Sony patent could see games interrupted by compulsory ads


May 30, 2012

Sony Computer Entertainment America has filed a patent that could see video games interrupted by compulsory advertising

Sony Computer Entertainment America has filed a patent that could see video games interrupted by compulsory advertising

Sony Computer Entertainment America has filed a patent that could see video games interrupted by compulsory advertising. The patent's abstract describes the suspension of "interactive content" in order to display an advertisement, after which interaction resumes.

The patent suggests that a new mode of in-game advertising is under consideration, which to date has seen visual advertising and product placement appearing in games without overtly interfering with play. The development hints that, in future, in-game advertising may adopt a model much closer to commercial television.

The patent, filed July and granted November of last year, goes into more detail about how this would affect the user experience. The filing suggests that gamers could be warned of an impending advertisement by a warning message, or by slowing down gameplay. The filing also suggests that game content could effectively be rewound at or prior to the end of the ad, presumably in an attempt to ready up the player in case the gameplay broke off at a critical point.

Online multiplayer games are specifically mentioned, confirming that Sony is at least considering the approach to both online and offline games. During online games, the patent has clauses for the display of the same advertisement to all users simultaneously, and different adverts for one or more players.

In addition to the "video game consoles" mentioned in the patent, it is also applicable to computers, TVs, DVD and DVR players as well as home media servers.

Though the patent exists it is impossible to say how widely this mode of advertising is likely to be applied.

Source: US Patent & Trademark Office, via Digital Spy

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life. All articles by James Holloway

This is the worst idea I have heard of lately, as a gamer if this were to take off I would boycott the game!

Is there no sanctuary left where we are free from blatant advertising.

Advertise somewhere else, do not interrupt any games!!


Michael Simpson

If this really goes though, I would stop buying and playing games. It's not worth playing a game if you will end up watching more advertisements, than actual play. People spend too much money on a game to sit and watch advertisements.

I gotta say that is the stupidest idea ever.

If this goes through I'm more than happy to switch over to another console just to get rid of the advertisements.


Totally agree with Simpson. If this were to actually happen I think I'd just stop playing games all together.

Probably work in my favour as I'd get off my ass more often. lol

Mike Daniels

If I have to watch a commercial during an online game that I am paying for you can forget it. I will stop buying.


If this starts becoming common in new games, expect the industry to die as old (non-advertising) games see a surge in popularity. Showing an ad during a loading screen MAY BE acceptable, but any interference with actual gameplay is sheer lunacy.


Although I am not really for it, I'm sure this is more for Free-to-play games then for paid ones. This has already been implemented on some PC game services before (which makes this patent some strange), and the games were free as long as you watched the ads.

Shawn Sieben

There is no end to industry evils, invasive drm, online activation, content management, endless issues of beta software. Forgotten is the concept that a product must be fit for purpose and when it is sold - not rented - then rights are transferred to the new owner.

When you buy your DVD/CD it is therefore a finished product which a should not require a third party app such as steam to function, you should not have to create an account with that 3rd party to get your software to function, and that third partys software should not stop your product from running; if there is bundled more than 1 ELUA's which even the best legal professionals have trouble with they should be invalidated because your contract was with the seller.

For instance many packages require flash, however you do not have to create an account with adobe to use your packages, gamespy arcade is bundled with games to stop online fraud and cheating but can not be installed and the game will still function offline.


Will the volume be louder during the adverts just like on TV? Will there eventually be more adverts than game? How about the little spinning black and white box in the top corner that lets you know you are about to be interrupted so you can wait before making a risky move or land safely etc?

Presumably this will need a connection to the internet to keep the Adverts contemporary and enable billing/tracking so surely, pulling out the network cable would stick a fork in this idea... but then you won't be able to play online games, or games that require online verification/licensing.

If this EVER gets introduced into games it will only be good for indie developers. No advertising there.


The only way I can see this being accepted is if they use paid advertisements instead of a loading screen. When the game shows you a meaningless screenshot of an obscure scene on the map and a loading bar is at the bottom. I could do without that screen shot and would be okay with an advertisement there (or in the lobby of COD/BF3 while waiting for server changes and new people to enter the room). Both of those are wasted time where the developer isn't giving you any new information and the audience is semi captive. Win Win for both if they'll drop the price of subscriptions or games based on whether or not you "opt-in" for the advertisement.


Wow. That will kill the gaming industry. Not only do they charge $40-60 per game, but I have to watch commercials. NOT HAPPENING. First time that happens will be the last game I buy from that company.


Not on my games! I'd be giving both the game and the advertisers products the boot to file 13!

Max Kennedy

It might give overly dedicated gamers a chance to run for the toilet or fridge. But still an extremely bad idea. Short term profit but a long term loss; I wouldn't buy a game with a chance of it being polluted with this.


