the software that permits communication and interaction between/among the game consoles 106, 108, 110 during video game play can be executed by the multiplayer gaming network 104. The wagering system 102 may thus be configured to operate independently of the multiplayer gaming network 104; and, the game consoles 106, 108, 110 may interact with each other on the multiplayer gaming network 104 to conduct video game play. The dotted line 118 is intended to represent an association, without a direct connection or communication, between the independently operative functions of the wagering system 102 and the multiplayer gaming network 104.

As described hereinafter in more detail, the wagering system 102 provides a variety of functions: to permit players 112, 114, 116 to register and maintain wager accounts 102D; to store details of player 112, 114, 116 profiles; to store payment information; to facilitate competition with other players 112, 114, 116 who also wish to wager in a variety of video games; to confirm outcomes of video game matches with a confirmation system 102E; to apply ratings to users with a ratings system 102F to reflect the conduct of users in their interactions with the wagering system 102 and other users; to transfer an amount indicative of the wager at the conclusion of a head-to-head video game match, for example; to store outcomes of played video games, including a competency structure 102G that tracks and maintains the skill levels of players 112, 114, 116 with respect to various video games; to settle disputes between players 112, 114, 116 associated with wager outcomes by employing a dispute settlement system 102H; and/or other functions.

As shown in FIG. 1, one or more communication media 120 may be provided to enable communications between one or more of the game consoles 106, 108, 110 and the wagering system 102. Also one or more access devices 122 may be employed by the players 112, 114, 116 or other users to communicate with the wagering system 102, for example, through one or more of the communication media 120. Examples of access devices 122 include, without limitation, computer systems, personal data assistants (PDA's), telephones (of wireless or wireline variety), and/or any other access device suitable for accessing the functions of the wagering system 102.

Prior to entering into video game match play for wagers, players may be required to register as users with the wagering system 102. Players may register in a variety of manners. For instance, a visitor home page 302 may include a registration link 304 to direct new users to a registration page 502 where they may register, and a conventional login area 306 wherein a member can enter his or her username and password to access his or her account information with the wagering system 102. Otherwise, visitors or members who have not yet logged into their accounts may be prompted to register or log into their accounts, if they attempt to engage in wagering activity within one or more web sites 102C of the wagering system 102. The player may be presented with a prompt 404 as shown in the screen display 402 of FIG. 4 that permits entry of login information (e.g., username and password information) to access the wagering system 102, and/or permits a user to access the registration page 502. In this manner, it can be seen that visitors, as well as members who have not yet logged in, are able to view the same wagering activity on the web site 102C as members who had logged into their account, although they may not be able to wager themselves until they login or register.

In order to register at step 202 and gain access to the wagering system 102, new users may be presented with the registration page 502 shown in the screen display of FIG. 5. On the registration page 502, new users may enter various name and contact information, as well as a multiplayer gaming network identification 504 that the user employs when playing video games on the multiplayer gaming network 104. New users may also enter desired username 506 and password 508 information to permit account access on the wagering system 102. Data collected on the registration page 502 may be stored in the wager database 102B of the wagering system 102.

In association with registration, new users may be directed to a “deposit options” page 602, as illustrated by the screen display of FIG. 6, to select or edit deposit options at step 204. The “deposit options” page 602 permits the user to select a payment method 604 for establishing a wager account 102D with the wagering system 102. Users may be able to deposit funds in a service account using a credit card, bank transfer, or through a variety of payment processors 124 (examples of which are listed in the payment method 604 section) that provide payment processing services to the wagering system 102. The payment processors 124 can facilitate the transfer of funds to/from the wager account 102D of the user. To load credit into a wager account 102D, for example, a user may transfer money into the wagering system 102 by using one or more accounts managed for the user by the payment processor 124 and/or by using a credit card or bank transfer. Once established, the wager account 102D may be employed by the wagering system 102 to credit or debit wager amounts for the user in connection with wagering to be settled following video game play (i.e., wins or losses) on the multiplayer gaming network 104, for example.

