Title:
Method of facilitating participation in on-line, multi-player role playing games
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention provides a method for driving players to online gaming web sites such as an online role playing game (“RPG”) and retaining those players once they have enrolled or registered to participate in the an online RPG. The present invention also encourages on-going participation in online RPGs by registered players. The present invention also encourages participation in other activities such as game strategy seminars and tournaments, designed to enhance the online RPG. The foregoing is achieved by providing attributes or assets to enhance a registered gamer's character or avatar when the gamer accomplishes certain qualified activities that enhance the virtual world in which the RPG is conducted, and thus the potential experience of participants of the PRG. In one embodiment of the invention, a registered gamer receives additional assets for referral of other gamers. In another embodiment of the invention, a gamer receives additional assets by registering others to participate in an RPG or to participate in a strategy seminar or RPG tournament. In another embodiment of the invention, a gamer receives additional assets by hosting an online RPG or facilitating access to an online RPG. In still yet another embodiment of the invention, a registered gamer receives assets for such activities conducted by other gamers who participate in the RPG as either a direct or indirect result of the referring gamer. The quantity of assets received by a gamer for these various activities may vary depending on the volume of activities, time frame and the like.



Inventors:
Zahorik, Michael A. (Superior, CO, US)
Jao, Roderick (US)
Application Number:
11/389273
Publication Date:
09/27/2007
Filing Date:
03/24/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
RENWICK, REGINALD A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Mark, Tidwell Jackson Walker A. L. L. P. (Suite 2400, 112 E. Pecan Street, San Antonio, TX, 78205-1521, US)
Claims:
1. A method for operating an Internet gaming web site comprising the steps of registering a first level individual for participation at a gaming web site, wherein said step of registering comprises assigning a web site identity to said first level individual and providing at least one attribute to said web site identity for use at said gaming web site; registering a second level individual for participation at said gaming web site, wherein said step of registering a second level individual comprises assigning a web site identity to said second level individual, providing at least one attribute to said web site identity for use at the gaming web site, wherein said second level individual is referred to said gaming web site by the first level individual; providing the first level individual with at least one additional attribute based upon completion of the registration of the second level individual.

2. A method for operating an Internet gaming web site comprising the steps of registering a first level individual for participation at a gaming web site, wherein said step of registering comprises assigning a web site identity to said first level individual; registering a second level individual for participation at said gaming web site, wherein said step of registering a second level individual comprises assigning a web site identity to said second level individual, wherein said second level individual is referred to said gaming web site by the first level individual; providing at least one attribute for use at said gaming web site to said web site identity of said first individual upon completion of the registration of the second level individual.

3. A method for operating an Internet gaming web site comprising the steps of registering a first level individual for participation at a gaming web site, wherein said step of registering comprises assigning a web site identity to said first level individual and providing at least one attribute to said web site identity for use at said gaming web site; registering a second level individual for participation at said gaming web site, wherein said step of registering a second level individual comprises assigning a web site identity to said second level individual, providing at least one attribute to said web site identity for use at the gaming web site, wherein said second level individual is referred to said gaming web site by the first level individual; providing the first level individual with at least one additional attribute based upon completion of the registration of the second level individual; and providing the first level individual with additional attributes based upon participation of said second level individual at said gaming web site.

4. The method of claim 3, further comprising the step of monitoring the participation of said second level individual at said gaming web site.

5. The method of claim 4, further comprising the steps of defining at least two different levels of participation of said second level individual at said gaming web site and associating an attribute number to each defined level of participation, wherein a different attribute number is assigned to each different defined level of participation, based on said step of monitoring, determining into which participation level the second level individual falls; and providing the first level participant with the number of attributes associated with the determined participation level of the second level individual.

6. The method of claim 1, further comprising the step of registering a third level individual for participation at said gaming web site, wherein said step of registering a third level individual comprises assigning a web site identity to said third level individual, providing at least one attribute to said web site identity of said third level individual for use at the gaming web site, wherein said third level individual is referred to said gaming web site by the second level individual; providing the second level individual with at least one additional attribute based upon completion of the registration of the third level individual.

7. The method of claim 6, further comprising the step of providing the first level individual with at least one additional attribute based upon completion of the registration of the third level individual.