Instead of that why don't they have companies pay for product placement, or signs in the background. If the race car has pepsi on the side of it because pepsi paid for the advertising I don't see a problem with that. Of if there is a pepsi on a table that a character walks past for example.


Just integrate the ad or product within the game, do it creatively and everybody wins.


I have been considering a PS3, but I will now wait to see if this happens. If it actually does, I can guarantee that I will not be purchasing a PS3 or any more Sony products at all. I don't think I'd be alone in that choice either.

Sony, please reconsider your stance on this. I've loved your consoles for as long as I can remember, with how reliably they played and the game content available, and this would absolutely ruin it for myself and a lot of others.

Bertny Walker

Absolutely not! Commercials are intruding into everything. I willnot put up with them in a game. If it happens, I destroy the game and the console!

Jon Kunatz

Dear Sony, you might be possibly ruining video games forever. I will boycott you like I boycotted EA.

Sonny Wojcik

I have been a long time fan of Sony; but in all honesty, if this is TRULY implemented, I will be forced to stop buying Sony products. It is ridiculous that we will pay that much money for the system, for the games for the accessories, if the option exists, and that your company would blindly believe that we: The Consumer will just accept. This is not television, where the relatively low rates are brought about because of the commercial breaks.

Unless of course, your telling me that the prices of ALL your products are going to be significantly cut down because of this deal? In these times, where the companies seem intent on making as much money in the TODAY and not investing in their reputation for TOMORROW, I very highly doubt it.

Alishia Handford

This had better be part of a strategy to market freeware games, because if sony thinks I'm gonna pay 60-70$ for adware, they're on some pretty good drugs.

Ron Leger

I would not mind advertising during loading screens. Seriously just a splash during loading would be fine. But stopping me to see a commercial before a boss fight, Big no no.

Marcelo Abans

As well as being a PITA idea, just how the hell is this patentable?

It's just what has been happening for decades on TV, and radio before that. Apparently if you invent the wheel, but do it on a computer then it's a completely new idea.


Don't people pay money to buy Playstation games, etc? Why should people pay to see ads?

Ads.... makes sense for free online games. Paid games? No way.

Facebook User

I thought they wanted to bring piracy down.. How can they think that crap won't increase it? IMO it'll just drive everyone to do it eventually, just so they can get a version that doesn't have that garbage, and people /will/ find ways to remove it.

and it applies to computers? what the hell is wrong with that company.

@Slowburn The point being that, they think that hasn't been effective. And games like need for speed: underground 2 had those types of ads, like I saw t-mobile on a billboard in the game. Which I was fine with, because it kind of adds to the world, makes it seem more realistic I guess. But having a tv-like ad popup is just stupid.

Brock Wendt

Will the NPC's in the game stop killing you during the ad? Probably not. I get seriously annoyed by disconnect deaths caused by the internet, I can't begin to describe how I might feel towards a product that's ad kills me.

Lets see. - I pay for the product - I pay for monthly sub - I pay for internet connection

These parasites want to use all this to show me SPAM! And it is unsolicited. FTA TV ads are not equivalent.

Mike Smith

Great idea! Truly excellent, and we can't wait to see it implemented in all the Playstation games.

Sincerely, XBox Marketing Team


This headline should read "SONY patent could see Playstation sales plummet to all time lows" This idea is beyond stupid.

Robert Smithers

Maybe, just maybe, Sony is trying to stop a flood of advertising in video games. By owning the patents and never using it they control it so we the consumer never see ads. I'm not a Sony fanboy, Xbox fan myself, but maybe they have good intensions with the patent.

Jason Hiser

Having played a lot of SoE games and dealt with Sony as a company , I can say , if they're patenting this, they either intend to use it or intend to make other companies pay to use the idea, it's not to stop others using it.

Paul Baker

A poorly planned idea, and will probably be just as poorly executed if it were to go ahead. if I were to pay $80 or $100 for a game, I would expect to pay for the game, not advertising. Free stuff I think is acceptable to put advertising into, but not legit paid-for items. I wouldn't want to pay for advertising. When I was a kid, my dad had pay-tv because he believed you were paying for the privilege of not having advertising in your programs. He got rid of the pay-tv service when advertising appeared, believing the pay-tv network was double dipping from subscribers and companies for its funding.

Muzza P

It's the ultimate case of don't hate the game, hate the hardware vendor.

If my games get interrupted by ads, I will still buy the game, but I will make it my mission in life to boycott ANY product accosting me in this way.

And I'd advise everyone I know to do the same. ONLY if sales actually drop because of in-game ads will we not be subjected to such a terrible plan.

Well, until the first cracks come, anyway :-) HUGE boost for pirated software, yo!