Once a registered account is accessed by a previously registered user or a new user at step 206, a member home page 702 as seen in the screen display of FIG. 7 may be displayed by the wagering system 102. The member home page 702, like the visitor home page 302, includes, for example, links 704 to the most popular wager pages, links 706 to “featured wager pages” that the service may want to highlight, as well as links 708 to various pages that display player rankings based on competition for a wager in a particular game and/or overall competition on the wagering system 102.

Various screen displays presented by the web sites 102C, such as the member home page 702, may include a toolbar 710 of links positioned horizontally across the screen display as shown. The links in the toolbar 710 may include a “home page” link 710A to access the member home page 702, a “terms and conditions” link 710B to display terms and conditions of using the wagering system 102, and an “instructions” link 710C to access written instructions and/or, for example, a visual demonstration, explaining how the service operates. Various screen displays presented by the web site 102C may also include a toolbar 712 of links positioned vertically across the screen display, as shown on the member home page 702, for example. The toolbar 712 may include links for a variety of video games on which a user may place a wager and play against another player on the multiplayer gaming network 104. The video game links on the toolbar 712 may be separated into distinct sections according to a number of factors including the multiplayer gaming network 104 associated with the video game and the type of video game (e.g., sports, fighting, shooter, etc.). For instance, there could be a section devoted to “Xbox” sports games or “Playstation” (Sony Corporation) fighting games. In addition, the toolbar 712 may be configured to display only those links to video games which are compatible for play with the particular game console 106, 108, 110 of the user (e.g., links for “Playstation” games only). Lastly, each video game link may allow users to access a pull-down menu 806 of sub-links related to a game 804, as shown in the screen display 802 of FIG. 8, for example. This allows a user to access wager pages for different game modes, as well as pages displaying user rankings 904 related to wagering on a game, as shown in the screen display 902 of FIG. 9, for example.

Various screen displays presented by the wagering system 102 may also include a vertically positioned toolbar 714 of links as shown, for example, on the member home page 702 as shown in the screen display of FIG. 7. The links on the toolbar 714 may allow users to access functions and processes relevant to the management of the wager account 102D.

For example, a “confirm outcome” link 714A may allow users to access a page on which they can confirm the outcome of wagers, which were entered into using the wagering system 102 and competed for on the multiplayer gaming network 104. An example of a “confirm outcome” page 1002 is shown in the screen display of FIG. 10. In addition, an “account statement” link 714B may allow access to pages that display wager account 102D statements and allow users to modify contact/password information, as well as to register with the wagering system 102 for other multiplayer networks, for example, on which they compete. An example of an “account statement” page 1102 is seen in the screen display of FIG. 11. A “deposit money” link 714C provides navigation to the “deposit options” page 602 to permit users to add credit to their wager accounts 102D. A “withdraw money” link 714D can direct users to a function or page that facilitates withdrawal of an amount of the credit balance in the wager account 102D not otherwise needed to cover an outstanding wager, or the largest of multiple outstanding wagers, stored with the wagering system 102. An example of a “withdrawal options” page 1202 is illustrated in the screen display of FIG. 12. A “betting history” link 714E can direct users to a “betting history” page 1302 (an example of which is presented in the screen display of FIG. 13), which displays historical data for wager amounts stored by the user for various video games. A “player profile” link 714F may direct users to a function or page that summarizes a user's skill levels competing in games and/or game modes for a wager; records play for each game and/or game modes for a wager; and/or, records profit and loss information associated with playing games and/or game modes for a wager. An example of a “player profile” page 1402 is shown in the screen display of FIG. 14.

Also, on the toolbar 714, users may be presented with a “Stored Wagers” section 714G that includes a list of outstanding, stored wagers for the user on the database 102B of the wagering system 102. For each wager, a button 714H, 714I or other function can be provided that allows for the removal of the wagers from the database 102B. It can be appreciated that the number of wagers in the “Stored Wagers” section 714G varies depending on the number of wagers stored by the user. If a user does not have any wagers stored, then a “None” designation may be presented in the “Stored Wagers” section 714G.

