Sony was granted a patent for technology that allows Twitch viewers to vote to disqualify players mid-game.

The patent filing states that online platforms like Twitch have made it possible to live stream and record video of electronic sports (esports) events. “Game developers have tried to improve the viewing experience by offering more functionality and interactivity to spectators as more people are interested in videogames and other esports events.”

This is the context Sony created this idea. It’s essentially an inversion to Twitch Plays. Twitch decides who plays. It’s an easy concept that has been used by players for decades. I’ve been voting for the ability to alter maps and kick jerks since the beginning of Quake. The patent filing goes into great detail about how viewers will give the boot to players, how they will be ejected and what will happen once the axe is dropped.

Although voting seems straightforward, the Sony patent proposes a weighting system that is based on the skill levels of the participants. The metrics in the spectator’s profile would determine the weighting system. These would include records such as how long they have played the game, their rating, and the achievements they’ve earned. Votes cast by audience members with high ratings will be counted more than votes cast by viewers of lower rank. To trigger a removal, certain threshold levels must be met.

When democracy fails, money wins: A second part of the system allows spectators to pay a pre- or auctioned fee to remove a player from the game.

There are several options for players who lose their control of the hammer. They could be removed completely from the server, have their controls taken off or be moved to “a new circle of players” with better matches.

There are many variables that could be in play depending on how this technology is implemented. I can see where a vote em-out mechanism might be useful for certain games. It is possible to do something similar: SOS, a survival game that combines traditional survival tactics with audience interaction, was actually already done. It looked promising at first, but it didn’t attract an audience. The game closed its doors less than a year later after our preview.

It seems like an abuseable system, except in very limited circumstances. A feature that allows viewers to give “feedback” to players prior to being kicked seems particularly bad, given how Twitch has struggled with toxic chat and “hate raids” in its channels. Are players going to want to make it more difficult to get “feedback from the audience?”

Sony acknowledged that spectators could use the system to play with players. They could move to kick players for “poor sportsmanship or substandard performance in videogames” or simply because they don’t want to watch a player.

Although the patent was granted, this does not mean that Sony will implement the technology. It is possible, however, that only a few aspects of it will be adopted. Sony is clearly keen to push the boundaries in streaming and audience participation. It bought the EVO fighting tournament earlier this year.

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