Title:
Multistage, multiplayer game of chance
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Many example embodiments of the present invention involve playing a multistage, multiplayer game, in which, during each stage of the multistage game, a plurality of players each receive a hidden, electronic game piece (“EGP”). Each player may reveal the game piece to produce an unhidden EGP. At the completion of the multistage game, a calculation may be performed on one or more of each player's unhidden EGPs, and a winning player may be determined according to winning criteria based, at least in part, on the calculations. For example, an unhidden EGP may include a number. The calculation may involve summing the numbers associated with the unhidden EGPs of each player. The winning criteria may include selecting the player with the greatest sum.



Inventors:
Pellegrinelli, Rocco (Ruvigliana, CH)
Application Number:
11/824282
Publication Date:
01/01/2009
Filing Date:
06/29/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
463/42, 463/43
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
LEIVA, FRANK M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP/HAK NY (200 Park Avenue, New York, NY, 10166, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method for playing a game having at least one stage, comprising the steps of: for each one of a plurality of players, in each one of the at least one stage: receiving by a respective player device a respective data token, the data token including a hidden value; and presenting a neutral indicia to the each one of a plurality of players; in response to selecting the neutral indicia, revealing the hidden value to produce an unhidden value; and after completing a final one of the at least one stage, selecting a winning player by a winning criteria that is based at least in part on the unhidden value, wherein the respective player data comprises a running total of values, and the associating step includes summing the first value with the running total of values, and wherein the winning criteria is such that the winning player is selected based on which one of the respective player data has a greater summed value.

2. A method for playing a game having at least one stage, comprising the steps of: for each one of a plurality of players, in each one of the at least one stage: receiving by a respective player device a respective data token, the data token including a hidden data; and presenting a neutral indicia to the each one of a plurality of players; in response to selecting the neutral indicia, revealing the hidden data to produce an unhidden data; and after completing a final one of the at least one stage, selecting a winning player by a winning criteria that is based at least in part on the unhidden data.

3. The method of claim 2, wherein the at least one stage includes two or more stages.

4. The method of claim 2, further comprising the step of associating the produced unhidden data with respective player data for each one of the plurality of players.

5. The method of claim 4, wherein the produced unhidden data includes a first value.

6. The method of claim 5, wherein the respective player data comprises a running total of values, and the associating step includes summing the first value with the running total of values.

7. The method of claim 6, wherein the winning criteria is such that the winning player is selected based on which one of the respective player data has a greater summed value.

8. The method of claim 7, wherein the first value and the running total are numbers.

9. The method of claim 8, wherein the numbers are integers.

10. The method of claim 2, wherein the respective player device is a mobile phone.

11. The method of claim 2, wherein the hidden data corresponds to a hidden electronic game piece.

12. The method of claim 2, wherein the multistage game is played over a data communications network.

13. The method of claim 2, wherein the winning player wins sweepstake entries.

14. The method of claim 2, further comprising: receiving a request by a server for the unhidden data; and receiving, by the respective player device, the unhidden data, the unhidden data communicated to the player.

15. A method for playing a game having at least one stage, comprising the steps of: for each one of a plurality of players, in each one of the at least one stage: issuing to a respective player device a respective data token, the data token including a hidden data; and in response to selecting a neutral indicia presented to the each one of a plurality of players, receiving an unhidden data revealed from the hidden data; and after completing a final one of the at least one stage, selecting a winning player by a winning criteria that is based at least in part on the unhidden data.

16. A system for playing a game having at least one stage, comprising: each one of a plurality of data tokens configured to be received by a respective player device of each one of a plurality of players during each one of the at least one stage, the each one of a plurality of data tokens including a hidden data; a presentation component configured to present a universal indicia to a player; a reveal component configured to reveal the hidden data to produce an unhidden data; and a winner selector configured to, after completing a final one of the at least one stage, select a winning player by a winning criteria that is based at least in part on the unhidden data.

