Title:
PERSISTENT VIEWER COMMUNICATION METHOD AND APPARATUS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A games website is disclosed that permits unregistered viewers to participate in and win prizes in a game on a games website without charge. A preferred embodiment displays a predetermined winning sequence number for each prize that is displayed by the games website. Unregistered viewers have a predetermined number of responses they can make on any given day in a game of the day that is displayed on the games website each day. The games website displays the sequence number of each response sent by a viewers display device to the games website each time the viewer clicks a button on that is displayed on the viewer's display device. The games website also displays a unique viewer ID code in a visually encrypted CAPTCHA™ image each time the website is provided to a display device. Correctly entering the ID code assures advertisers that viewers are playing the game, not computers, and the ID can be used by unregistered viewers to claim a prize they win. Registered viewers are allotted a greater number of free responses and are not limited to competing in the game of the day. Registered viewers can compete in other types of games and compete for a wide range of prizes. Both registered and unregistered viewers can purchase a limited additional number of clicks each day. The number of clicks available to a viewer is replenished at midnight each day and additional clicks can be purchased using an SMS payment service.



Inventors:
Guttmann, Patrick (Munchen, DE)
Chmiel, Jonathan (Munchen, DE)
Application Number:
11/774903
Publication Date:
01/15/2009
Filing Date:
07/09/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
GARNER, WERNER G
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HENRY M FEIEREISEN, LLC (NEW YORK, NY, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A data communications apparatus for providing repeated viewer-initiated communication with viewers on a display device adapted to provide an interactive display of data, said apparatus comprising: computer means for providing at least one game to a plurality of viewers on the viewer's display device, the interactive game having at least one prize; computer means for providing viewers a means for producing a response in a predetermined manner from the viewer's display device to the interactive game to attempt to win the viewer a prize from the game; computer means for providing a predetermined sequence number for a response produced by a viewer in the predetermined manner from the viewer's display device, the predetermined sequence number representing the position of the viewer's response in the sequence of responses produced by all viewers in the predetermined manner from the viewer's display device, the predetermined sequence number being the sequence number of a response produced by a viewer in the predetermined manner from the viewer's display device that will win a prize from the interactive game computer means for displaying to a viewer a sequence number for each of a plurality of responses produced by the viewer in the predetermined manner from the viewer's display device, the sequence numbers representing the sequential position of a response produced by the viewer in the sequence of responses produced by all viewers in the predetermined manner; computer means for displaying to a viewer the predetermined sequence number that will win the prize; and computer means for awarding the prize from the interactive game to a winning viewer who produces the response from the winning viewer's display device in the predetermined manner having a sequence number corresponding to the predetermined sequence number.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising computer means for providing a viewer a player account, the player account having a predetermined number of available free responses so that the viewer can produce the predetermined number of responses from the viewer's display device in the predetermined manner for free.

3. The apparatus of claim 2, further comprising computer means for registering at least one viewer; and computer means for providing a predetermined bonus number of free responses in addition to the available number of free responses to the player account of the registered viewer.

4. The apparatus of claim 2, further comprising computer means for selectively replenishing a viewer's account with a number of free responses that have been used by the viewer.

5. The apparatus of claim 2, further comprising computer means for replenishing a viewer's respective player accounts at midnight of each day a number of free responses that were used by the viewer during the previous day.

6. The apparatus of claim 2, further comprising computer means for adding purchased responses to a viewer's player account.

7. The apparatus of claim 2, further comprising computer means for adding purchased responses to a viewer's player account using an SMS payment service.

8. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising: computer means for displaying in the display of a game provided to a viewer's display device an ID code having visually encrypted elements; and computer means for providing a viewer copy means for copying he visually encrypted elements of the ID code without visual encryption onto the viewers display device. computer means for displaying visually encrypted elements of the ID code copied by the viewer without the visual encryption using the copy means provided by viewer's display device; and computer means for verifying that visually encrypted elements of the ID code copied by the viewer without visual encryption are a correct copy of corresponding visually encrypted elements of the ID code before a response is produced in the predetermined manner from the viewer's display device to the interactive game to attempt to win the viewer a prize from the interactive game.

9. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising computer means for providing an ID code to a viewer's display device that is unique to a display of a game on the viewer's display device; and computer means for verifying that an ID code provided by a viewer to claim a prize awarded from an interactive game to a winning viewer is the ID code that is unique to the display of the game that was displayed to the winning viewer when the response having a sequence number that correspond to the predetermined sequence number was produced by the winning viewer's display device in the predetermined manner,

10. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising computer means for providing an ID code to a viewer's display device that is unique to a display of a game on the viewers display device and contains visually encoded elements; and computer means for verifying that an ID code provided by a viewer to claim a prize awarded from an interactive game to a winning viewer corresponds to a copy of the ID code that is unique to the display of the game that was displayed to the winning viewer when the response having a sequence number corresponding to the predetermined sequence number was produced by the winning viewer's display device in the predetermined manner without visual encryption of the ID code.

11. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising computer means for displaying information on a viewer's display device about a prize that have been awarded to a winning viewer.

12. The apparatus of claim 11, further comprising computer means for providing a winning viewer an opportunity to add comments to the displayed information about a prize that has been awarded to the winning viewer.

13. A method of providing repeated viewer-initiated communication with viewers, said viewers having a display device adapted to provide an interactive display of data, said method comprising the steps of: providing at least one game to a plurality of viewers on the viewer's display device, the interactive game having at least one prize; providing viewers a means for producing a response in a predetermined manner from the viewer's display device to the interactive game to attempt to win the viewer a prize from the game; providing a predetermined sequence number for a response produced by a viewer in the predetermined manner from the viewer's display device, the predetermined sequence number representing the position of the viewer's response in the sequence of responses produced by all viewers in the predetermined manner from the viewer's display device, the predetermined sequence number being the sequence number of a response produced by a viewer in the predetermined manner from the viewer's display device that will win a prize from the interactive game; displaying to a viewer a sequence number for each of a plurality of responses produced by the viewer in the predetermined manner from the viewer's display device, the sequence number representing the sequential position of a response produced by the viewer in the sequence of responses produced by all viewers in the predetermined manner; displaying to a viewer the predetermined sequence number that will win the prize; and awarding the prize from the interactive game to a winning viewer who produces the response from the winning viewer's display device in the predetermined manner having a sequence number corresponding to the predetermined sequence number.

14. The method of claim 13, further comprising the step of providing a viewer a player account, the player account having a predetermined number of available free responses so that the viewer can produce the predetermined number of responses from the viewer's display device in the predetermined manner for free.

15. The method of claim 14, wherein at least one viewer is registered and at least one viewer is unregistered, said method further comprising the step of providing the player account of a registered viewer a predetermined bonus number of free responses in addition to the available number of free responses.

16. The method of claim 14, further comprising the step of selectively replenishing a viewer's account with a number of free responses that have been used by the viewer.

17. The method of claim 14, further comprising the step of replenishing in viewers' respective player accounts at midnight of each day a number of free responses that were used by the viewer during the previous day.

18. The method of claim 14, further comprising the step of adding purchased responses to a viewer's player account.

19. The method of claim 14, further comprising the step of adding purchased responses to a viewer's player account using an SMS payment service.

20. The method of claim 13, wherein the display of a game provided to a viewer's display device includes an ID code having visually encrypted elements and the viewer's display device provides copy means for copying visually encrypted elements of the ID code without visual encryption, said method further comprising the steps of displaying visually encrypted elements of the ID code copied by the viewer without visual encryption using the copy means provided by viewer's display device; and verifying that visually encrypted elements of the ID code copied by the viewer without visual encryption are a correct copy of corresponding visually encrypted elements of the ID code before a response is produced in the predetermined manner from the viewer's display device to the interactive game to attempt to win the viewer a prize from the interactive game.

21. The method of claim 13, wherein an ID code provided to the viewer's display device is unique to a display of a game on the viewer's display device, said method further comprising the step of verifying that an ID code provided by a viewer to claim a prize awarded from an interactive game to a winning viewer is the ID code that is unique to the display of the game that was displayed to the winning viewer when the response having a sequence number that corresponds to the predetermined sequence number was produced by the winning viewer's display device in the predetermined manner.

22. The method of claim 13, wherein an ID to a viewer's display device that is unique to a display of a game on the viewer's display device and contains visually encoded elements, said method further comprising the step of verifying that an ID code provided by a viewer to claim a prize awarded from an interactive game to a winning viewer corresponds to the ID code that is unique to the display of the game that was displayed to the winning viewer when the response having a sequence number that corresponds to the predetermined sequence number was produced by the winning viewer's display device in the predetermined manner without visual encryption of the ID code.