Joe Botha

Picture this... you're about to take the last turn in Gran Turismo. You're currently second place and you're catching up and you KNOW you COULD win this 2 hour long endurance race by taking the last turn perfectly, you see the warning in the corner that an ad is going to show...What happens then:

A. You're distracted and crash, missing the turn. B. You execute the best overtaking move in your gaming history, ad loads and ends, you're taken a few frames back and have to TRY and repeat this.

With racing Simulators like GT, it's IMPORTANT to have "your eye in". You need be focused. Once an ad intrudes, tough, your focus is gone.

I'm sorry, the idea of in game advertising is retarded. Serious gamers (The ones that FILL your pockets) will be forced elsewhere.

Damien Samuels

Jason Hiser, I disagree. They don't have good intentions. They simply want to make some extra money out of their system. They did it again with the ps2 emulator they patented two-three y. ago. They'll use it to bring free games to the console, I'm sure. Games like Angry Birds. And this is best case scenario. Worst case scenario, imo? This will give them leverage over publishers. Meaning even more pressure for the developers. Result will be unfinished and costly games. Publishers will be more keen apologising for the missing adds rather than 7-month old betas (see BF3).

Nitrozzy Seven

I am not a avid games player but I think this is absolutely LAME. Pushing advertisements to a purchased game is not going to be well received. I believe it infringes on the rights of the gamer which will and should be fiercely opposed by the larger gaming community.

Ben Lombard

@Brok Wendt: Totally agree with you. why to pay for a game from Sony, to see the ads, better get a pirate copy, and play it on a pirate server. Everything solved! Smart people do stupid things! Why they don't put armors with a brand name on it, or weapons with brand tags, etc etc! You can go how big you want if you do it smart!

Marius Gruita

Sigh.. Video game companies and console manufactures still wonder why piracy is a problem for them?. It seems like every time I go online in the money these companies are coming up with newer and better ways to irritate their customers. I will bet my last dollar that if Sony actually goes through with this the pirated versions of the same game won't have commercials in them.

It might take time to crack such a system as Sony is proposing, but it is always eventually done.

Graham Johnson

Sony should stop wondering as to why Samsung has overtaken them. They probably hired someone from the airline Industry to come up with this ridiculous idea. It must have come from their innovation "deep dive" sessions where obviously someone had the bends.


Another win by the RIAA and MPAA Moguls.

R Ohge

As if advertisers didn't have enough way to market to you when you play. Almost any NON fantasy game can have ads in it. Those clever, yes obviously massive walls that will say "Coca Cola". Maybe a few notes "Brought to you by Coca Cola, __ and "

Micah Houchin

Bad idea. Also would be a bad patent, where is any kind of innovation?

I mean how hard is it to see ANY screen, and have the 'idea': "gee, i could put commercials there"?


Well there is only one way to answer that. Buy anything but Sony. Money and quarterly losses are the only thing that get thru tothese "captains" of industry. Hit them in the most tender part of their bodies...... Their money bags

Frey Talavera

I will never, ever pay for equipment or games that force me to stop any interaction with the computer or play station to see an ad... I hope they are planning on giving these away to people...

Alfredo Balmaseda

Dear Sony, WAY TO KILL YOUR GOLD EGG LAYING GOOSE, IDIOTS. You thieves got paid when your game was purchased, now you expect people to pay to be annoyed by advertising, some business plan, jerks. I don't own any games, I won't be buying any. BUT COUNT ON THIS. I WILL NEVER BUY ANY SONY PRODUCT AGAIN. I have had fairly miserable experience with every SONY PRODUCT I have bought to date anyway. Samsung here I come.

Dave B13

Though I agree that Sony's intentions are not likely pure, this could still be great - any mobile game developer will now have to use ads that don't interrupt game play or pay Sony. Since mobile games have been getting steadily more aggressive about this (I honestly think Facebook or pop-cap games should challenge this patent based on the number of games that interrupt and offer a prize if you "post to Facebook", which is essentially the same technology), I'll be glad to see game makers think twice. Sure, it could reduce Sony sales, but since the MS or Samsung have duplicates of virtually every Sony product except the Vita, and since game makers aren't going to pay for a revenue model that is unlikely to make much difference in their marginal profit (otherwise Hulu would have already replaced TV), I think it's safe to say that, while we may see plenty of product placement in the future, this patent is likely to put a damper on game pausing ads, even if that isn't Sony's intent.

Charles Bosse

Well said wombat! This patenting of common sense obvious ideas is absurd, disgusting and stifles true innovation. The little guy can't afford to create things anymore without getting crushed by the lawyers of the big sharks. Almost everything has been patented in the last 15 years pertaining to displaying things on video screens. Look up those companies Paul Allen bought to use as patent ammo. Things like "displaying multiple pieces of related information laid out on a screen" were actually patented by a bunch of university researchers in 1998.

