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U.S. Patent No. 7,682,251: Multilevel online tournament
Issued March 23, 2010, to Microsoft


Summary:

The ‘251 patent provides for a way to set up online tournaments in video games. The tournament is set up as a bracket (think March Madness-style) where the winners advance to play other winners. The system allows for players to join the tournament at any moment until the first game has started. Once the first round has begun, players are prevented from joining the game until the next tournament is established. Matched players may play their game any time they desire as long as their opponent is online and ready to compete. This system allows players to play their opponents as soon as both players have advanced to the next round. By giving players the freedom to play (and not having set match times), players can come and go as they please and set the game time for convenient moments. The invention here seems like it could be an enjoyable way to play tournaments. After all, who doesn’t love a good playoff (NCAA football committee excluded)?

Abstract:

A multilevel online tournament is provided. The first tournament round has a single bracket and each subsequent tournament round has a winners bracket and a losers bracket corresponding to a bracket in the previous tournament round. The tournament format allows players to match-up against any other player located within the same bracket. The online tournament format also allows participants to start playing match in a round of the tournament prior to the official start of that round. Thus, players are able to more quickly advance through the tournament and spend less time waiting for a suitable opponent. The tournament format also allows for players to request available tournament byes and to automatically progress when they are unable to connect with other players due to quality of service issues.

Illustrative Claim:

1. One or more computer readable storage media storing computer readable instructions that, when executed, perform a method for progressing a plurality of participants through an online tournament when the plurality of participants cannot complete a match in a current tournament round, said method comprising: determining a number of slots N available in a next round winners bracket; assigning N participants to the winners bracket according to a trust rating; and assigning remaining participants to a next round losers bracket.

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