23. The method of claim 13 further comprising the step of displaying information on a viewer's display device about a prize that have been awarded to a winning viewer.

24. The method of claim 12 further comprising the step of providing a winning viewer an opportunity to add comments to the displayed information about the prize that has been awarded to the winning viewer.

25. A data communications system, comprising computer means for providing a display of advertising and at least one on-line game to a plurality of viewers on a display device, the on-line game including at least one prize; computer means for providing viewers a means for producing a response in a predetermined manner from the viewer's display device to the on-line game to attempt to win the viewer a prize from the on-line game; computer means for providing a predetermined sequence number for a response produced by a viewer in the predetermined manner from the viewer's display device, the predetermined sequence number being the position of the viewer's response in the sequence of responses produced by all viewers in the predetermined manner from the viewer's display device, the predetermined sequence number being the sequence number of a response produced by a viewer in the predetermined manner from the viewer's display device that will win a prize from the on-line game; computer means for displaying to a viewer the sequence number of each of a plurality of responses produced by the viewer in the predetermined manner from the viewer's display device, the sequence numbers representing the sequential positions of the viewer's responses in the sequence of responses produced by all viewers from the viewer's display device in the predetermined manner; computer means for displaying to a viewer the predetermined sequence number that will win the prize; and computer means for awarding the prize from the on-line game to a winning viewer who produces the response from the winning viewers display device in the predetermined manner having a sequence number corresponding to the predetermined sequence number.

26. A method of providing repeated viewer-initiated responses to advertising displays from viewers having display devices adapted to display an on-line game, said method comprising the steps of: providing a display of advertising and at least one on-line game to a plurality of viewers on a display device, the on-line game including at least one prize; providing viewers a means for producing a response in a predetermined manner from the viewer's display device to the on-line game to attempt to win the viewer a prize from the on-line game; providing a predetermined sequence number for a response produced by a viewer in the predetermined manner from the viewer's display device, the predetermined sequence number being the position of the viewer's response in the sequence of responses produced by all viewers in the predetermined manner from the viewers display device, the predetermined sequence number being the sequence number of a response produced by a viewer in the predetermined manner from the viewer's display device that will win a prize from the on-line game; displaying to a viewer the sequence number of each of a plurality of responses produced by the viewer in the predetermined manner from the viewer's display device, the sequence numbers representing the sequential positions of the viewer's responses in the sequence of responses produced by all viewers from the viewers display device in the predetermined manner; displaying to a viewer the predetermined sequence number that will win the prize; and awarding the prize from the on-line game to a winning viewer who produces the response from the winning viewer's display device in the predetermined manner having a sequence number corresponding to the predetermined sequence number.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to communications between advertisers and consumers. More particularly, the present invention relates to a method and apparatus for increasing the number and persistence of consumer-initiated contacts with advertising displays.

Nothing in the following discussion of the state of the art is to be construed as an admission of prior art.

Lotteries, raffles and sweepstakes are conventionally used for fundraising by charities and political organizations. However, sweepstakes forms that are sent out as bulk mail are also a well-known means by which advertisers encourage consumers to subscribe to magazines, although such mass-mailed sweepstakes forms produce at most a one-time response, and many of the forms are recycled without being used.

Service bureaus that provide display and demographics services for advertisers are also well known. The service bureaus tally users' responses to respective advertising by recording mouse “clicks” initiated by users to obtain further information offered by a particular advertiser at a particular location on a particular webpage. This information is then used to estimate the value of that particular location as an advertising venue, in terms of the “eyeballs” that viewed it, and to evaluate the effectiveness of a display's design, in terms of the rate at which those who viewed an initial display were motivated to “click through” to a further level of information about the item in the initial display. Free on-line services sites, such as YahooSM and RealPlayerSM, that have depended on displays of co-branded advertising rather than on subscription fees for their income are well known. For example, RealPlayerSM provides streaming audio to non-subscribers after it displays a video clip of a sponsor's advertising to those users.