David Storfer

And Sony prepares to shoot itself in the foot yet again. I can understand the draw of getting more revenue through advertising in games, but this is just a REALLY bad idea. Not only does it disrupt the gameplay experience (which, is the whole point of playing a video game) but it interrupts the concentration needed to perform well in the game, which degrades the experience. Hopefully, other game companies like Microsoft don't follow this; I can see this having a significantly negative effect on Sony's customer base, something they really can't afford.

Andrew Christianson

i dont mind having ads placed around the gaming enviroment but to actually interupt your game to throw an ad in there is a platform killer if not a company killer, sony will be gone withing 3 years of bringing it in i guarantee, its ppl power that drives the internet and gaming world and watch them run away from sony like the plague ,smarten up sony!!!!

Shane Hudson

Sony is trying to kill off there gaming department, the person who thought of this should be fired! This would be like buying a blue-ray and having to watch commercials every now and then like on TV. Frack That! :( P.S. I hope there patent is denied on moral grounds.

Billy Brooks

Relax people, most patents are merely lodged to stop their competitors from doing the same thing. Just because Sony has applied for and been granted this patent does not mean that they ever intend on using it. Most companies have hundreds or even thousands of unused patents.


Totally agree with the people who think this is bad idea.....There are far too many instances where a consumer pays for a service and is innudated with ads (Cinema movies,etc)..

Robert Griffith

Lou, I know you are right about unused patents but this one is beyond scary.

Did you notice, "In addition to the "video game consoles" mentioned in the patent, it is also applicable to computers, TVs, DVD and DVR players as well as home media servers." This means it would be BUILT INTO new computers, televisions, dvd and dvr players, as well as actual disk drives and or drive cabinets. Not only would you get the commercials from the broadcasters for televisions you would get commercials from the manufacturers.

It will not only kill the gaming industry, it will likely kill future sales of computers, televisions, cds, dvds, dvd and dvr players, hard drives, ... This is quite probably in the top 10 worst ideas ever from a business point of view.

I can guarantee I will stop my Netflix subscription if my movies are interrupted by commercials.

I can guarantee I will check every dvd I am considering buying to make sure it is not interrupted by commercials.

I can guarantee if I will check every game to verify it is not interrupted by commercials.

I can guarantee I will not allow anymore updates to the firmware in my television. (Yes, they have computers inside and are remotely reprogrammed now, if you have not bought a recent television).

They cannot just rewind. Many of their games are multiuser across the internet. That means every player would have to be paused at once. And restarted at once. And with the players all ready to restart at once. The only choice they would have is to declare all creatures in an area dead and the party the victor regardless of how the battles go. Rewinding a hard battle that is being won may easily result in a loss just because of random rolls allowing for critical hits that now become misses or regular hits. If they do this they "Sony" should have to pay for equipment that is purchased with real money that becomes destroyed thanks to their little scheme.

This should only be allowed, if allowed at all, on f2p games/accounts that run in single player mode only. I mostly play fantasy games where you have a party of up to 6 where each person serves a roll. Even lag can kill a party because someone stops for a few seconds. A 15 second commercial will be devastating to play, and that is assuming it is only 15 seconds not 60-90 seconds and only a single commercial, not the first of a string. I can guarantee people if they do this to f2p accounts in multi-user games, the people that are p2p will stop allowing f2p players in their groups.

As to the televisions et al., I think we should go back to the pre-digital systems and just watch across the air. At least those broadcasters have a legitimate reason for including commercials.


This is a huge mistake for Sony,however there is one good thing to come out of it, as there's a patent xbox shouldn't be ruined by it :D


we should boycott Sony just for applying for the would send the right message to the rest.


After my initial anger, I am thinking this patent could actually be a good thing depending on Sony's intentions.

If they plan to use the patent, well that is horrible, and will at least kill Sony if not a lot of the electronics industry. I can really see the scramble for old computers, monitors, televisions and even games.

If they do not plan to use the patent, it would prevent others from being able to make consoles, games, televisions, ... that would have this ability built into them. That would actually protect consumers. Although Sony would never be able to be heralded as a hero because no one would ever know that they actually prevented something, it would still be a good thing and worthy of supporting Sony in the future not boycotting them.


I would stop playing games, and would not support sony ever again i would boycott all their products too !.

Robert Madsen

In game advertising has been around for years except it wasn't like stupid tv ads where you get stopped until the ad finishes

Some car racing game had billboards that you race past that updated off an ad server.

Games could quite easily support integrated ads that don't affect gameplay, posters on walls in 3d shooters. billboards in racing games, video ads playing in game tv sets right through to in game product placements AKA coke instead of Nuka Cola.

This way ads would have a greater effect than simply pissing off the players

Bruce Watkins

Really? You need a patent on the idea of interrupting entertainment for a commercial?

William Mosby
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