17. The system of claim 16, wherein the at least one stage includes two or more stages.

18. The system of claim 16, further comprising an associating component configured to associate the produced unhidden data with respective player data for each one of the plurality of players.

19. The system of claim 18, wherein the produced unhidden data includes a first value.

20. The system of claim 19, further comprising a summation engine configured to sum the first value with a running total of values, wherein the respective player data includes the running total of values.

21. The system of claim 20, wherein the winning criteria is such that the winning player is selected based on which one of the respective player data has a greater summed value.

22. The system of claim 21, wherein the first value and the running total are numbers.

23. The system of claim 22, wherein the numbers are integers.

24. The system of claim 16, wherein the respective player device is a mobile phone.

25. The system of claim 16, wherein the hidden data corresponds to a hidden electronic game piece.

26. The system of claim 16, wherein the reveal component issues a request to a server to unhide the hidden data and the server returns the unhidden data.

Description:

BACKGROUND

Games with multiple players exist in many varieties. Management of multiplayer games exists in various configurations. For example, management may be centrally administered, administered in a distributed fashion, or combine centralized and distributed administration.

Each player may play a game with a player device that may include facilities for playing the game. For example, the player device may include an input device, a feedback device to provide information about the game to the player, connectivity to other player devices, or combinations of the foregoing.

Games of chance exist in many varieties. For example, instant-win games exist where a player can immediately determine the game outcome after beginning game play. Examples of instant-win games are scratch-off or pull-tab games, as well as electronic versions of these games.

Another type of game of chance is the electronic ticket variety. A central computer generates outcomes and sends the outcomes to ticket distributors, such as lottery terminals. The outcomes are either pooled by the distributors or downloaded each time a player wishes to play the game. The ticket distributors employ attractive displays and methods of revealing outcomes for the game that are tied to the electronic tickets and the game being played. The player wishing to play a game purchases the opportunity to reveal an outcome, and the distributor reveals the outcome to the player. By observing the revealed outcome, the player instantly determines the outcome of the game.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS OF EXAMPLE EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1 depicts an example procedure according to an example embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 depicts an example procedure according to another example embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 depicts an example procedure according to yet another example embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4 depicts an example system according to an example embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXAMPLE EMBODIMENTS

Many example embodiments of the present invention involve playing a multistage, multiplayer game, in which, during each stage of the multistage game, a plurality of players each receive a hidden, electronic game piece (“EGP”). Each player may reveal the game piece to produce an unhidden EGP. At the completion of the multistage game, a calculation may be performed on one or more of each player's unhidden EGPs, and a winning player may be determined according to winning criteria based, at least in part, on the calculations. For example, an unhidden EGP may include a number. The calculation may involve summing the numbers associated with the unhidden EGPs of each player. The winning criteria may include selecting the player with the greatest sum.

In another example embodiment, a calculation may be performed on each player's unhidden EGP at each stage of the multistage game, rather than waiting until the completion of the multistage game. The winning criteria may utilize the final calculations to select a winner or winners. In yet another example embodiment, the unhidden EGPs may be divided into various categories. The calculation may involve tracking a running total for each category, and the winning criteria may involve selecting the player with the greatest total of a particular category or categories.

In some example embodiments, players may play the game using mobile telephones. In other example embodiments, the game may be played on personal computing devices over a data communications network, such as the internet. In yet other example embodiments, prizes for winning the game may include sweepstake entries which may be used to win prizes in a draw-type game.

FIG. 1 depicts an example procedure according to an example embodiment of the present invention. A player data may be associated with a plurality of players (block 100) such that each player is associated with his own independent player data. The type of player data may vary according to the requirements of the game. For example, if the game involves summing numbers revealed at each stage, the player data may include a number data structure or any data structure sufficient to store a number. In another example, the game may involve revealing a musical note at each stage of the game and the winner may be chosen by the player who is able to first complete a twelve-note scale using the notes he has revealed. In this example, the player data data structure may include an array or linked list of musical files and an associated number with each musical note that indicates which note of the scale the note corresponds to.