Various prize-awarding websites are also available on-line. However, these operate in a manner that is similar to conventional lotteries, raffles and sweepstakes, or poker games, etc. in that they require users to register and/or pay a subscription fee.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Communications means in accordance with the present invention includes a communication channel that increases persistent, repeated viewer contact with sponsored branded advertising displays. A prize is supplied for each game linked to a games website. The prize is won by a player whose response has a predetermined pre-announced sequence number in the sequence of responses received by the game. The communication channel apparatus is easily built and flexible. The method and apparatus in accordance with the present invention is also easy for the viewer to use because it requires no pre-registration by the user. Furthermore, unlike sweepstakes implemented by mass-mailing, games provided by the channel in accordance with the invention can be queried by the user, as well as being available to receive further user responses, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without restriction.

In accordance with the present invention, a website is displayed on viewers' display devices. The website offers a plurality of prizes to viewers. Preferably each display of the website on a display device includes a statement of a sequence number of the one response among the sequence of responses received by the website in response to one prize in the plurality of prizes offered by the website that will win that one prize. Preferably, when a viewer responds to the offer of a prize, the website displays on the viewer's website display the sequence number of that viewer's response in the sequence of responses received by the website from all display devices in response to that prize.

The display of the games website by display devices provides each display device a predetermined number of opportunities to respond to an offer of at least one prize without charge. Preferably, a limited number of additional opportunities to respond to the offer of that prize can be purchased by the viewer. Preferably, additional opportunities to respond to the offer of that prize and opportunities to respond to other prizes are provided to a display device when the viewer has registered and who supply a registered password to the website when the website is displayed by the display device. Preferably, the display of a prize on a display device includes a statement of the number of responses to that prize are currently available to that display device.

Preferably the number of opportunities to respond to prizes displayed by the website is reset each day by the website. In a particular embodiment, the number of opportunities to respond to prizes displayed by the website is reset at midnight.

Each display of the games website on a display device includes an ID code that is unique to that display of the website by that display device. The unique ID code identifies the device that enters responses. If the winner of a prize did not enter a registered password before entering the winning response, the unique code shown on the display device when the winning response was entered using that device is used by the winner as identification when claiming the prize. Preferably that unique code must be entered on the display device each time the website is displayed and that code is not machine-readable, to assure that a human viewer has responded to the website.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

Other features and advantages of the present invention will be more readily apparent upon reading the following description of currently preferred exemplified embodiments of the invention with reference to the accompanying drawing, in which:

FIG. 1 is a schematic system diagram of communications apparatus in accordance with the invention including an initial games website home page display;

FIG. 2 is a schematic screen diagram of a games website home page display provided by a display device in accordance with the invention after the viewer enters an ID code;

FIG. 2a is a schematic screen diagram of a click-through screen displayed by the display device of FIG. 2 after the viewer correctly copies the unique ID code shown in the visually encrypted image, but not a registered player name and password;

FIG. 2b is a schematic screen diagram of a click-through screen displayed by the display device of FIG. 2 after the viewer correctly copies the ID code shown in the visually encrypted image and logs in using a registered player name and password, or after the viewer selects the Register link on the web site screen display shown in FIG. 2a;

FIG. 3 is a schematic flow diagram of a games website in accordance with a presently preferred embodiment of the invention; and

FIG. 4 is a schematic flow diagram of prize distribution to a winner in accordance with a presently preferred embodiment the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Throughout all the Figures, same or corresponding elements may generally be indicated by same reference numerals. These depicted embodiments are to be understood as illustrative of the invention and not as limiting in any way. It should also be understood that the figures are not necessarily to scale and that the embodiments are sometimes illustrated by graphic symbols, phantom lines, diagrammatic representations and fragmentary views. In certain instances, details which are not necessary for an understanding of the present invention or which render other details difficult to perceive may have been omitted.

In FIG. 1, a games web server 10 is connected to an Internet and SMS-enabled hand-held cellular data communications device 12 through an antenna 14 of a cellular data communications service 16 in accordance with a presently preferred embodiment of the invention. Alternatively, the display device 12 can be a conventional desktop computer that is connected to the Internet in any suitable way, such as by a dial-up, DSL or cable modem.

