Video gaming was once stereotyped as the pastime of a dedicated minority, but these days everyone's at it. The rise of the smart phone specifically was a vital development, bringing gaming to the masses, thanks to the incredibly low price for individual game titles. Angry Birds is the one that jumps instantly to mind - with 2 billion downloads and billions of dollars of revenue generated for its creators, it showcases how much video gaming has become normalised among the wider public. Now, Sony are ready to cash in on the world's new-found love for gaming by lodging a patent request for gamified television advertising.
Their ideas are quite simple. Through the use of motion capture and voice recognition technology, Sony hope to make advertising on television interactive and 'playable.' One such example in their patent proposal is a suggested advert for McDonalds, in which the user is prompted to say the word 'McDonalds' before the ad will disappear and viewing can resume. Another is an advert where the viewer must move their arm to 'throw' a pickle into a burger, using a motion capture camera to speed up the advert.
These ideas are - to be fair - a bit unimaginative and actually sound kind of annoying. Anyone who's ever experienced a voice recognition error will be able to relate to this. But Sony aren't an ad agency, they're just patenting the technology.
Gamification as a means of selling products and services has been a highly utilised tool in the advertiser's arsenal for a number of years now. McDonalds have been running their Monopoly campaign since the 1980s, where customers collect vouchers in the shape of Monopoly board squares in order to get prizes. This is typically a free meal, but bigger prizes such as holidays and cars are also available. This play and win system has served McDonalds pretty well - it's been a campaign that's run since 1987 and is now available in more than 20 countries.
With the popularity of gamification in media, Sony's patent is likely to cause some disputes if granted; it is incredibly broad and covers any interactive ad broadcast from a TV. This would effectively give Sony a monopoly on interactive TV advertising, forcing any competitors wishing to use the system to pay a premium for it.
Essentially, interactive advertising aims to make ad breaks fun. It's well documented that television viewers don't like adverts; a 2010 YouGov survey showed that 90% of viewers fast-forward adverts on recorded programmes. A patent on adverts that actually engage the audience could prove very lucrative indeed.