In each stage of the multistage game (block 102), each player may receive a data token (block 104). The data token may include one or more hidden EGPs. A hidden EGP may be kept hidden until it is to be revealed. Each hidden EGP may be revealed independently of the other hidden EGPs. Various mechanisms and procedures may be involved in creating and maintaining hidden EGPs. Hiding an EGP may be done for various reasons, such as to prevent tampering of the hidden EGP, to prevent unintended discovery of the hidden EGPs contents, or to allow authentication of the hidden EGP. For example, an unhidden EGP may be hidden by an encryption technique, such as symmetric key or public key algorithms. For example, in a secret key scheme, a secret key may be communicated to each player in an out-of-band procedure. That key, player-specific or otherwise, may be used to encrypt each EGP during the multistage game. Only the player with the symmetric key may decrypt the encrypted EGP to reveal the contents of the EGPs in that game. In a public key scheme, the EGP-issuing component may encrypt the EGPs destined for a particular player using that particular player's public key. Since the particular player is the only one who knows that particular player's private key, only that particular player will be able to decrypt the encrypted EGP and reveal its contents. In this way, the integrity of hidden EGPs may be maintained and may prevent unscrupulous individuals from discovering the contents of the hidden EGPs before they are revealed.

The hidden EGPs may be revealed (block 106) by a player. A player may issue a request to a player device. The player device may execute the necessary procedures to unhide the EGP. The procedure for unhiding a hidden EGP may depend, at least in part, on the mechanism used to hide the EGP. For example, if the EGP is encrypted, the player device may execute decryption algorithms to reveal the contents of the EGP. The unhidden EGPs contents may be presented to the player.

In another example embodiment, the hidden EGPs may not be cryptographically secure but may be associated with a neutral indicia that is presented to the player. The player may be prevented from discovering the contents of the EGP by the neutral indicia. For example, the contents of the EGP may be a graphic of a playing card normally found in a standard deck of 52 cards. The neutral indicia may be a graphic of the back of the card, which is the same regardless of the card. In revealing the hidden indicia, the player may issue a request to software to display the EGP contents associated with the neutral indicia. The player device may then display the revealed EGP. The revealed EGPs may be sent to the server for authentication to insure that unscrupulous players do not simply reveal all hidden EGPs in the data token and send back the most favorable unhidden EGPs. To prevent this, the software may digitally sign the unhidden EGPs. The server may authenticate the EGPs and determine that the unhidden EGP was validly revealed. In one example embodiment, the hidden EGPs may be cryptographically secure even though they are displayed to the user using a universal indicia.

In another example embodiment, the unhidden EGPs may remain on a server until they are ready to be revealed. For example, when a user issues an instruction to play the game, the server may send one or more neutral indicia to the player device. The unhidden EGPs may remain on the server. The user may issue an instruction to reveal a hidden EGP, here in the form of a neutral indicia. The player device may send a request to the server for the unhidden EGP associated with the neutral indicia selected by the user, and the server may return the unhidden EGP to the user. In this way, the integrity of hidden EGPs may be preserved, protecting against unscrupulous users who may attempt to extract the unhidden EGPs from hidden EGPs that would have existed on the player device. In addition, maintaining the unhidden EGPs on a server may allow unhidden EGPs to be reused. The step of revealing unhidden EGPs may be controlled by the server, and therefore resetting the association between hidden EGPs and unhidden EGPs may involve merely resetting the data on the server.

The hidden EGPs associated with a particular stage of the multistage game may include a mechanism for determining which stage the hidden EGP belongs. Mechanisms may include stage-specific identifiers, secret identifying information, session identifiers, transactional identifiers, and the like. For example, an identifier that encodes the stage of the multistage game may be included in the data token. This identifier may itself be encrypted so that unscrupulous individuals cannot send back EGPs from stages that have past. The server may verify each identifier that accompanies an EGP when it is received. In another example, a secured token may be decrypted by the player and its contents may be included with the EGP sent back to the server. In yet another example, the contents of EGPs may be different for different stages of the game. In this way, the server may determine that an invalid EGP is returned if its contents do not match the contents for the current stage of the game.