The games web server 10 supplies the home page screen display of an interactive games web site that provides lifestyle sweepstakes games to the display screen 12a of the display devices 12 using stored games graphics 10a and website operation software 10b. The games web server 10 also uses blog storage 10c to store copies of comments exchanged between registered players through the games web server 10 while they are logged into the games web site, for example comments about game strategies and game prizes. The games blog web page (not shown) on which those comments appear can be implemented in any suitable way that is well-known in the art. However, preferably, the games blog web page can be viewed as read-only text by all display devices, but only registered players who are logged in to the games web site can provide comments that will appear on the games blog web page.

FIG. 2 shows the home page screen display that was shown on the display screen 12a in FIG. 1, except that a viewer has correctly copied an ID code 18 that was visually encrypted, for example, as a CAPTCHA™ (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) image 20. After the viewer supplies a copy 18 of the ID code visually encrypted in that image 20, the next time the viewer presses the <ENTER> key (not shown) on the display device 12, the games web server 10 will verify whether the ID code 18 sent to the games web server 10 by the display device 12 is correct. If the ID code is correct, advertizers are assured that the display device 12 is being operated by a human viewer, a potential customer of the advertizer 12c, rather than a non-human automatic game playing routine.

However, this ID code 18 that is copied by the viewer into the ID code slot from the visually encrypted image 20 is also unique for each instance of the games website's home page 12a that is supplied to a display device 12 by the games website 10, in accordance with the embodiment of FIG. 1. Therefore this ID code 18 that is copied by the viewer from the visually encrypted image 20 can also be used by a viewer to claim a prize that the viewer was won using the particular instance of the games web site that is identified by that particular ID code 18.

The prize 12b that is offered to the winner of the lifestyle sweepstakes “Game of the Day” by a sponsor is displayed on the home page 12a seen in FIGS. 1 and 2 along with the sponsor's advertisement 12c. However on the home page shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, preferably, the “CLICK ME” button 12d that is used by the viewer to play this game is grayed out, indicating that it is inactive. However, the home page display 12a shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 offers the viewer alternate languages 20a for the display graphics 10a and website operation 10b, and also read-only access to community features of the web site: the Blog 20b and a prize winners Hall of Fame 20c that is a portion of the blog storage 10c that is reserved for information provided by the game's prize winners about themselves and their prizes.

The home page also provides general information about the games web site through a Help link 20d, a Games link 20e, Prize Category buttons 20f and a Rules for Winning link 22. The Games link 20e offers the viewer an opportunity to investigate how many types of games are provided by the games website. The viewer can display lists of lifestyle prizes offered to sweepstakes winners in various Prize Categories by clicking on a respective prize category button 20f. The Rules for Winning link 22 provides an explanation of the Available Clicks display 22a and The Winnning Position display 22b that appear on the home page, as well as the My Clicks 22c and My Position 22d displays that appear on the click through screens shown in FIGS. 2a and 2b.

In FIG. 2, the viewer has supplied a name in the Player Name slot 18a. However, if this viewer is not registered, the viewer has no password to supply to the Player Password slot 18b. Therefore, when the viewer presses the <ENTER> key (not shown) on the display device 12, if the ID code 18 is sucessfully validated by the games web server 10, the click-through page shown in FIG. 2a, which again shows the prize 12b offered by the Game of the Day but also an activated CLICK ME! Button 12d that is not grayed out. The click-through page shown in FIG. 2a also includes a Buy Clicks link 20g and a Register link 20h. The Buy Clicks link 20g displays instructions for purchasing additional clicks using the SMS payment Service 30 shown in FIG. 1. The Register link 20h displays a registration form (not shown) that provides this unregistered viewer an opportunity to register to play games for prizes other than that offered by the Game of the Day.

Any viewer who provided a registered Player Name 18a and the valid Player Password 18b for that Player Name 18a on the home page shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, as well as the correct ID code 18, before pressing <ENTER>, is not limited to playing the Game of the Day. Instead, the click through page shown in FIG. 2b is displayed, allowing that registered viewer to immediately play any of the types of games displayed by the Games link 20e and compete for any of the prizes offered in the various Prize Categories 20f.

