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U.S. Patent Number 6,669,564: Episodic Delivery of Content
Issued December 30, 2003, to Electronic Arts, Inc.

Summary:
Electronic Arts has developed a way to negate the effects of technology advancing faster that software can be developed--a mechanism to provide episodic delivery of entertainment content to a user. EA apparently uses some sort of application module with episodic content technology (e.g., sold at stores, over the Internet, etc.). The application module contains an initial episode of the game and a technology shell to allow future episodes to be downloaded over the Internet and executed. As new technology is developed, the new technology can be incorporated into the technology shell, independent of the content development. While the patent describes a lot of these features, the (single) claim is a little elusive. It's interesting, though, that with Xbox Live we are seeing more games providing episodic content delivery after the game's initial launch.

Exemplary claim:
1. A method of providing an Internet-enabled game, the method comprising:
  • receiving information regarding a user's current state in the game;
  • responsive to the current state, enabling episodic content to be accessed by the user;
  • receiving a search request from the user; and
  • responsive to the current state of the user in the game, transmitting game-generated search results to the user.

What does this claim cover? We're not sure either. But when we figure it out, we'll let you know. To help out, however, we're posting some dependent claims as well, as they are somewhat informative...

2. The method of claim 1 wherein the search results are game-related responsive to the search request being game-related and the current state of the user indicating that the user is permitted to receive game-related search results.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein the current state information comprises a user action.

6. The method of claim 5 wherein the user action is calling a predefined telephone number.

7. The method of claim 5 wherein the user action is accessing a predetermined web site.

8. The method of claim 5 wherein the user action is requesting a specific search term.

9. The method of claim 1, wherein episodic content is stored within a third-party website that is content-related to the storyline, and the users are directed to the web-site to discover the episodic content.

10. The method of claim 9 wherein episodic content is placed on a third party web site for compensation related to user traffic to the web site related to users searching for the episodic content.

11. The method of claim 1, wherein an episode is made available responsive to determining whether the user has submitted payment, for the episode.
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