At step 208, the user may select a video game for which the user wants to review, store or accept a wager. Selecting the one-on-one football link (e.g. “1-on-1”) on the pull-down menu 806, for example, directs the user to the wager page 1502 as shown in the screen display of FIG. 15. In general, the wager page 1502 may be substantially representative of the characteristics of all wager pages that may be provided for different video games in accordance with embodiments of the invention. As shown, the wager page 1502 includes a list of wagers 1504 that the players 112, 114, 116 have stored on the wagering system 102 for a particular video game. The list 1504 may include the username 1506 of each player 112, 114, 116 who stored a wager; the user rating 1508 of each player 112, 114, 116; the skill level 1510 of each player 112, 114, 116; and/or, a wager amount 1512 associated with each wager. On the wager page 1502, the user may accept a particular stored wager with the intent of playing the video game for the wager amount 1512. In addition, the wager page 1502 may include a “store wager” option 1514 that allows users to add wagers to the list of wagers 1504 by inputting wager amounts 1512. In various embodiments, the wagering system 102 may refuse to accept wager amounts less than a predetermined minimum level or greater than a predetermined maximum level. Once the “store wager” option 1514 is selected, a “wager form” 1602 shown in the screen display of FIG. 16 may be presented to the user with a wager amount field 1604 that permits entry of the wager amount 1512. If the user attempts to store a wager amount 1512 greater than the credit amount available in the user's wagering system 102 wager account 102D, a notification 1704 as shown in the screen display 1702 of FIG. 17 may be presented to the user.

In addition, the wager page 1502 may be configured to permit users to sort the list of stored wagers 1504 according to wager amount 1512 or skill level 1510, for example. The wager page 1502 may also be provided with a conventional search functionality that permits users to search the list 1504 for a specific wager amount 1512, a specific skill level 1510, and/or the username 1506 of a particular player 112, 114, 116. In a normal mode of operation, the list of stored wagers 1504 can be ordered according to when the wagers were initially stored, such that the first wager on the list 1504 may be the most recent or the oldest stored wager on the list 1504.

In various embodiments, a credit balance 714J of the wager account 102D of a user can be displayed on the toolbar 714, for example, of various pages of the wagering system 102. In addition, users may be permitted to view a breakdown of gross transactions that have impacted the credit balance by navigating to the “account statement” page 1102, using the associated link 714B on the toolbar 714. The “account statement” page 1102 can be configured to display transactions including total amounts deposited to the wagering system 102, total amounts withdrawn, total fees taken from winning wagers, and/or amounts won or lost by the user.

With general reference to FIGS. 1 through 2B, in operation of the wagering system 102, if a player 112, 114, 116 cannot find a compatible wager stored on the wagering system 102 to select at step 254, the player 112, 114, 116 can store a wager at step 256, and log into the multiplayer gaming network 104 to await another player's 112, 114, 116 acceptance of the stored wager. Users may also be permitted to store multiple wagers on the wagering system 102 for a particular video game or multiple video games to promote an increased probability that an opponent player 112, 114, 116 will be available to play for one of the multiple wagers. With respect to multiple wagers, the wagering system 102 can be configured to verify that the player 112, 114, 116 has enough credit in the wager account 102D to cover the largest of the multiple stored wagers. Players 112, 114, 116 who stored wagers may be automatically notified at step 258 by e-mail, instant messenger, or another communication method, if another player 112, 114, 116 has selected their wager. It can be seen that players 112, 114, 116 who had previously stored wagers on the wagering system 102 can await notification of wager acceptance while working on a computer system or other access device 122 (wireless phone, PDA, notebook, etc.), in addition to the gaming console 106, 108, 110.