FIGS. 2a and 2b show the respective click-through page that is shown to the respective viewer after the “CLICK ME” button 12d on that respective click-through page has been actuated once to compete for a prize. In FIG. 2b the viewer first clicked on the “850,000” Categories button 20f on the click-through page shown in FIG. 2b, before clicking the “CLICK ME!” button 12d, so as to select the prize 12b shown by the click-through web page in FIG. 2b that is very different from the Game of the Day prize 12b shown on the home page in FIG. 2. Also, in the example shown in the figures, “20” is the number of Available Clicks 22a shown on the home page, but the registered player receives a bonus of ten additional clicks, receiving a total of thirty free clicks to use on any combination of the games and prizes displayed by the Games link 20e and the Prize Category buttons 20f. Thus, after each viewer actuates the “CLICK ME!” button 12d the first time, the registered viewer has “29” displayed in My Clicks 22c, and the unregistered viewer has “19”. Preferably, the number of free clicks provided to each player is replenished at midnight each day, to provide thirty and twenty free clicks, respectively, for the next day.

In FIG. 2a, the response sent to the games web server 10 by the display device 12 when the CLICK ME! button 12d was clicked by the viewer was the 89,298th response received by the games web server 10 from this or any other display device 12 on which the CLICK ME! button 12d displayed on a click-through web was actuated for the game and prize offered as the Game of the Day. Therefore the “position” of that click was number 89,298, as shown in the My Position display 12c. In FIG. 2b, the response sent to the games web server 10 by the display device 12 when the CLICK ME! button 12d was clicked by the viewer was the 789,456th response received by the games web server.

Preferably, even an unregistered Player Name 18a that is supplied on the home page is used to personalize the click-through web pages that are displayed by the games website, as shown in FIG. 2a. Also, in addition to the Registration link 20h, when an unregistered viewer investigates the other prizes that can be won and the other games that can be played by registered players through the Games link 20e and the Prize Category buttons 20f on this click-through webpage, the web pages displayed may also offer the unregistered player a registration form (not shown).

In both FIGS. 2a and 2b, the web page displayed by the Buy Clicks link 20g instructs the player to send a text message containing a few words that indicate: 1) the SMS payment service 30, 2) the games web site and 3) the ID code 18 of the website instance that is displayed on the viewer's display device 12 in FIG. 2a or the Player Name 18a and Player Password 18b used to click through to the web page shown in FIG. 2b. That Player Name and Player Password may have been supplied by the viewer on the games website home page shown in FIG. 2, or assigned to the viewer after the viewer clicked on the Register link or the Games link 20e or a Prize Category button 20f on the Game of the Day web page shown in FIG. 2a. Because a viewer may register for more than one Player Name and Player Password, additional clicks will not be added to the game the registered viewer is playing unless the viewer's current Player Name and Player Password are sent to the SMS service 30.

If the viewer's display device 12 is not an Internet and SMS enabled cellular data device, as shown in FIG. 1, the text message specified by the Buy Clicks link 20g can be sent using an SMS enabled cellular telephone. The player receives an SMS text message confirming the number of clicks added and the increased number of total available clicks. The new clicks increased number of total available clicks then appears in the My Clicks display 22c. Some alternative Internet or telephone payment method may also be included on the web page displayed by the Buy Clicks link 20g.

The Short Message Service (SMS) communication with an SMS payment service 30 is highly advantageous because it can be completed very quickly and require only a very brief text message. Communication with an SMS payment service 30 is also highly secure because they are carried on the GSM cellular telephone and data networks 14, 14a, which encrypt communications between the SMS payment service 30a and the subscriber's cellular SMS device 12. The SMS payment service 30 then provides a secure connection to the website's payment controller 30a, such as the encrypted VPN channel shown in FIG. 1, and the cost of the added clicks is added to the player's cellular data service bill, or it is deducted in real time from the user's cellular account, if it is a prepaid cellular account.