8. The method of claim 1, further comprising the steps of defining at least two different levels of referrals of said second level individuals at said gaming web site and associating an attribute number to each defined level of referral, wherein a different attribute number is assigned to each different defined level of referral, monitoring the number of second level individuals referred to said gaming web site by the first level individual, determining into which referral level the first level individual falls; and providing the first level individual with the number of attributes associated with the determined referral level of the second level individuals.

9. A method for operating an Internet gaming web site comprising the steps of registering a first level individual for participation at a gaming web site, wherein said step of registering comprises assigning a web site identity to said first level individual and providing at least one attribute to said web site identity for use at said gaming web site; registering a second level individual for participation at said gaming web site, wherein said step of registering a second level individual comprises assigning a web site identity to said second level individual, providing at least one attribute to said web site identity for use at the gaming web site, wherein said second level individual is referred to said gaming web site by the first level individual; registering a third level individual for participation at said gaming web site, wherein said step of registering a third level individual comprises assigning a web site identity to said third level individual and providing at least one attribute to said web site identity of said third level individual for use at the gaming web site, wherein said third level individual is referred to said gaming web site by the second level individual; providing the first level individual with at least one additional attribute based upon completion of the registration of the second level individual; providing the second level individual with at least one additional attribute based upon completion of the registration of the third level individual; and providing the first level individual with at least one additional attribute based upon completion of the registration of the third level individual.

10. A method for operating an Internet gaming web site comprising the steps of registering a first level individual for participation at a gaming web site, wherein said step of registering comprises assigning a web site identity to said first level individual and providing a plurality of attributes to said web site identity for use at said gaming web site; registering a second level individual for participation at said gaming web site, wherein said step of registering a second level individual comprises assigning a web site identity to said second level individual, providing a plurality of attributes to said web site identity for use at the gaming web site, wherein said second level individual is referred to said gaming web site by the first level individual; registering a third level individual for participation at said gaming web site, wherein said step of registering a third level individual comprises assigning a web site identity to said third level individual and providing at least one attribute to said web site identity of said third level individual for use at the gaming web site, wherein said third level individual is referred to said gaming web site by the second level individual; providing the first level individual with at least one additional attribute based upon completion of the registration of the second level individual; providing the second level individual with at least one additional attribute based upon completion of the registration of the third level individual; and providing the first level individual with at least one additional attribute based upon completion of the registration of the third level individual.

11. The method of claim 11, wherein the number of attributes provided to said first level individual based upon completion of the registration of the third level individual is less than the number of attributes provided to said first level individual based upon completion of the registration of the second level individual.

12. A method for operating an Internet gaming web site comprising the steps of registering a first level individual for participation at a gaming web site, wherein said step of registering comprises assigning a web site identity to said first level individual and providing a plurality of attributes to said web site identity for use at said gaming web site; registering at least two second level individuals for participation at said gaming web site, wherein said step of registering a second level individual comprises assigning a web site identity to said second level individual, providing a plurality of attributes to said web site identity for use at the gaming web site, wherein each said second level individual is referred to said gaming web site by the first level individual; providing the first level individual with additional attributes based upon completion of the registration of the first second level individual to be registered; and providing the first second level individual with additional attributes based upon completion of the registration of the second level individual to be registered.

13. The method of claim 12, providing the first level individual with at least one attribute based upon completion of the registration of the second level individual to be registered.

14. A method for operating an Internet gaming web site comprising the steps of registering a first level individual for participation at a gaming web site, wherein said step of registering comprises assigning a web site identity to said first level individual and providing at least one attribute to said web site identity for use at said gaming web site; registering a second level individual for participation in an activity related to said gaming web site, wherein said second level individual is referred to said activity by the first level individual; providing the first level individual with at least one additional attribute based upon completion of the registration of the second level individual.

15. The method of claim 14, wherein said activity is a tournament.

16. The method of claim 14 wherein said activity is an educational class.

17. The method of claim 14 wherein said activity is a game at said gaming web site.

18. The method of claim 14, wherein the step of registering said second level individual further comprises receiving a fee from said second level individual for participation in said activity.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein said individual is further provided with educational materials related to said activity.