If the user stores a wager substantially compatible with a wager previously stored by another player, and if the wagering system 102 determines through application of its competency structure 102G that the skill levels associated with the players 112, 114, 116 who made the wagers are compatible, then the players 112, 114, 116 associated with the wagers may then be directed to compete in networked match play immediately at step 260. The wagering system 102 may be configured to define compatible wager amounts as substantially the same amounts or within a certain acceptable range of deviation between the amounts. The competency structure 102G of the wagering system 102 may not permit players 112, 114, 116 of comparatively higher skill levels to accept wagers from players 112, 114, 116 at comparatively lower skill levels, but the converse may be permitted (i.e., lower skill level players 112, 114, 116 can be permitted to accept wagers stored by higher skill level players 112, 114, 116). Also, the competency structure 102G of the wagering system 102 may be configured to not permit a player 112, 114, 116 having a first skill level to play against a player 112, 114, 116 at a second skill level, wherein the absolute magnitude or percentage difference between the first and second skill levels exceeds a predetermined maximum level. If the wagering system 102 matches compatible wagers, or if a user accepts a stored wager on the wager page 1502, for example, then the user can be presented with a confirmation page 1802 as shown in the screen display of FIG. 18. The confirmation page 1802 prompts the user to accept or decline the video game match wager subject to the terms and conditions displayed on the confirmation page 1802. On the other hand, if a user stores a wager, then the user can be presented with the confirmation page 1902 as shown in the screen display of FIG. 19. These confirmation pages may display a reference number attributed to the accepted or stored wager by the wagering system 102.

If a user accepts another user's stored wager, then that particular stored wager can be removed from the wager page 1502 by the wagering system 102. If a user had multiple stored wagers on the wager page 1502, or on multiple wager pages 1502, and the user enters into competition for one of the wagers, then all of the wagers can be removed from that wager page 1502, and/or all of the wager pages 1502.

To select a wager at step 254, users may be required to have loaded enough credit into the wager account 102D to cover the wager amount; and, to have challenged another user of a compatible skill level. If a user attempts to select a wager without meeting these criteria, among possibly others, then the wagering system 102 may present the user with a notification 2004 shown in the screen display 2002 of FIG. 20 for attempting to compete with another player having an incompatible skill level; and/or a notification 2104 shown in the screen display 2102 of FIG. 21 for attempting to accept a wager of an amount greater than the credit balance of the wager account 102D of the user. In this event, the wagering system 102 may be configured to automatically direct the user as to how to transfer additional funds into the user's wager account 102D.

If users have met the necessary criteria and have stored a wager, then they may receive a prompt 2204 shown in the screen display 2202 of FIG. 22, notifying them to prepare their game console 106, 108, 110 and await a challenger to compete in the designated video game on the multiplayer gaming network 104. If users have met the necessary criteria and have accepted a stored wager, then they may receive a prompt 2304 as shown on the screen display 2302 of FIG. 23, advising them to prepare the game console 106, 108, 110 for game play, in the designated video game, on the multiplayer gaming network 104, and telling them the network identification of their competitors, so that they can locate them on the network 104 for game play.

After the user who accepted the wager locates the user who stored the wager on the multiplayer video game network 104, they may compete for the wager at step 260, in the same manner as if they were engaging in non-wagered competition on the network 104 and independently of the operation of the wagering system 102.

At step 262, using the confirmation system 102E, the competitors may confirm the outcome of their wager in various embodiments of the confirmation system 102E. For example, the users may confirm the outcome through a link in an email sent by the wagering system 102 to both competitors after one of them accepted the stored wager of the other. This link may take them to the “confirm outcome” page 1002 as is seen in the screen display of FIG. 10 associated with their wager account 102D. This page 1002 may display any wagers 1004, 1006 that they may have stored, which another user had accepted, or they may have accepted themselves. Furthermore, the page 1002 may allow them to confirm the outcome of the wager or wagers 1004, 1006 through associated buttons and/or other functions (e.g. “win,” “loss,” or “did not play”). In general, users may confirm the outcome of a wager in a variety of ways. For example, in certain embodiments users may confirm wager outcomes by using a wireless telephone to communicate a text message to the confirmation system 102E, or by using another interactive feature.

At step 264, if both players 112, 114, 116 confirmed the same outcome of their wager, using the designated confirmation system 102E, then the wagering system 102 may award a prize to the winning player 112, 114, 116 at step 266 by transferring a credit equivalent to the funds staked in the wager from the wager account 102D of the losing player 112, 114, 116 to the wager account 102D of the winning player 112, 114, 116. The wager amount may be reduced by a transaction fee charged by the wagering system 102. In this manner, no funds need to be transferred directly between users of the wagering system 102; the server 102A merely updates the wager accounts 102D to reflect the results of wagers won or lost by the players 112, 114, 116.