The contents of an unhidden EGP revealed by a player may be associated with the player's player data (block 108). The association may include procedures that incorporate the contents of the unhidden EGP in a particular stage with the contents of one or more unhidden EGPs from previous stages. The specific association procedure may be dependent on the rules of the game, as well as the functionality of other components of the game system. Association may include operations, such as storing the contents of the EGP, performing a calculation with the contents of the EGP, combinations of the foregoing, and the like. For example, in the musical scale game, the contents of the current unhidden EGP, for example, a musical note and accompanying identifier that signifies the note, may be stored in an array of notes previously revealed from prior stages. In the event that the note already exists in the array, the note may not be stored. For example, the array may include one position for each note in the scale, and determining that a note already exists in that position, the contents of the unhidden EGP may not be stored. In another example embodiment, in a summing game in which each EGP includes a number that is added to numbers from EGPs from prior stages, associating the number at the current stage may include adding the current number to numbers from prior stages.

The association procedure may vary, depending on if certain functionality is performed at other stages of the game or by other components of the game system. If certain calculations may be performed by other components of the system or at stages of the game other than the current stage, then the association procedure may not include the calculation procedure at this particular stage. For example, if in the summing game example, the server receives the contents of EGPs from all stages and then calculates a sum for each player, the association procedure at the current stage may include storing the contents of the hidden EGP revealed at the current stage with the contents from previous stages. In another example, if the summing procedure is performed, not at each stage, but at the end of the game, and is performed by the individual player devices, then the contents of hidden EGPs revealed at the current stage may again be stored along with the contents from previous stages. In yet another example embodiment, the association procedure may vary from stage to stage. If the game rules determine that a particular operation may be performed at a particular stage, then the association procedure may include that operation. For example, if the summing procedure may be performed at every third stage, then association at the intermediate stages may include storing the contents of the EGPs, and association at every third stage may include performing the summing procedure.

The procedure, as described as it relates to a particular player, may be repeated (block 110) for each player so that each player has a chance to play in the particular stage. If the multistage game includes further stages, then the procedure is repeated for each remaining stage (block 112). The multistage game may include one or more stages.

A winner, or winners, is selected (block 114) at the completion of the game based on a winning criteria. In one example embodiment, a single winner may be selected. In other example embodiments, multiple winners may be selected. For example, the winning criteria for the musical scale game described above may involve determining the player or players who have collected one note for every note in a musical scale. In this example, zero, one, or more winners may be selected, depending on the number of players who have completed the musical scale at the completion of the game. In another example, a game that involves summing the numbers received by players at each stage and determining the winner by the player with the highest number may involve a single winner. Still further, the rules for a multistage game may involve choosing a specific number of winners, e.g., gold, silver, and bronze winners.

In one example embodiment, the winning criteria may involve performing calculations on the player data collected during the stages of the game. Certain calculations may be capable of being performed during the stages, but may be performed at the end of the game. One reason for performing calculations at the end, as opposed to at each stage, may be to save processor intensive calculations for execution on the server at a time when the server's CPU load is sufficiently low. Another reason may be to maintain a high level of security by performing all of the calculations on a server that is particularly secure against attacks at certain times of the day or is overseen by an administrator at particular times. For example, in the number summing game, calculating the sums of numbers received during the stages may be performed at the end of the game, even though it is possible to add each newly revealed number to running totals at each stage instead.

Other calculations must be performed at the completion of the game. Reasons for this may include incorporating the number of stages into the calculation, incorporating the length of game play, incorporating data only known at the end of the game play, and the like. For example, winners for a game in which the players collect gold, silver, and copper coins may be determined by the players with the most gold coins who received at least one gold coin for every two stages on average. For a twelve-stage game, if the highest number of coins collected was five, then no winner may be selected. Calculations for this game must be performed once it is known the number of stages the players decided to play in the game.