20. The method of claim 1, wherein said attribute is an increased power level for said assigned web site identify.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to role-playing games and more particularly to a methodology for encouraging individuals to enroll at an online role-playing gaming website and for permitting virtual participation in a tabletop game being conducted at a location remote from a player. Most particularly, the methodology for encouraging individuals to enroll at an online role-playing gaming website employs multi-level techniques to attract and retain participants in order to enhance the virtual world in which the role-playing games are conducted.

The online, multiplayer gaming industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. These are role-playing games (“RPG”) in which players take on specialized roles or virtual personas (referred to as “avatars”) and interact via the Internet with other players in simulated environments or imaginary worlds. Traditionally, a role-playing game (RPG) is a type of game in which players assume the roles of characters and collaboratively create narratives. Gameplay progresses according to a predetermined system of rules and guidelines, within which players may improvise freely. Player choices shape the direction and outcome of role-playing games.

While “tabletop” RPG's such as Dungeons and Dragons have been around for decades, it was not until the mid-1990s that game play was significantly altered by incorporating computers and the Internet. Essentially, computer role-playing games are a genre within the console game and computer game markets. They develop character and plot more than other computer games, and implement game mechanics derived from tabletop RPGs. Computer RPGs can be solely text based or may include graphics such as the graphical representation of a character, the environment or other elements within the environment. One significant factor in the growth of computer RPGs has been the advancements in computing technology and the ability to run more and more intricate and detailed graphical interfaces, which significantly enhance the gaming experience. Further, computer RPGs can be single player or multiplayer, often utilizing networks to allow players to participate with separate computers or consoles, either at remote locations or on a local area network or via the Internet. The Internet has resulted in what are known as massively multiplayer online role-playing games (“MMORPGs”), wherein a single game at any given time may have hundreds or thousands of players, thus providing a more complex game world in which to interact. Today, it is estimated that each day, millions of people participate in online RPGs. Because of this, the online RPG industry is generating hundreds of millions of dollars a year in revenue, and as such, competition between online RPG vendors to attract and retain players is fierce.

One primary goal in an RPG is to increase the “power” or significance of your character. It can take months of playing time to become a powerful character. The power of a character is measured by the character's “level”. Higher levels are more powerful than lower levels. To achieve these higher power levels, an avatar must accumulate various attributes or assets, i.e., virtual property or character qualities, related to the game. Examples of such property may include both personal property, such as a cup, a plate, a potion, a ring, a weapon or the like, and real property, such as virtual real estate. Property may also include value items such as a quantity of gold, silver or money. Examples of such character qualities may include strength, knowledge, skill, problem solving or similar qualities or abilities. Since one goal of the game is to increase the significance of a character or achieve higher power levels, it is highly desirable to quickly accumulate such assets. In this regard, the quest to obtain such assets has recently reached new plateaus as various virtual property is sold in the real world for real money. For example, in 2005, a gamer spent tens of thousands of U.S. dollars to purchase virtual property that exists in the RPG game Project Entropia. Likewise, it is well known that gamers will spend real currency to purchase virtual personas owned or developed by others. Companies dedicated to farming or acquiring the virtual property of players and then selling them to other players have blossomed. In this same vein, gamers will pay real money to individuals who participate in the virtual world and function solely to collect in-game items or assets for their employer. In other words, it is becoming an increasingly popular practice to use real-world money to acquire virtual gold pieces, goods, property or more powerful characters.

Notwithstanding the qualities of one's character or the accumulation of assets, the experience one has in a RPG is due in large part to the size of the virtual community in which one interacts. The larger the community, the greater the opportunity to delineate one's virtual character from others and to advance. Thus, there is a need to provide a system that will attract new players and encourage existing players to participate.

While there are various systems available to reward consumers for various activities they perform on the Internet related to the sale of products, none of the systems are applicable to promotion of an gaming website in order to build a larger base of players, thereby enhancing the experience of the existing players and promoting growth of the game and the virtual world.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a method for driving players to online gaming web sites such as an online RPG and retaining those players once they have enrolled or registered to participate in an online RPG. The present invention also encourages on-going participation in online RPGs by registered players. All of the foregoing thereby enhance the size of the virtual world in which the RPG is conducted, and thus the potential experience of participants of the PRG. The method contemplates the encouragement of individuals to participate in building the size of a virtual universe by increasing the number of participants in the virtual universe. Under the method, an individual must generally register with an ORPG administrator prior to participating in ORPG's virtual world. Upon registration, the individual (referred to as a “Gamer”) is assigned or selects a character or avatar to represent the person in the virtual world. Typically, a newly created or assigned avatar starts out at a low or base level and has a predetermined amount of virtual “power” represented by the skills and virtual property possessed by the avatar. For example, a level 1 avatar in a game may be assigned a drinking cup, a spear, flint, a stone, three gold pieces and low hunting skill. With this virtual property and skill, the avatar ventures out into the game space or virtual world. Under the system of the invention, while a Gamer can add to his virtual property and skill by participating in the virtual world, the Gamer can also add to his virtual property and otherwise enhance his skill, thereby increasing his “strength” and overall level, by performing various activities in the real world (“Qualified Activities”).

As used herein, Qualified Activities are activities by the Gamer that enhance the virtual world, such as for example (i) encouraging new individuals to register with an MMORPG, (ii) encouraging existing Gamers to actively participate in the virtual world, (iii) encouraging individuals to participate in other activities outside the game space which enhances the virtual world (“External Activities”), such as participation in seminars, (iv) hosting portals through which Gamers can enter and participate in the virtual world; (v) hosting online RPG tournaments, (vi) hosing websites that promote the PRG, such as web sites with game chat, strategy information, forums, blogs or the like, participation in off-line tournaments, such as are becoming more popular in college settings. In other words, by performing various Qualified Activities, a Gamer can “power-level” a character in the virtual world.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 illustrates an online game having registered players represented by avatars which have certain accumulated attributes for enhancing the virtual game.

FIG. 2 illustrates the possible accumulation of assets by a gamer by virtue of participation in various qualified activities.

FIG. 3 illustrates one embodiment of a referral method that leverages a gamers accumulation of attributes for an online game through a referral system.

FIG. 4 illustrates another embodiment of a referral method that leverages a gamers accumulation of attributes for an online game through a referral system.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

In FIG. 1, a standard Internet network 8 is shown through which is operated a gaming website 10 for conducting various games such as an on-line role playing game (“ORPG”) 12. Website 10 and ORPG 12 is operated by an administrator 14. Individuals who register with administrator 14 in order to participate in ORPG 12 are generally referred to as Gamers 16. Each Gamer is assigned an identity, character or avatar 18 which functions in the virtual world 20 defined within the ORPG 12. Each avatar 18 is provided with certain attributes or assets 22 for use at website 10. While assets 22 may be anything that enhances an avatar's relative strength or standing or level in virtual world 20, in once preferred embodiment, assets 22 are property or character qualities. Property may include both personal property, such as a cup, a plate, a potion, a ring, a weapon or the like, and real property, such as virtual real estate. Property may also include value items such as a quantity of gold, silver or money. Character qualities may include strength, knowledge, skill, problem solving or similar qualities or abilities. The foregoing are examples only and are not intended to limit the definition of assets.

In order to cause growth of the virtual world 20, it is desirable to increase the number of Gamers 16 who participate in the ORPG 12. The foregoing method of the invention provides multi-level marketing incentives for Gamers 16 to encourage others to register to become Gamers 16 and to actively participate at website 10 and virtual world 20.

FIG. 2 illustrates one of the basic methods of the present invention, the crediting of assets 22 to a Gamer 16 as the Gamer 16 performs a Qualified Activity, namely a certain activity in either the real world or the virtual world that enhances game 12 in some way, such as for example (i) encouraging new individuals to register with an administrator 14, (ii) encouraging existing Gamers 16 to actively participate in game 12, (iii) encouraging individuals to participate in other external activities outside game 12 which enhance game 12 or one's experience in game 12, such as participation in seminars, (iv) hosting portals through which Gamers 16 can enter and participate in game 12; (v) hosting online RPG tournaments, (vi) hosing websites that promote the RPGs, such as web sites with game chat, strategy information, forums, blogs or the like, or (v) participation in off-line, real word, i.e., tabletop, tournaments, such as are becoming more popular in college settings. While those skilled in the art will understand that any number of actions may included as a Qualified Activity, the most desirable Qualified Activities are those that encourage unregistered third parties to register and participate in game 12 and virtual world 20.