In contrast, if neither player 112, 114, 116 confirms the outcome, if only one player 112, 114, 116 confirms the outcome, or if the players 112, 114, 116 confirm different outcomes, at step 264, then no prize may be immediately transferred between wager accounts 102D. In this event, at step 270, the dispute settlement system 102H may be invoked to help to determine or settle the outcome of a video game wager. If one or both of the players 112, 114, 116 did not confirm the outcome, then the non-confirming player 112, 114, 116, or players 112, 114, 116, may be sent another email, reminding them to confirm the wager outcome and of the possible consequential adjustment to their user ratings if they do not confirm.

Otherwise, if the two players 112, 114, 116 confirm different outcomes at step 264, then the players 112, 114, 116 may receive each other's email addresses from the dispute settlement system 102H at step 270, in order to jointly resolve the discrepancy in reported outcomes. Also, the players 112, 114, 116 may be notified by the wagering system 102 of possible consequential adjustment to their user ratings, if they do not confirm matching outcomes. Through a link in this email communication, for example, the players 112, 114, 116 may be provided with a chance to re-confirm the outcome of the wager.

If the dispute can be satisfactorily resolved at step 272, then the credit transfer of step 266 can occur. If the dispute cannot be resolved at step 272, however, one or both players 112, 114, 116 may have their user ratings adjusted by the ratings system 102F, at step 268, as follows. If, after invoking the dispute settlement system 102H, neither player 112, 114, 116 confirms the outcome, then both players 112, 114, 116 user ratings may be adjusted by the ratings system 102F. If only one player 112, 114, 116 confirms the outcome, then only the other player's 112, 114, 116 user rating may be adjusted by the ratings system 102F. In certain embodiments, if the players 112, 114, 116 do not confirm the same outcome, then both players 112, 114, 116 user ratings may be adjusted by the ratings system 102F.

Users of the wagering system 102 may have user ratings displayed next to their stored wagers, based on the aforementioned rating factors. For instance, new users could start with an initial, predetermined percentage user rating that can be adjusted in accordance with subsequent actions of the users in view of the rating factors. While users may have multiple skill levels for different video games and game modes, the users may be provided with a single user rating, which would be impacted by the manner in which they utilized the wagering system 102 with respect to wagered video game play. Over time, it can be seen that the user ratings system 102F can become a self-regulating device to penalize users who do not accurately, or who never, confirm the outcome of their wagers. It can be seen that the time a player 112, 114, 116 with a lower user rating may wait for a video game opponent to select his or her wager generally would be greater than the time that a player 112, 114, 116 with a higher user rating would have to wait. Moreover, a user may not be allowed to accept other users' wagers, if his or her user rating fell below a specified, threshold level. Application of the user rating system 102F thus reduces the possibility that a user would misuse or ignore the confirmation system 102E.

Following the credit transfer at step 266, the wagering system 102 may be configured to process the outcome of the concluded match, at step 274, to alter a competency structure 102G maintained by the wagering system 102 for the players 112, 114, 116. The competency structure 102G may be created and configured as follows. Each user of the wagering system 102 can be given skill levels in a particular video game based on a combination of factors, including the amount of money won or lost, as well as a win-loss record or other score achieved, by playing the video game against other users for wagers. For example, users might be given a skill level between one and ten, one representing an extremely poor player and ten representing an exceptional player. In this example, the skill level in a given video game would increase, if a win-loss record or a wagered amount won by the user improved, according to established algorithms. The users may access their skill levels, as well as win-loss records or other scores achieved on the player profile page 1302 as shown in the screen display of FIG. 13, by clicking on the “Player Profile” link 714F on the vertical toolbar 714 included on each member page. If a user had not yet played a particular video game for a wager, then an initial, mid-range skill level could be given to the user, for example. The wagering system 102 may be configured to not set the initial skill level to the lowest possible skill level, because the user might be relatively experienced playing the video game but has not yet played the game for a wager using the wagering system 102. Based on the functioning of the competency structure 102G, the wagering system 102 can be configured to permit players 112, 114, 116 of lower skill levels to challenge other players 112, 114, 116 with substantially the same or better skill levels, but the converse may not be permitted by the wagering system 102.

Embodiments of the invention may also include a myriad of manifestations of team game play, from two-on-two competitions to games where multiple players 112, 114, 116 compete on the same team against a similar number of opponents on an opposing team. Additional links may be added to the pull-down menu 806, for example, for different modes of team play, and the service may create distinct lists of wagers for each type of game and game mode. For instance, there could be separate links to different lists of wagers for one-on-one competitions, as compared to two-on-two competitions. For each team game playing modality, a similar mode of operation to what has been described previously herein would permit wagering on match play. To permit multiple players 112, 114, 116 to compete together for a wager, for example, one player 112, 114, 116 may access the page of the web site 102C that displayed the list of stored wagers for the game and game-playing mode that his or her team wished to play. An example of a wager page 2402 for team game play is illustrated in the screen display of FIG. 24. If the user decides to accept or store a wager, identities of the user's teammates can be entered into the wagering system 102. In this case, a “wager-form” 2502 may appear as is seen in the screen display of FIG. 25. Each teammate may need to confirm storage or acceptance of the team wager, such as by indicating confirmation on a web site 102C, for example, or by accessing a link in an email communicated by the wagering system 102. If all team members indicate their willingness to compete for the wager, then those users who accept the wager will receive the network identifications of the opposing team members. Team video game play may then commence when the team that accepted a wager locates the team that stored the wager on the network. After the competition concludes, each member of either team or a single representative player elected by each team, may confirm the outcome of the wager, substantially in accordance with the process described above. The wager, deducted by the transaction fee, may then be distributed evenly from each member of the losing team's wager accounts 102D to each member of the winning team's wager accounts 102D.

In various embodiments, the competency structure 102G may be altered to raise or lower the skill level of each of the players 112, 114, 116 on either team, with respect to the game and the game mode. For this reason, a user could have multiple skill levels in the same game for disparate game modes. Although one player 112, 114, 116 may accept or store a wager, all members of the team may be required to be registered users of the wagering system 102 and have enough credit in their respective wager accounts 102D to cover a pro rata portion of the total team wager to allow the wager to be stored or accepted pursuant to team play.

The examples presented herein are intended to illustrate potential and specific implementations of the present invention. It can be appreciated that the examples are intended primarily for purposes of illustration of the invention for those skilled in the art. No particular aspect or aspects of the examples are necessarily intended to limit the scope of the present invention. For instance, screen displays included herein are examples provided merely for convenience of disclosure for those skilled in the art.

It is to be understood that the figures and descriptions of the present invention have been simplified to illustrate elements that are relevant for a clear understanding of the present invention, while eliminating, for purposes of clarity, other elements. For example, certain operating system details and modules of network platforms are not described herein. Those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize, however, that these and other elements may be desirable in a typical computer system or database system. However, because such elements are well known in the art and because they do not facilitate a better understanding of the present invention, a discussion of such elements is not provided herein.

Any element expressed herein as a means for performing a specified function is intended to encompass any way of performing that function including, for example, a combination of elements that perform that function. Furthermore the invention, as defined by such means-plus-function claims, resides in the fact that the functionalities provided by the various recited means are combined and brought together in a manner as defined by the appended claims. Therefore, any means that can provide such functionalities may be considered equivalents to the means shown herein.

In general, it will be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art that some of the embodiments as described hereinabove may be implemented in many different embodiments of software, firmware, and/or hardware. The software code or specialized control hardware used to implement some of the present embodiments is not limiting of the present invention. For example, the embodiments described hereinabove may be implemented in computer software using any suitable computer software language type such as, for example, C or C++ using, for example, conventional or object-oriented techniques. Such software may be stored on any type of suitable computer-readable medium or media such as, for example, a magnetic or optical storage medium. Thus, the operation and behavior of the embodiments are described without specific reference to the actual software code or specialized hardware components. The absence of such specific references is feasible because it is clearly understood that artisans of ordinary skill would be able to design software and control hardware to implement the embodiments of the present invention based on the description herein with only a reasonable effort and without undue experimentation.