The winning criteria may be assessed once at the end of the game, or may be assessed one or more times during various stages of the game, depending on the rules of the game. For example, the summing game may involve a single determination at the end of the game. However, another rule may determine that a winner is selected any time a player's sum is greater than a threshold value. In this example embodiment, the winning criteria may be executed one or more times during the stages of game play. The musical scale game represents another game in which the winning criteria, for example, whether a player has acquired all of the notes of a scale, may be assessed during the intermediate stages of a game.

The winning criteria and calculations may also incorporate other data outside of the particular instance of the multistage game. This data may include player game history, data collected during other games, and the like. For example, a game rule may determine that a player's previous gold coins collected in an unrelated game, such as a separate video game, may be applied to increase the player's chances of winning this particular game. In another example embodiment, the game rules may determine that the player's previous scores in prior instances of the multistage game may serve as tie breakers in the instant game.

In one example embodiment, the winning criteria may include whether the player has invited other players to play the game. For example, for each additional player that a player invites to play the game during the play of the game, the inviting player may receive an extra five points which may be added to the player's score.

In another example embodiment, a winning criteria may include comparing the unhidden EGPs of players with a random EGP. For example, a winner may be selected based upon whether the unhidden EGPs collected by a particular player match the unhidden EGP randomly selected at the end of the game by the server. In yet another example embodiment, unhidden EGPs may be concatenated, and the winning criteria may take into account the concatenated values. For example, a player may unhide the values 1, 2, and 3 in three successive rounds of a three-round game. The concatenated number 123 may be used in the winning criteria to determine the winner, such as the player with the largest or smallest valued number.

Once a winner is selected, an optional prize may be awarded to the player. The prize may be anything of value to the player, such as free merchandise, free opportunities to play this or unrelated games, or the like. The winning status may be presented to a redemption component that may authenticate the winner and issue the prize to the winning player(s).

Prizes may be varied in accordance with game rules. For example, prizes may include cash, merchandise, music, special privileges, and the like. In one example embodiment, winners may receive sweepstakes entries for winning the multistage games. Players may enter a draw-type game with the sweepstake entries and may win prizes in accordance with whether their particular entry is selected. Players may collect various sweepstake entries and may choose how to apportion them over a series of draw-type games to increase their chances of winning the draw-type games. In another example embodiment, players may win special privileges, such as backstage entry to musical concerts or opportunities to attend a special show.

In yet another example embodiment, the player may be required to perform, as part of the winning criteria, a task with the collected, unhidden EGPs to win the game. For example, the player may be presented with the unhidden EGPs collected thus far and may be prompted to enter some input. If the player is unsuccessful, the player may not win the game, even though the player has collected all of the necessary unhidden EGPs. An example embodiment of this game may include a word scramble game in which the player receives letters at the various stages. The player who is able to formulate a valid English word that matches the valid words in the winning criteria wins. In another example, the player may collect segments of a song and may be required to correctly identify the song. The first player to identify the song correctly may be the winner.

Another example task may include playing an amusement game that incorporates the unhidden EGPs. The existence of an unhidden EGP may alter amusement game play, the appearance of the amusement game, the order of stages in the amusement game, and the like. For example, the unhidden EGPs may represent keys in a video game that unlock various doors in the video game space. A player may be presented with the video game for play. A player may receive a new key at each stage of the multistage game and may have an attempt to try to unlock various doors during video game play. Upon successfully unlocking a door, the player may win the multistage game.

In one example embodiment, one or more players may form teams. Each team member's unhidden EGPs may be combined in the final stage and taken into consideration in the winning criteria. For example, the winning criteria may be the player or players who have collected the most of a particular unhidden EGP. One or more players may pool their unhidden EGPs together and may split the prize if they have achieved the most unhidden EGPs. The option to form teams may be given at any point in the game.