In any event, prior to becoming eligible to receive assets 22 for Qualified Activities, Gamer 16 must registered with administrator 14 in order to participate in game 12 or virtual world 20. For purposes of the description, this first Gamer 16 to register will be referred to as a first level Gamer 16a. During this registration (enrollment) process, Gamer 16a is assigned a unique character 18. Along with the assignment of the character 18, the Gamer 16a may also receive certain entry level assets 22.

While various Qualified Activities will be described herein, those skilled in the art will appreciate that one of the most desirable Qualified Activities for enhancing game 12 and virtual world 20 is the referral of unregistered parties 28. Thus, in the most general aspect of the invention, illustrated in FIG. 3, once a Gamer 16a has registered with administrator 14, Gamer 16a can increase the assets 22 of character 18 by encouraging other unregistered parties 28 to also register with administrator 14. If such an unregistered party 28 does register with administrator 14 for participation in virtual world 20, the newly registered party becomes a Gamer 16, is assigned a unique character 18 and certain entry level assets 22. For purposes of the description, a Gamer 16 who has been referred or otherwise encouraged to register with administrator 14 by first level Gamer 16a will be referred to as a downline or lower level Gamer 16, such as for example, second level Gamer 16b. More significantly, Gamer 16a then begins to accrue assets 22 based on the registration and activities of downline gamers 16 that are directly or indirectly registered as a result of Gamer 16a. In this same vein, a Gamer 16 who has been referred or otherwise encouraged to register with administrator 14 by second level Gamer 16b will be referred to as a third level Gamer 16c. This progression continues in various downline arrangements well known in the multi-level marketing industry.

FIG. 4 illustrates one such method of the invention, wherein a distribution tree 48 is illustrated and attributes 22 are accumulated as gamers 16 are added to the distribution tree 48. The distribution tree 48 is comprised of multiple networks 50, each comprised of gamers 16 in adjacent levels 52. As shown, first level gamer 16a is positioned at the top of the tree 48 in the top level network 50a. Each network 50 is comprised of three gamers 16, namely an upper level gamer 16 and two gamers in the adjacent lower level. For example, network 50 is comprised of gamer 16a who is in level 52a and two gamers 16b who are in level 52b. Each network 50 has a left side 54 and a right side 56. New gamers 16 are only added in the distribution tree 48 in networks 50 downline from the top level network 52a, thereby benefiting all gamers 16 in a particular branch of the distribution tree 48. In this same vein, new gamers 16 are only added in the next available level 52 until all networks 50 encompassed by that level 52 are full. In this way, each referring gamer 16 can only receive attributes 22 directly from the addition of the two other gamers 16 in the referring gamers network 52. A gamer, such as gamer 16d, at the bottom of the tree 48 will receive attributes 22 to the extent a referral gamer from another existing gamer is added to the downline gamer's network 50. For example, in the illustration, there are five open spots in level 52e. Each of these must be filled before new gamers will be added to the next lower level. In other words, new referrals from the first level gamer 16a (or any upstream gamer who has already referred two gamers) are added to a lower level network as the networks are created. Furthermore, networks are balanced on each left and right side so that the overall distribution grid remains balanced. The foregoing benefits downline gamers 16 in the distribution grid as well as upline gamers such as gamer 16a.

The benefits to the original Gamer 16a are two-fold. First Gamer 16a receives additional assets 22, thereby enhancing the associated avatar's 18 ability to advance to the next power level or otherwise participate in game 12 or virtual world 20. Second, by increasing the number of participant's in game 12 or virtual world 20, Gamer 16a enhances the overall community, and hence, potential “experiences” in game 12. Of course, one benefit to the administrator 14 is the additional revenue from the monthly fees generated from registration of the new gamer 16b. In one aspect of the invention, new gamer 16b is also provided with additional assets 22 upon registration by identifying a referring gamer 16a. The benefit to the new gamer 16b is that new gamer 16b receives more assets 22 then new gamer 16b would have if new gamer 16b had registered without identifying a referring gamer 16a. In other words, all parties benefit from the system of the present invention.

