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New Sony Patent Could Change Esports Forever

Sony just filed a patent that could change the ways players interact in online gaming. Filed October 19, the patent proposed "a method for displaying a video game to spectators [that] includes receiving votes from spectators to remove a player from a video game." In other words, viewers would be able to watch an esports game and vote for players to be temporarily benched, or perhaps removed entirely from the match. The patent noted that there could be "visual cues" to indicate that a player had been removed from the game and to explain why that player was booted.

The patent explored many different avenues a viewer could hypothetically evict a player from an online game, indicating that Sony likely hasn't settled on the fine details of how such a system would work and wanted to cover all of its options. Some of the various methods outlined in the patent involved spectators voting to remove a certain player, with a 60% majority needed to take action. Other methods proposed attributing more voting power to viewers who had extensive experience in a certain game. For example, someone who had achieved certain ranks in a game would have a vote that weighed a bit more than someone who had never picked up a controller. The vote would still, in that scenario, need to reach a 60% majority to kick someone out. That being said, one option in particular had fans concerned about the future of spectator involvement in esports.

Pay to not play

One proposed method for getting rid of players saw Sony suggest that viewers be able to pay for the privilege of kicking someone out of a game. The patent described a hypothetical system that "enables a plurality of spectators to pay a part of a fixed price to have a player removed from playing the video game." Paying to kick someone out of a game may be a reality in the near future if Sony settles on that method of voting.

Many games have microtransactions that they should, frankly, be ashamed of offering, but that hasn't stopped titles from offering paid advantages like loot boxes. Despite many gamers' dislike of paid advantages, developers like EA continue to make absurd amounts of money off of microtransactions. Sony's decision to open the door for potential profits in its patent makes sense, but that doesn't mean players feel at ease about it.

One gamer commented on a Reddit thread about the patent that "this may end up crossing the line into 'monetizing cyber-bullying' territory. Also the game would have to be super addictive/massive amounts of sunk cost fallacy, in order for players to put up with a game feature like this." It's unclear when — or if — Sony will implement the proposed feature.