The story in short:
- Sony have filed a patent for a gambling platform, allowing users to bet through their console
- The platform would allow for both monetary and in-game currencies
- Sony could roll the service out to other publishers, like Nintendo
- Machine-learning could help with creating betting odds for specific game events
A 2019 patent filing by Sony Entertainment has been published this week, confirming that the company was and potentially still is planning for a move into some form of gambling on gaming or esports. With the company having recently acquired the Evolution Fighting Game Championships, speculation that Sony is looking to deepen its connection to competitive gaming is growing.
The wording of the patent filing is sufficiently vague, as is often the case, but it appears as though the idea is for a platform to allow users to bet on games through their console, using a variety of different currencies or even in-game items as state. Sony would not be the first publisher to do this, with Valve having led the way, but as Playstation owners, Sony would have a considerable amount more control of the entire ecosystem.
What does Sony's gambling patent suggest?
What’s more, the patent seems to suggest Sony could roll the service out to other publishers and gamers, with one part stating that "The client components may include one or more computing devices including game consoles such as Sony PlayStation® or a game console made by Microsoft or Nintendo". This would be very interesting, as Nintendo in particular is opposed not just to esports, but all forms of gambling.
With that being said, Sony is also from the same part of the world, and the wording in the patent doesn’t appear to be for a traditional esports betting platform. There is mention of parimutuel betting, as well as a distinction between wagers made using FIAT vs gambling using in-game assets, which is a route Valve has already gone down with some degree of success.
Wagers may be pecuniary, like money or bitcoin, or non-pecuniary, like game assets, digital rights, and virtual currency. When wagers are pecuniary, the odds offered may account for government take out, e.g., if the calculated odds are 5-1, the offered odds may be reduced to 4-1 to allow for some wagering assets to remain after payouts for the purpose of paying government take-out. Wagering assets may be tied to a spectator's electronic wallet.
Issues with peer-to-peer betting
The existence of peer-to-peer betting does potentially allow for abuses in the system, and would require far stricter user verification that is currently the case, which in itself creates many issues for publishers and developers. This is before you get to the complications of different regulations from region to region and the legal issues that can throw up.
With all that included in the filing, there is a lot to speculate on, but the complications of offering betting with in-game items have only increased since 2019 with the addition of new rules and regulations around trading virtual items. Perhaps the most interesting aspect for the future-heads is the mention of betting created using machine learning, with information scraped straight from videos being used to create odds.
Proposition bets also may be defined to be offered by a machine learning algorithm accessing past wagering simulations to identify what types of proposition bets were the most popular in the past. For example, a video may be searched to identify where in the video a virtual grenade has the possibility of killing one, two, or three characters. The statistics of the player are accessed and then proposition bets with respective odds offered for whether the player kills all three characters with one grenade or not.
We’ll follow up on the story with more detail as soon as possible, but one insider, who wished to remain unnamed, described it as "the next generation of gambling platforms", and saying they could see why it was patented for how innovative and interesting the tech is. How Sony follow up on the filing remains to be seen, but it could represent a huge leap in the way companies monetise users online, and bettors are able to