In one embodiment of the invention, during the enrollment of the unregistered party 28, the unregistered party 28 will be asked to identify Gamer 16a who referred the unregistered party 28 to the game 12. Upon such registration, for example, Gamer 16a will receive certain additional predefined assets 22 that will enhance the character 18 of Gamer 16a. To encourage an unregistered party 28 to list the Gamer 16a, a newly registered Gamer 16b will receive a lesser amount of entry level assets if they register without identifying a referring Gamer 16a and a greater amount of entry level assets if they identify a referring Gamer 16a. The referral of gamer 16b by gamer 16a is considered a direct referral. It is also contemplated in one embodiment of the invention that gamer 16a will receive will receive certain additional predefined assets 22 when a downline gamer 16, such as gamer 16b, refers another gamer 16, such as downline gamer 16c.

A gamer 16a can also receive additional assets 22 by an increase in the volume of Qualified Activities, either that result from the direct activities of Gamer 16a or from activities of a gamer 16 who is downline from gamer 16a. In one such preferred embodiment, the assets 22 granted to the original Gamer 16a increase with the volume of new gamers 16b that register and identify the original gamer 16a as the referring party. The volume of Qualified Activities may be readily measured based upon assets 22 granted to a Gamer 16a over and above either the original entry level assets or any assets earned by virtue of participation in game 12 or virtual world 20. For example, Gamer 16a may receive one asset 22 for each of the first ten Gamers 16b that register, and two assets 22 for each of the next ten gamers 16b that register. Of course, those skilled in the art will appreciate that such additional assets 22 can continue to increase with volume or may plateau as determined by administrator 14. Likewise, volume effecting additional assets 22 accumulated by an upline gamer 16, such as gamer 16a, can be based on any number of parameters that are known to those of skill in the art. For example, gamer 16a might receive assets 22 for “direct” referrals, such as gamer 16b, or gamer 16a might receive assets 22 for indirect referrals. i.e. gamer 16c, namely referrals made by downline gamers, such as gamers 16b or 16c.

Assets or attributes 22 may also be accumulated by a gamer 16 through external Qualified Activities of gamer 16 that enhance game 12 or virtual world 20. In one embodiment of the invention, a Gamer 16a can host a website 26 dedicated to some aspect of the game 12 and receive additional assets 22 as others, both gamers 16 and unregistered parties 28, access and/or participate at the website 26. Participation may include simply browsing the website 26, posting forum messages, making purchases from the website (such as access tickets to tournaments and/or seminars), visiting sponsors of game 12 or virtual world 20 through website 26 or accessing the virtual world 20 through website 26.

In another embodiment of the invention Gamer 14a may host a game 12 such as an online RPG through website 26 and receive assets 22 based on participation by others in the hosted RPG. In any event, to receive assets 22 for such activities, Gamer 14a must register the website 26 with administrator 14 and thereafter, as assets accrue by virtue of website 26, the assets will be associated with the avatar 18 of Gamer 14a. Additionally, as an authorized website (by virtue of the registration with administrator 14), the website 26 may include official indicia of the game 12, may permit download of character representations from virtual world 20 or receive other benefits as an authorized website, such as portal software or the like that would permit gamers 16 to access virtual world 20 through website 26.

In still yet another preferred embodiment of an external Qualified Activity, an existing Gamer 16a receives assets 22 when a party (either an unregistered party 28 or a downline gamer 16) registers to participate in a seminar or similar activity related to game 12 or virtual world 20. In one embodiment, such a party may directly register through existing gamer 16a or while in another embodiment, such party may simply identify gamer 16a as a referring gamer 16. For example, there are numerous web sites 40 available that discuss and teach strategy for participating in online RPG 12. Likewise, there are various conferences focusing on RPGs and seminars where strategy for a specific RPG is taught. Additionally, there may be special RPG tournaments in both virtual space or in the real world, i.e., tabletop competitions. An existing Gamer 16a may receive additional assets 22 when they refer individuals to these types of events or if existing gamer 16a actually registers the individuals for the events. Furthermore, gamer 16a may receive even more assets 22 to the extent an unregistered party 28 registers for a seminar and ultimately registers as a gamer 14 for participation in virtual world 22.

