This past March, Google made headlines around its new cloud-based, gaming platform, Stadia. The subscription streaming service (think Netflix for video games), will be accessible on PC’s, phones, tablets, and TV’s, eliminating the need for gamers to purchase yet another device or console. Plus, streaming games eliminates the need to download or purchase new titles — all updates occur in the cloud, and users simply play the latest versions on demand.
Of course, the other big gaming companies are also working on streaming platforms of their own.
Microsoft has Project xCloud and is preparing for a public test of the service as early as October, 2019. Sony’s Playstation Now platform remains a work in progress — in May of this year, Sony inked a partnership with Microsoft to collaborate on developing a cloud-based gaming platform. And Nintendo has its eye on cloud gaming as well.
Amazon has also amassed all of the parts to release its own cloud gaming platform including the infrastructure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), as well as Twitch, Amazon Game Studios, and Lumberyard, their own game engine that integrates with AWS and Twitch.
It’s no coincidence that the timing of these solutions aligns with the roll-out of 5G technology. Network operators and other technology conglomerates promise to provide extremely fast download speeds for large amounts of data to all major cellular networks. In order to make these real-time gaming platforms a success, and disrupt the current console-based market, a variety of technologies must be leveraged:
- Compressed video to solve latency and lag issues
- Robust hosting service architecture to serve millions of simultaneous users
- Software analytics to optimize bandwidth
While all these public announcements of streaming service plans offer a certain level of insight into a company’s activities, we wanted a look at their patents to understand the R&D commitment these companies are making to the technology.
We ran a search across titles, abstracts, and claims of patents that contained words related to streaming video content, and were assigned to either Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Sony, or Nintendo. We also limited the search to patents published since January 1, 2014.
The two charts below provide valuable insight into each company’s R&D and patent filing strategy.
Chart 1 depicts each company’s filing activity over time. Clearly Sony was the first mover back in 2002, (predicting a still yet to be released technology, almost 20 years ago) followed up by its acquisition of Steve Perlman’s streaming game service, OnLive in 2015.
Chart 2 displays each company’s total number of filings in three jurisdictions, the United States (US), Europe (EP), and in the World Intellectual Property Office (WO).
This is a very cursory search, leaving out patents that use other terms to describe cloud-based gaming, and only including those assigned to a handful of the top players. That said, it is an informative first look at how the top companies in this area have been approaching R&D and intellectual property for the past several years.
From here, we can dig deeper, further understanding what each company is working on and how they differ from, or overlap with, other players in the space. As an example, this Sony patent for interactive video output provides a comprehensive report on how the company (or at least Onlive) viewed the future of the industry (back in 2014 and before that). The patent defines several technical problems and lays out the plans for the solutions.
Considering Sony and Microsoft’s strategic partnership to share and collaborate on respective game and content-streaming services, the most interesting thing we can take from this data is that Sony’s early and large patent estate combined with Microsoft’s 2nd place position creates a potential barrier for competitors (especially Google and Amazon), to enter the market.
Time will tell which gaming platform actually takes off, ultimately determining the success or failure of the others. But beyond developing the technology and marketing the product, one critical factor to success will be using available patent information as a tool to create and maintain a competitive advantage.
Interested in a deep dive of the Streaming Video Games Patent Landscape? Contact IP Checkups and we’ll be glad to help.