New Sony Patent Sounds A Lot Like Blockchain Tech

Sony has a new patent that looks suspiciously like blockchain technology–the same tech that underpins cryptocurrency and NFTs.

WIPO Patent US20220358450, Tracking Unique In-Game Digital Assets Using Tokens on a Distributed Ledger (kudos to you, Reddit), was approved by the world patent agency as of November 10, 2022. It describes a "system and method for tracking digital assets associated with video games." That system would track digital assets using a "distributed ledger," and create a "unique token for the digital asset" that includes "a unique identifier and metadata identifying properties of the digital asset. Changes to properties of the digital asset, such as ownership, visual appearance, or metadata, can be identified in a request to update the history. A new block can be generated for, and appended to, the distributed ledger identifying the changes to the history of the digital asset."

The distributed ledger, the unique tokens, the "blocks" that get generated whenever someone wants to update the ledger with new ownership–all of that sounds exactly like blockchain technology, the same thing that powers cryptocurrencies and NFTs. The only thing Sony's patent does is apply it specifically to digital assets for video games.

Although game companies from around the globe have invested millions into blockchain and crypto technologies, there have been very few success stories. Sony's patent, however, could show a valid use for blockchain where it pertains to video games. Currently, digital assets can already be managed perfectly well with server-side databases, but the blockchain would allow the storage of digital asset data to be pushed to users' (ie. players') hardware. The reason that's not done for most MMOs or multiplayer games today is that storing data client-side makes it easy for nefarious players to hack, but a distributed ledger would make it far more difficult for unauthorized tampering. This would eliminate Sony's need to run servers to keep part of its gaming infrastructure running.

The patent includes everything from player data, characters, and items, to recorded stuff like videos and screenshots. Of course, a patent doesn't necessarily mean we'll see a product right away, and given crypto's poor reputation, blockchain tech may never be adopted by anyone. But it’s at least heartening to see an application that appears useful on the surface.

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