Nintendo applies for 'massively single-player' patent, mentions Wii 3D

Hardware maker lays claim to idea of a virtual world devoid of direct player interaction, suggests implementation on "Wii 3D video game console."


When it comes to online gaming, Nintendo has always insisted it would not follow the competition but would rather wait to pursue things in its distinctive Nintendo way. In a US patent application filed in early 2010 and published last week, Nintendo is claiming dibs on the idea of a "Massively Single-Playing Online Game."

The patent doesn't mention specific titles, but the treatment is reminiscent of Animal Crossing.
The patent doesn't mention specific titles, but the treatment is reminiscent of Animal Crossing.

The patent gives a few examples of how such an idea could be implemented, starting with a single-player game in which the player's actions impact the characters and environment of other players enjoying the same single-player game. As the filing suggests, that would offer players some of the benefits of a traditional online world without a potential drawback inherent to massively multiplayer online games.

According to the patent application, "Those who want to play games that are more dynamic, not-based on Al and not-pre-scripted like multiplayer games, however, don't want to 'deal' with other people, appreciate the privacy it provides."

Nintendo offered more specific examples of the patent being put into use, such as a game with an economy affected by player demand for (and scarcity of) items. The company pointed to a purse in a fashion-centric game as one implementation of that, or perhaps oil in a global commodities trading game.

Another example given had one player spotting a pile of building materials in a virtual world and making a house out of it. Since the world is the same, the next player to happen along finds not a heap of lumber and tools, but a finished house (with the builder nowhere to be seen). Additionally, Nintendo's filing suggested that one player could gossip to a non-player character in the world, who would then pass it along to other players.

The application also covers one tweak to make the gameworld more traditionally multiplayer. If players have "friended" one another, they would be able to see each other and interact in the same environment.

The filing includes more eyebrow-raising information beyond the "massively single-player" concept. Specifically, it refers to an implementation of the idea on "a home video game system such as the Nintendo Wii 3D video game system, a Nintendo DS or other 3D capable interactive computer graphics display systems." While Nintendo has highly touted 3D in its 3DS handheld, the company publicly backed away from the idea of a 3D-capable successor to the Wii earlier this year, suggesting that the glasses currently required by 3D TVs would be a deal breaker for consumers.

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