In one example embodiment, the game may be free to players. The prizes and cost to run the game may be born by sponsors, such as advertisers. For example, the hidden EGP may include an advertisement, such as a video clip or still image, which the user must view before unhiding the EGP. In this way, the player base of games may rapidly grow because the cost for playing the game is not borne by the player.

FIG. 2 depicts an example procedure according to another example embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 2 may represent a particular example multistage game. In the game, a summation data may be associated with each player (block 200). The summation data may include data structures to maintain a running total of values revealed at each stage of the game. In each stage (block 202), each player may receive a data token (block 204). Each data token may include a hidden value. The hidden value may hide a number value. Each player may reveal a hidden value (block 206) to produce an unhidden value. The unhidden value may be presented to the user. The unhidden value for a particular player may be added to the player's summation data (block 208). The procedure, as it relates to a given player, may be repeated (block 210) until each player has revealed a hidden value. The procedure, as it relates to a particular stage, may be repeated (block 212) until the game is completed. At the completion of the game, a winner may be selected by the player with the highest summation data (block 214).

FIG. 3 depicts an example procedure according to yet another example embodiment of the present invention. In this example, an example server-side procedure is described for playing a multistage game. In the game, a player data may be associated with each player (block 300). In each stage (block 302), a data token may be issued (block 304). Data tokens may be issued to players directly or may be issued to third parties. In some example embodiments, the data tokens may eventually reach the players. In other example embodiments, the data tokens may remain with a third party. For example, if the player receives the data token, he may reveal the hidden EGP himself. However, if the third party holds on to the hidden EGP, the third party may reveal the hidden EGP in response to a player request and present an indication of the contents of the EGP to the player.

The server may receive the unhidden EGP (block 306) and associate the unhidden EGP with the player's data for the player associated with the unhidden EGP (block 308). The procedure, as it relates to a particular stage, may be repeated (block 310) for each stage of the multistage game. A winner may be selected based, at least in part, on a winning criteria (block 312).

FIG. 4 depicts an example system according to an example embodiment of the present invention. A system 400 may include player devices 402 and 404 in communication with a game server 430. Players 406 and 408 may play the multistage game and may play the game using player devices 402 and 404, respectively. Communications may occur over data communications networks, such as, for example, local area networks, wide area networks, wireless networks, cellular telephone networks, cable systems, satellite networks, peer-to-peer wired and wireless networks, and the like.

The player devices 402 and 404 may include facilities for playing the multistage game. In one example embodiment, facilities may include an input device for selecting a hidden EGP to be revealed, an output device for receiving feedback, a processor for running software to support the game, a memory device for storing data related to the game, and a communications device for communicating with the game server or other servers. In other example embodiments, the player devices may include other facilities, such as a security device, printing device, and the like. Input devices may include key entry devices, such as keyboards, keypads, buttons, sliders, jog dials, track pads, mouse devices, voice input devices, and the like. Other input devices may include microphones, touch screens, accelerometers, and temperature sensors. Output devices may include visual output devices, such as screens and LEDs, audio output devices, vibrating devices, olfactory devices, touch devices, and the like. Processors may include any processor capable of executing software related to the multistage game, software including game-specific software or general software, such as a web browser, that interfaces with game specific software on another device or server. Memory devices may include volatile memory, as well as memory that may be preserved if the player device is powered off. Memory may preferably be writable memory. Writable memory may be important if the multistage game requires data to be updated or stored during the game itself. A communications device may include wired communication devices, such as IP-based network devices, and wireless communication devices, such as wireless networking, cellular telephone, satellite communication devices, and the like. Other example embodiments may include other functionalities for the foregoing devices than the embodiments described, as well as additional functionalities apart from the games themselves. For example, an example player device may include a cellular telephone capable of sending and receiving telephone calls in addition to serving as a player device for playing the multistage game. In another example embodiment, the player device may be a desktop personal computer, and the desk top computer may communicate with a network server to play a game.

The game server 430 may include an issuing component 432 configured to issue data tokens 420 and 422. The data tokens may include one or more EGPs 424 and 426. The issuing component may select the hidden EGP(s) to be included in the data tokens 420 and 422. The game server 430 may generate EGPs in real time or may select the EGPs from a pool of pre-generated EGPs. In another example embodiment, the game server 430 may receive EGPs or data related to the EGPs from another component of the system and may include the EGPs in the data tokens 420 and 422. The game server 430 may hide the EGPs to produce hidden EGPs. One or more hidden EGPs may be included in data tokens 420 and 422.

In some example embodiments, hiding the EGPs may involve rendering the contents of the EGPs undiscoverable by those unauthorized to reveal the hidden EGPs. An example technique may include encryption. Other examples may include uploading the contents of the EGP to a password-protected server and including the network address of the contents in a data token. Still further, examples may include placing the valid EGP among multiple EGPs and communicating to the recipient which of the EGPs is the valid EGP in a secure fashion.

In one example embodiment, the EGP may be hidden, but may be discoverable by others. As described, the EGP may be displayed to the player using neutral indicia, and in this way, may appear to be hidden by the player. In this example, the EGPs may be sent in the clear, and the player device may be responsible for displaying the neutral indicia to the player.

The issuing component 432 may issue the data tokens 420 and 422 to the player devices 402 and 404 directly. In other example embodiments, the data tokens may be issued to third parties, such as third party suppliers, who may eventually send the data tokens to the player devices.

Receive components 414 and 416 of player devices 402 and 404, respectively, may receive data tokens 420 and 422. The hidden EGPs may be displayed to the players in a manner that the player cannot determine the contents of the EGPs. The player may be prompted to select a hidden EGP to be revealed. Alternatively, no prompt may be required.

Reveal components 410 and 412 may reveal the contents of the hidden EGPs to the players to produce unhidden EGPs. The contents may be displayed to the player. The player may automatically determine the results by observing the displayed contents.

The unhidden EGPs, or data related thereto, may be sent to an association component 434. The association component 434 may associate the unhidden EGPs with the appropriate player data 436 and 438.

The association component 434 and player data 436 and 438 are shown as residing on the game server 430. However, the location of these components may vary. In some example embodiments, these components may exist on the game server 430, on another server, on a third party device, or on the player devices themselves. For example, an association component may exist on each player device. In this example, the player devices themselves may keep track of the unhidden EGPs, and therefore the player data may exist on the player devices themselves. In other example embodiments, the player data may exist on the server, and the association component may exist on the player devices. The player devices may request the player data each time that an association procedure is to take place and may send the player data back to the server for storage. In practice, the location of these components may vary according to the requirements of the game.

Similarly, the location of the receive and reveal components may vary as well. These components may exist on the game server 430, in other servers, in third party devices, or on the player devices themselves. The components may coexist on a given device, or a reveal component and receive component may exist on different devices. The arrangement of these components may vary according to the requirements of the game.

At the completion of the multistage game, a winner selector 440 may determine, using a winning criteria, the winner(s), if any, of the multistage game. The winning criteria may be based, at least in part, on the player data.

A prize component (not shown) may issue a prize to the winner(s).

In one example embodiment, the multistage game may be played without the game server. In this arrangement, the player devices may work together to provide the functionality of the game server. In this example arrangement, a distributed program environment may operate to carry out the tasks of the issuing component, association component, and winner selector. Proper facilities may exist to prevent unauthorized player devices from skewing the results of the game in its favor.

One example embodiment may include an example procedure for playing a game having at least one stage including, for each one of a plurality of players, in each one of the at least one stage, receiving by a respective player device a respective data token, the data token including a hidden value; and presenting a neutral indicia to the each one of a plurality of players; in response to selecting the neutral indicia, revealing the hidden value to produce an unhidden value; and after completing a final one of the at least one stage, selecting a winning player by a winning criteria that is based at least in part on the unhidden value, wherein the respective player data comprises a running total of values, and the associating step includes summing the first value with the running total of values, and wherein the winning criteria is such that the winning player is selected based on which one of the respective player data has a greater summed value.

