Sony’s Latest NFT Patent Push Suggests Web3 Path for PlayStation

No video game console maker has publicly embraced NFTs yet, but tech giant Sony — the company behind the hugely popular PlayStation brand — is moving forward behind the scenes, as evidenced by its latest NFT-related patent filing.

The application, submitted released in September 2021 in the United States and last week, outlined Sony’s intent to create a standardized digital infrastructure that would allow gamers to own and transmit NFT digital assets across various video game platforms.

“The standardized format can be readable to insert the digital asset into various computer simulations, which may contain various video games with different titles,” the application reads. “Additionally or alternatively […] readable across various video game platforms such as PlayStation and Xbox.”

Sony suggested that these assets could include items such as in-game skins, artwork, avatars, weapons, or even “video game skills.” Additionally, the application suggested they could be “networked” from PlayStation to consoles from other manufacturers, as well as through VR and AR headsets, smart TVs and mobile devices.

By the end of 2022, Sony said it had 112 million PlayStation Network users. The network includes online connected players on PlayStation 5 as well as legacy console and handheld hardware.

This isn’t Sony’s first step in establishing a framework for NFT gaming assets. It was disclosed in a patent submission It was revealed last November that the Japanese company aims to capitalize on the burgeoning esports sector with a range of digital in-game collectibles since 2021.

However, in the most recent filing, Sony claimed that modern gaming console systems are “technologically inadequate for the owner to use the asset across different games and/or platforms.”

In the past, Sony has tried to keep its PlayStation Network ecosystem isolated from those of other console manufacturers, but ultimately relented and allowed cross-play after players were increasingly pushed back. Sony’s cross-platform multiplayer move was largely fueled by the success of Epic Games’ popular free-to-play shooter Fortnite.

However, when it comes to traditional video game assets that players have bought and/or earned, closed ecosystems remain the norm. It’s a contentious problem that Web3 proponents say blockchain technology is well suited to solving.

For example, currently in-game assets such as skins or weapons in Fortnite are tied to a specific centralized account or server – in this case, Epic Games. Therefore, such assets cannot be transferred or sold by the player to other players or transferred outside of the game world for use in other games and platforms.

In practice, this means that players can invest their time and money to acquire prestigious collectibles without being able to remove them from the system – or in the worst case, become inaccessible if the game shuts down or technical problems arise.

Despite what some see as potential benefits for gamers, many gamers have been vocal against NFTs and Web3 technology. Game publishers like Ubisoft and Square Enix have faced significant resistance upon entering the space, with critics citing crypto fraud and high prices for top NFT profile pictures (PFPs) among their complaints.

Sony may be interested in a Web3 future for PlayStation if the growing stack of patent filings is any indication. However, the company has previously dismissed the notion that it was into NFTs. In 2022, a company executive firmly denied speculation that its PlayStation Stars loyalty program had anything to do with NFTs.

“They are definitely not NFTs. Definitely not,” said Grace Chen, VP of Network Advertising, Loyalty, and Licensed Merchandise at Sony The Washington Post. “You can’t trade them or sell them. It doesn’t use blockchain technologies and it definitely doesn’t use NFTs.”


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