The options provided to a viewer in the flow chart shown in FIG. 31 once the viewer displays the games website home page, are administered by game operation software 32 through a game controller 32a that provides instructions to the games web server 10 for each instance of the websitel 2a that is provided to a display device 12 shown in FIG. 1. The game controller 32a, under direction of the game operation software 32 obtains and uses information on the players and the prizes needed for each displayed instance 12a of the games website from an email server 32b and local data entry 32c for telephone and postal communications, as well as viewers' responses received by the games web server 10 and input from the SMS payment server 30a. The Registered Profiles 34 include the Player Name 18a and Password 18b for each registered viewer. For each registered Player Name 18a and Password 18b, the Registered Profiles 34 also include the registered viewer's current My Position 22d score for each prize that is still available and their current My Clicks 22c account balance. That account balance is a sum of the number of free available clicks (D) and free bonus clicks (n) remaining for the day, and the remainder of any additional clicks that were purchased using that Player Name 18a and Password 18b. The Prize Files 36 include the advertising 12c and the Winning Position 22b associated with each prize 12b. The prize files 36 preferably also include the winning Player Name 18a and Password 18b for each prize that is won, if any, as well as the ID codes 18 of each response that won those prizes. Information on the instances of the website that are displayed to unregistered viewers—the My Clicks 22c account balance and their current My Position 22d score for each prize—is stored in Temporary Files 38 that are discarded periodically. Thus the My Clicks 22c account balance, which is the sum of remaining Available Clicks 22a and the remainder of any purchased clicks, for an unregistered viewer, may only available while that instance of the web site is displayed by the unregistered viewer's display device screen 12a unless the viewer registers before the player navigates away from the web site, or closes the web browser on the display device 12. However, the ID code 18 associated with the winning response provided by an unregistered viewer is securely stored in the Prize Files 36. Similarly, a record of the current remainder of any clicks purchased using an unregistered viewer's payment account may also be securely stored, by the SMS payment server 30a for example. Preferably, the purchased clicks in the My Clicks account are held in reserve until the available free clicks (D) and bonus free clicks (n), if any, in a viewer's account are first exhausted.

The unique ID code 18 that is copied by the viewer from the visually encrypted image 20 is generated and encrypted within the visually encrypted image 20 by the game operation software in game controller 32a. The ID code 18 encrypted within the visually encrypted image 20 is displayed in one instance of the games web site 12a that the games web server 10 assembles and transmits using the games web site 10a and the web site operation software 10b. Similarly, the other information regarding particular prizes 12b, 12c, 22b and particular players 18, 18a, 18b, 18c, 18d that is used by the games web site 12a is provided by the game controller 32a to the games webserver 10. The games webserver 10 provides information that is peripheral to the game, such as the visible structure of the webpages 10a, under the control of the games webserver 10.

Some of the peripheral information displayed by the web site operation software 10b is selected by the viewer using respective links: the Blog 20b, the Hall of Fame 20c, Help 20d and Language 20a. Other peripheral information is displayed automatically by the web site operation software 10b. For example, the web site's comment 18d in FIG. 2a is made up of standard text from the graphics files 10a and a Player Name 18a that was stored in Temporary files 38 under the respective ID code for the current instance of the web site that is displayed on that viewer's display device screen 12a, because that Player Name 18a was obtained by the games web server 10 from a display device that was not logged in, that is, if the viewer is registered, there is no valid Player Name and Player Password associated with this ID code as yet. The games web server 10 may request the name that was provided by the viewer in the Player Name 18a slot from the game controller 32a to complete a peripheral text display 18d that has been automatically selected by the web site operation software 10b for display on either the unregistered (FIG. 2a) or registered (FIG. 2a) click-through pages.

The procedure for claiming a prize, shown in the FIG. 4 flow chart, permits unregistered winners to register, or to supply shipping instructions to the games web site before exiting the instance of the web site 12a displayed on their display devices 12. Alternatively, unregistered winners can return to the games web site to supply the winning the ID code and the necessary shipping information so that they can receive the prize or to supply the ID code and the necessary shipping information by post or by email. Registered winners don't need to provide any further information, unless they wish to have the prize delivered to some other address. Both registered and unregistered winners are also offered the opportunity to add personal comments to a list of prizes won (not shown) that is displayed by the Hall of Fame link 20c before playing another game.

While the invention has been illustrated and described in connection with currently preferred embodiments shown and described in detail, it is not intended to be limited to the details shown since various modifications and structural changes may be made without departing in any way from the spirit of the present invention. The embodiments were chosen and described in order to best explain the principles of the invention and practical application to thereby enable a person skilled in the art to best utilize the invention and various embodiments with various modifications as are suited to the particular use contemplated. For example, multiple individual displays of an interactive game could be displayed to multiple respective viewers by a single machine, perhaps in a kiosk having multiple display screens. A prize could then be awarded to a viewer by the kiosk without the responses produced by viewers beginning carried over a network to a remote location.

What is claimed as new and desired to be protected by Letters Patent is set forth in the appended claims and includes equivalents of the elements recited therein: