Sony patent aims to put content-interrupting commercials in video games

By on May 25, 2012, 2:30 PM

If you thought randomly-placed in-game advertisements were annoying, you’d better be sitting down for this one. It’s come to light that Sony filed a patent that would implement content-suspending advertisements in video games.

As the patent outlines, players would start playing a game and at some point would be given a warning that a commercial was pending. When it’s time to watch the ad, the game would be paused and the player would have to sit through the commercial. Once it’s done, the game would resume where it was paused or a point slightly before the ad took over.

This could seemingly only work in single-player mode as otherwise, all gamers in a multiplayer session would have to watch a commercial at the same time.

While this is essentially no different than watching a television show that’s constantly interrupted by commercials, the landscape is totally different given the fact that people buy games at upwards of $60 a pop. It’d be no different than if movie studios inserted random commercials in the middle of a Blu-ray film you purchased or if record labels tossed in ads mid-song on a CD or digital content you own.

Television and streaming media sources can get away with this practice because you don’t own the content. When you buy a game, it’s yours. Perhaps the only way this could work without ticking off every gamer on the planet would be to utilize a model similar to free mobile games. If a quality console or PC game was free, then yeah, the ads would be reasonable.

The patent application was originally filed on July 22, 2011 and was published on November 10, 2011. According to Digital Trends, the patent was first spotted by a member of the NeoGAF forum yesterday.

User Comments: 41

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Adhmuz Adhmuz, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Uh, no? No please? No F'ing way? If this is ever implemented in a game that is suppose to be payed for, I'm just not buying it. And if this is the way of the future for gaming, looks like woodworking is a nice hobby. Who in the right mind thought this one up, oh wait, it was Sony...

Ranger1st Ranger1st said:

Death knell of SONY gaming signed and delivered if this goes through. it refreshing to know when the actual end of a corporation comes to hand.. none of this guess and hedging about. I bet they won't launch this tech until AFTER the new PS3 replacement has been on sale for a year or more. Trapped audience with no way out.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

If you want to give us premium games free and throw the occasional ad in, that's fine... But I can guarantee you that I will never pay good money for a game that breaks into the play flow and forces me to watch ads as well. No matter how good or "must have" it is.

If you want to put ads into a game, make them completely unobtrusive and part of the landscape... All of the cans or neon signs in a bar are a specific brand, the billboards in the gaming environment are actual products, televisions/radios in the background play real commercials, etc. Develop THAT into a game, and it won't be an issue. Break the immersion or gameplay for a deodorant commercial, and I'll be forced to kick you in the groin.

davislane1 davislane1 said:

Never before have I seen a company so troubled, so encumbered by it's own poor decisions, so ravaged by technical & PR blunders, engineer its own demise with such conviction and tenacity!

Okay, maybe that was a bit dramatic. But this idea is suicidal unless they are planning to release full-length games for free. The quality of Sony products has been very lackluster over recent years and their management of major services has been equally disappointing. Ordinarily, I would completely dismiss this as a possibility for paid content, but considering that this is the same Sony that killed Other OS on their PS3, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if they actually tried it.

Guest said:

Who's to say that Sony is going to implement this in its $60 console games? This could be a great way to get some extra revenue from users who otherwise wouldn't pay for games. To the extent that we can pay to get rid of the ads, I think this is a great development.

Guest said:

If it was included in a high profile exclusive game the masses will still buy it. They'll cry bloody murder all over the internet and amongst their peers, but they'll still buy it.

Tygerstrike said:


No I dont think what you said was overly dramatic. It is the truth! SONY has been on a downward slide since the earthquake/Tsunami incident. Its gotten to the point where im not even considering the PS4 as even a possible purchase. Sony needs to go back to what made them great. Making great games with a solid system. As it stands PSN is more then a joke now. Most ppl I know refuse to even log on to it due to the hacks. The punchline is that Sony did this all to themselves w/o any help from their competitors. They rode the success of the PS2 and got all high and mighty then thought it would be the same market for the PS3. Maybe they just need a giant dose of reality. No one is going to fall for in game commercials unless its on the TV in GTA5.

MilwaukeeMike said:

Not that it was any great insight... but I called this months ago in a conversation about piracy. We keep stealing, they're going to give it away for free and make up the difference in ads. Blame Angry Birds for giving them the idea. You think game quality sucks now? Wait till they figure out it's more profitable to release 15 small shallow games instead of one big involved one.

Next on the list is facebook. They're going to start throwing more ads at us with the only way out being a small monthly fee.

Qrox Qrox said:

Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Something tells me if they ever implement this into paid games, piracy is going to skyrocket.

Most likely cracks will remove the adds, so just like with DRM, it will be more convenient for pirates to play than it will be for paying customers.

m4a4 m4a4 said:

Never will I willingly buy such a game. I am already ignoring some of the small DRM to play games, but when games go fully to profit over the consumer/gameplay will be the day that I stop buying any games. It will also be the day when gamestop get a lot of money in used game sales as people will stock up on the good games while they can get their hands on them...

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I'm fairly sure this would be something that would pop up in free to play games.

Sony doesn't interrupt its DVDs with commercials, does it? Yeah, its possible that they could charge $60 a game and still make you watch commercials, but come on, lets be realistic about this.

Sony would get crucified for this, you don't need market research for this. Even if they released the game anyway the internets would lambaste it into oblivion.

What I actually see them doing with premium titles is offering you a full price game for, lets say, $60, or free, with in game advertising every 20 minutes, at which point there is a 2 minute commercial. So you have a choice, pay $60 for an uninterrupted experience, or you have three 2 minute breaks every hour. Is that worth $60? Who knows Maybe so...

I wouldn't mind it in games like Civ, but FPS might be a bit annoying. But as long as they don't do it right in the middle of a fight, but instead have ads in between areas on a single level, it might not be that obtrusive. I mean, I'm sure some of us remember frequent loading screens between areas, now they'll have ads in them.

davislane1 davislane1 said:

Wait till they figure out it's more profitable to release 15 small shallow games instead of one big involved one.</p>

<p><br /></p>

<p>Next on the list is facebook. They're going to start throwing more ads at us with the only way out being a small monthly fee.</p>

I thought we were already at that point with game quality?

Your point about Facebook has been on my mind for a while, though. Offering a premium, ad-free version of the site will be an excellent way for them to increase revenue once their user growth really starts to fizzle down. I've already bailed on Facebook for other reasons, but once they populate the site with more ad space it'll be the next logical step. However, I doubt the gaming industry, and Sony in particular, would benefit from such a sceme. The general narcissism of the FB user-base almost guarantees success. But for the game industry and Sony it's much more problematic because the ads would be the absolute bane of most gamers, and you don't entice people to spend money by pissing them off. It would be akin to overlaying ads on photos on FB.

I can't help but feel that this would hurt game sales for developers while increasing expenses for Sony, as they'd likely have to sign far more pricey contracts with developers to secure rights to distribute the games free of charge. It would also eliminate incentive to develop for Sony, shifting focus toward Nintendo & Microsoft. At that point, at least in gaming, Sony is out of the game indefinitely (no pun intended).

Guest said:

So we already have all this cluttered games with tons of logos, impossible to skip movies, stupid accounts to login even if you are in single player, stupid in game purchases and all in that linear cut to cut scene environments... So what more to screw? Well ads! So after I've paid for a system and a game I can see ads? That stupidity blows my mind and I'm considering piracy as a solution...

ikesmasher said:

At some point the video game industry will crash again because of decisions like this. This time, itll be the indie developers that save it, not nintendo.

tonylukac said:

If they put them in all songs would that make up the 99 cents for those stealing songs?

viperfl said:

This has to be the worst idea of the century. Not surprised coming from a company like Sony. Just as bad as Philips getting a patent for not allowing you to skip commercials on your T.V.

Just imagine your playing Battlefield 3, your right in the middle of a battle, and all of a sudden a warning message pops up letting you know of a advertisement pending. After the advertisement is played, your character is dead in the game.

Xclusiveitalian Xclusiveitalian said:

This would literally lead to me not buying or playing games anymore, I actually find it quite funny because I believe gaming would start to die because of this. TV is different, they don't make money off of anything except the commercials, but like the article says, we pay for games. I'm also not paying for a console to play games with commercials on it either, so it is either ALL free or most people simply won't stand for it. You greedy corporations make me laugh, your greed will actually be your downfall.

Guest said:

Do it, Sony. I %&$#ing dare you. Nothing would make the enjoyment of seeing your stock plummet after implementing such an idiotic and infuriating thing so orgasmic.

Guest said:

To all those who own a sony playstation, now is the time to sell it on ebay before the mass of ad spam arrives.

This will also cut the sales growth hopefully on game titles (which sony will blame on piracy of course & then implement more draconian methods to raise income after its massive loss financially last year).

There is no solution to this lamented practice unless ppl just goto another platform and purchase games without this "feature".

Vote with your wallet, and send emails reminding sony that as a consumer you are as important as a share holder, perhaps they might get the point at that stage.

abysal abysal said:

I'm already boycotting Sony products, it's a good trend to follow these days

Lurker101 said:

I'm starting to think Sony has developed a severe allergy to money and success.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I'm wondering if the ads would be real time or if the ads would age with the game. I'm also wondering what the ads would be. Would the ads be game related or not? The same ad over and over would drive me nuts. Random ads that stay with the current times and related to games in a free-to-play game would not be so bad.

Jibberish18 said:

I would totally lose my shit if they ever tried to do this. Honestly to say that this idea is horrible, thoughtless, dangerous and goddamn stupid is just the tip of the iceberg.

TekGun TekGun said:

That's okay, I stopped buying Sony products years ago.

Guest said:

I'd like to see them try this inane idea in their movies.

They'd go bankrupt.

Ahmed90 Ahmed90 said:

lol sony strikes again!

Guest said:

Jeeves, sony really need to fire up the guy behind these stupidities,,, sony is going down soh fast noone will save then!

Guest said:

I've stopped buying anything Sony years ago (beside the PS3). But seriously, this company is digging its grave; first the price fixing and now this ? LOL@Sony ! Quite the panic mode eh !

Renrew Renrew said:

I don't see why everyones knickers are in such a bunch over this.

You're watching commercials on paid cable every minute of every day.

You buy a ticket to a sporting event and are treated to commercials everywhere you look including the name of the stadium.

You purchase an airplane ticket and are charged for every convenience that used to be included, plus the increase in jet fuel and soon the use of the bathroom.

Ya almost ruined Netflix when U failed to toe the line, maybe you should continue to vote with your wallet

Quit yer bitchin' and open your wallet and assume the bent over position. It's the way of the world.


<p>I don't see why everyones knickers are in such a bunch over this.</p>

<p> </p>

<p> You're watching commercials on paid cable every minute of every day. </p>

<p> </p>

<p> You buy a ticket to a sporting event and are treated to commercials everywhere you look including the name of the stadium.</p>

<p> </p>

<p> You purchase an airplane ticket and are charged for every convenience that used to be included, plus the increase in jet fuel and soon the use of the bathroom.</p>

<p> </p>

<p> Ya almost ruined Netflix when U failed to toe the line, maybe you should continue to vote with your wallet</p>

<p> </p>

<p> Quit yer bitchin' and open your wallet and assume the bent over position. It's the way of the world.</p>

I gave up tv 3 yrs ago

I hate Commercials to many of them..

netflix is the way now.. no commercials.... yet ...

netflix adds commercials.. I will stop netflixing...

I mean I do whatch commercials with the mute button....

the new dish DVR bleeps out the commercials automatically

Thats next

killeriii said:

Aren't TV commercials prior art?

Does the USPTO even care anymore? Seems all they see is $$$.

Guest said:

Only free to play games should even be considered for ad placement. When you buy a dvd or bluray one of the glorious extras is the lack of advertising so you can watch the entire movie or tv episode without break. Why should video games be any different?

Rasta211 said:

"We're sorry, your game can not continue due to a commercial load error

Please contact Sony for further support or try again."

Gars Gars said:

So, instead pirated versions of the games, we will see some kind of "NoScript" apps that blocks the ad's?

anyway, this is stupid

Guest said:

I play your games because they expand my life, not your affiliates.

I suggest everyone take a deep breath and detach their rabid desire for entertainment, just so much that we can act with prudence when deciding if someone who sells something with forced ads is someone we really want to show support for.

wiyosaya said:

Howard Stringer to the new guy in charge of Sony:

We're losing money. It must be because our products are not being advertised, after all, all our products are the greatest thing since sliced bread. I know, we'll advertised in video games. That will fix our bottom mine. Make it so, New Guy.

Yet another stupid move from a stupid company. My bet is this has the opposite of the desired effect.

Guest said:

If it means games are free, or more like how TV is paid for (single licence) I'd be more than happy to be interrupted by comercials every now and then, would remind me to strech my legs, go get a drink, and not turn into a mindless gaming machine for 9 odd hours every weekend. ^^

cookiedude cookiedude said:

I think people are taking quite an anti-sony line on this unnecessarily. All they have done is have a patent approved for such a mechanism in-game, they haven't said they're going to implement it. I think it will prove far more lucrative for them when others now have to start licensing the use of the patent from them. From this point of view it could be a very shrewd move from Sony... but if they choose to use this in their own premium, pay upfront games then they will indeed have shot themselves in the foot once again! I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the former

Guest said:

Please Sega, come back and save us all!

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