Another example embodiment may include an example procedure for playing a game having at least one stage including, for each one of a plurality of players, in each one of the at least one stage, receiving by a respective player device a respective data token, the data token including a hidden data; and presenting a neutral indicia to the each one of a plurality of players; in response to selecting the neutral indicia, revealing the hidden data to produce an unhidden data; and after completing a final one of the at least one stage, selecting a winning player by a winning criteria that is based at least in part on the unhidden data. Another example embodiment may include an example procedure wherein the at least one stage includes two or more stages. Yet another example embodiment may include an example procedure including associating the produced unhidden data with respective player data for each one of the plurality of players. A further example embodiment may include an example procedure wherein the produced unhidden data includes a first value. Yet a further example embodiment may include an example procedure wherein the respective player data comprises a running total of values, and the associating step includes summing the first value with the running total of values. One example embodiment may include an example procedure wherein the winning criteria is such that the winning player is selected based on which one of the respective player data has a greater summed value. Another example embodiment may include an example procedure wherein the first value and the running total are numbers. Yet another example embodiment may include an example procedure wherein the numbers are integers. A further example embodiment may include an example procedure wherein the respective player device is a mobile phone. Yet a further example embodiment may include an example procedure wherein the hidden data corresponds to a hidden electronic game piece. One example embodiment may include an example procedure wherein the multistage game is played over a data communications network. Another example embodiment may include an example procedure wherein the winning player wins sweepstakes entries. One example embodiment may include an example procedure further including receiving a request by a server for the unhidden data; and receiving, by the respective player device, the unhidden data, the unhidden data communicated to the player.

One example embodiment may include an example procedure for playing a game having at least one stage including for each one of a plurality of players, in each one of the at least one stage, issuing to a respective player device a respective data token, the data token including a hidden data; and in response to selecting a neutral indicia presented to the each one of a plurality of players, receiving an unhidden data revealed from the hidden data; and after completing a final one of the at least one stage, selecting a winning player by a winning criteria that is based at least in part on the unhidden data.

One example embodiment for playing a game having at least one stage may include, each one of a plurality of data tokens configured to be received by a respective player device of each one of a plurality of players during each one of the at least one stage, the each one of a plurality of data tokens including a hidden data; a presentation component configured to present a universal indicia to a player; a reveal component configured to reveal the hidden data to produce an unhidden data; and a winner selector configured to, after completing a final one of the at least one stage, select a winning player by a winning criteria that is based at least in part on the unhidden data. Another example embodiment may further include a game wherein the at least one stage includes two or more stages. Yet another example embodiment may further include a game including an associating component configured to associate the produced unhidden data with respective player data for each one of the plurality of players. A further example embodiment may further include a game wherein the produced unhidden data includes a first value. Yet a further example embodiment may further include a game including a summation engine configured to sum the first value with a running total of values, wherein the respective player data includes the running total of values. One example embodiment may further include a game wherein the winning criteria is such that the winning player is selected based on which one of the respective player data has a greater summed value. Another example embodiment may further include a game wherein the first value and the running total are numbers. Yet another example embodiment may further include a game wherein the numbers are integers. A further example embodiment may further include a game wherein the respective player device is a mobile phone. Yet a further example embodiment may further include a game wherein the hidden data corresponds to a hidden electronic game piece. A further example embodiment may further include a game wherein the reveal component issues a request to a server to unhide the hidden data and the server returns the unhidden data.

Several example embodiments of the present invention are specifically illustrated and described herein. However, it will be appreciated that modifications and variations of the present invention are covered by the above teachings and within the purview of the appended claims without departing from the spirit and intended scope of the invention.