Moreover, the processes associated with the present embodiments may be executed by programmable equipment, such as computers. Software that may cause programmable equipment to execute the processes may be stored in any storage device, such as, for example, a computer system (non-volatile) memory, an optical disk, magnetic tape, or magnetic disk. Furthermore, some of the processes may be programmed when the computer system is manufactured or via a computer-readable medium. Such a medium may include any of the forms listed above with respect to storage devices and may further include, for example, a carrier wave modulated, or otherwise manipulated, to convey instructions that may be read, demodulated/decoded and executed by a computer.

It can also be appreciated that certain process aspects described herein may be performed using instructions stored on a computer-readable medium or media that direct a computer system to perform process steps. A computer-readable medium may include, for example, memory devices such as diskettes, compact discs of both read-only and read/write varieties, optical disk drives, and hard disk drives. A computer-readable medium may also include memory storage that may be physical, virtual, permanent, temporary, semi-permanent and/or semi-temporary. A computer-readable medium may further involve one or more data signals transmitted on one or more carrier waves.

A “computer” or “computer system” through which a user may access the wagering system 102 may be, for example, a wireless or wire line variety of a microcomputer, minicomputer, server, mainframe, laptop, personal data assistant (PDA), wireless e-mail device (e.g., “BlackBerry” trade-designated devices), cellular phone, pager, processor, fax machine, scanner, or any other programmable device configured to transmit and receive data over a network. Moreover, it can be seen that the game consoles 106, 108, 110 themselves may take on the functionality of a “computer” or “computer system” with respect to allowing users to directly access and/or manipulate online content. Specifically, players 112, 114, 116 may be able to utilize the wagering system 102 using their consoles 106, 108, 110, respectively, in a similar manner as if they were accessing it through a personal computer. Likewise, it can also be seen that cable boxes may take on the functionality of a “computer” or “computer system” with respect to allowing users to access and/or manipulate online content. Specifically, players 112, 114, 116 may be able to utilize the wagering system 102 through their cable boxes, using buttons on their remote control to manipulate wagering functions, in a similar manner as if they were accessing the wagering system 102 through a personal computer. With respect to accessing the wagering system 102 through game consoles 106, 108, 110 and cable boxes, it can be seen that the wagering system 102 may be customized for accessibility solely by one or both of these types of devices, so that its features could be more easily manipulated by a console controller and/or a cable remote control.

Computer devices disclosed herein may include memory for storing certain software applications used in obtaining, processing and communicating data. It can be appreciated that such memory may be internal or external to the disclosed embodiments. The memory may also include any means for storing software, including a hard disk, an optical disk, floppy disk, ROM (read only memory), RAM (random access memory), PROM (programmable ROM), EEPROM (electrically erasable PROM), and other computer-readable media.

In various embodiments of the present invention disclosed herein, a single component may be replaced by multiple components, and multiple components may be replaced by a single component, to perform a given function or functions. Except where such substitution would not be operative to practice embodiments of the present invention, such substitution is within the scope of the present invention. Any of the servers described herein, for example, may be replaced by a “server farm” or other grouping of networked servers that are located and configured for cooperative functions. It can be appreciated that a server farm may serve to distribute workload between/among individual components of the farm and may expedite computing processes by harnessing the collective and cooperative power of multiple servers. Such server farms may employ load-balancing software that accomplishes tasks such as, for example, tracking demand for processing power from different machines, prioritizing and scheduling tasks based on network demand, and/or providing backup contingency in the event of component failure or reduction in operability.

While various embodiments of the invention have been described herein, it should be apparent, however, that various modifications, alterations and adaptations to those embodiments may occur to persons skilled in the art with the attainment of some or all of the advantages of the present invention. The disclosed embodiments are therefore intended to include all such modifications, alterations and adaptations without departing from the scope and spirit of the present invention as set forth in the appended claims.