Playstation 3 Am Cry?

One of the most wanted features missing from the Playstation 3 is the ability to use a custom soundtrack during gameplay. Movement has been made in this area with some games beginning to offer support, notably Super Stardust HD and High Velocity Bowling, but it’s yet to be offered for all games.

Though many expect the inclusion to come when Sony supports an in-game version of Playstation 3’s cross media bar, the implementation of this feature might just stay with the developers, since Microsoft owns a patent for this very functionality.

Microsoft implemented the ability to play your own music during gameplay in their first gaming system, the Xbox. The functionality naturally moved over to the Xbox 360, where Microsoft was patiently waiting for a patent to go through.

The custom soundtrack patent was submitted well before the release of the 360, presumably with the intention to lock down the feature for the next generation. It wasn’t issued until mid-2006, luckily just before the US/Japan release of the Playstation 3.

The US patent named “Method and Apparatus for Creating and Playing Soundtracks in a Gaming System” appears to cover any application that allows users to create soundtracks using their own audio tracks, such that they can be played during the execution of the game instead of the game’s default soundtrack.

Comprising of a thorough list of points and diagrams, the patents stand out claim is outlined thus:

1. A method comprising:

– receiving a request to launch a game in a gaming system;
determining whether the game has a user-associated soundtrack;
– if the game has a user-associated soundtrack:
launching the game; and
playing the user-associated soundtrack;

– if the game does not have a user-associated soundtrack:
allowing a user of the gaming system to select a soundtrack to play while the game is executed; and
playing a default soundtrack if the user of the gaming system does not select a soundtrack.

What does this mean for Microsoft’s competitors? Will this patent stop Sony from implementing the console-wide custom soundtrack functionality? This is possible, and could be the reason why it has been missing from the Playstaiton 3 for so long.

Sony may have already found a loophole in the patent to allow them to provide custom soundtracks for particular games, as long as the functionality is not system-wide. In this way they could avoid the patent. Microsoft could charge Sony for the privilege, but it would be a lot of wasted effort to patent this particular feature and then allow competitors to implement it.

Therefore, when Sony’s in-game XMB eventually comes around, custom soundtracks might be left on the cutting room floor. It will all depend on how constricting the patent actually is, and how kind Microsoft are feeling. Reasons for the in-game XMB delay may be found here – Sony are trying their best to get custom soundtracks installed legally.

Source: US Patent Office