For example, typically websites 40 require some level of registration for participation. During such registration, the existing Gamer 16a can be identified, thereby permitting existing Gamer 16a to be credited with the referral. Alternatively, the referred gamer 16b can register for such events directly through existing gamer 16a or website 26 of existing gamer 16a, thereby triggering disposition of additional assets 22 to gamer 16a. In any event, by also providing certain additional assets 22 or other benefits (such as special seminar materials) to the registering party, the method encourages the seminar/tournament participant to identify existing Gamer 16a during the registration process. Of course, this is in addition to whatever teaching materials and/or tournament access the participant would receive upon registration.

Assets or attributes 22 may also be accumulated by an upline gamer such as gamer 16a through the participation of dowline gamers such as gamer 16b in various Qualified Activities. In one embodiment of the invention, gamer 16b encourages other unregistered parties 28 to register with administrator 14. If such an unregistered party 28 does register with administrator 14 for participation in game 12 or virtual world 20, the newly registered party becomes a Gamer 16, is assigned a unique character 18 and certain entry level assets 22. The existing gamer 16b then receives attributes 22 for registration of the new gamer 16 (in this case, a third level gamer 16c). The first level gamer 16a will also receive attributes 22 upon registration of third level gamer 16c, by virtue of the Qualified Activities of gamer 16b.

Likewise, within game 12 or virtual world 20, as gamer 16b accumulates assets 22 or otherwise advances, gamer 16a may receive additional assets 22. In this way, gamer 16a has a vested interest in the participation and advancement of gamer 16b in game 12.

As mentioned above, the number or amount of attributes 22 a gamer 16 receives for a particular Qualified Activity may also be dependent on any number of criteria known in the industry. In one illustrative embodiment, asset 22 accumulation may be linked to a time period. For example, gamer 16a may receive three assets 22 for each gamer 16b directly registered in the first 3 months following registration of gamer 16a, two assets 22 for each gamer 16b directly registered in the second 3 month period following registration of gamer 16a, and only one assets for each gamer 16b thereafter registered.

In another embodiment of the invention, if a gamer, such as gamer 16a, achieves certain levels of Qualified Activities, such as for example, the referral of twenty gamers 16b, then gamer 16a may be eligible to receive additional assets 22 based on the overall level of Qualified Activities arising from all gamers 16 registered to participate in game 12 or virtual world 20, regardless of the genealogy of such other gamers 16, i.e., even if the other gamers are not direct or indirect referrals of gamer 16a.

Likewise, gamer 16a may qualify for additional assets 22 by virtue of a certain level of activity in an game 12 or virtual world 20. For example, a gamer 16 who participates in a game 12 for at least six hours a week may receive two assets 22, and a gamer 16 who participates in a game for at least 12 hours a week may receive three assets 22.

In still yet another embodiment, a gamer 16a may receive additional assets 22 tied to the Qualified Activities of downline gamers 16b, 16c, 16d, etc. within the direct or indirect referral line of gamer 16a.

Various methods described above may also be blended. For example, a gamer 16a may receive an attribute 22 for each gamer 16b that registers, and also an attribute 22 as various volumes of Qualified Activities are achieved. Or gamer 16a may receive an attribute 22 upon the registration of a gamer 16b, and also additional attributes 22 based on the participation of gamer 16b in game 10 or virtual world 20 or the participation of gamer 16b in external Qualified Activities.

While the foregoing invention is intended to focus primarily on online RPGs in the traditional sense, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the foregoing is desirable for any on-line game particularly where multi-player games are provided. In this regard, multi-player can mean any game requiring participation by more than one individual, regardless of the particular role of the individual. As a non-limiting example, in an RPG, one player might be an individual represented by an avatar while another player might be the individual hosting or conducting the game, such as the administrator of the virtual world. Likewise, attributes or assets described herein can by anything that a gamer may utilize to participate in the online game and are not limited to the examples identified above.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, each of the above-described embodiments of the invention draws upon multi-level marketing techniques in a unique way to drive gamers 16 to web site 10 and participate in such a way that enhances game 12 and virtual world 20.