Sony is showing interest in developing new technology for maintaining large online servers for MMO games after a decade-long absence from the genre.
The recently published patent application titled "MASSIVE MULTI-PLAYER COMPUTE" describes a method of allocating computing resources to heavily populated areas in the game world, aiming to improve server load management.
This patent suggests that Sony may be considering reentering the MMO genre, possibly connected to rumors of a multiplayer spinoff of the Horizon games, but fans will have to wait to see if these plans materialize.
A recently publicized patent application from Sony shows that the company is interested in developing new technology for maintaining large online servers for MMO games. While Sony has previously developed and published a handful of MMOs, the company has not attempted such a project in over a decade.
Sony has been responsible for many widely beloved video games over the years, but it has never had a strong presence in the MMO genre. In 2004 the company released EverQuest II, a less successful sequel to the genre-defining MMO EverQuest, and in 2011 it co-published DC Universe Online, both under the auspices of a subsidiary company called Sony Online Entertainment. In 2015, the parent company sold off Sony Online Entertainment to an independent investor, and the studio rebranded itself as Daybreak Games. Now detached from Sony, Daybreak continues to support these old MMOs, but it has sparked controversy by attempting to add predatory features to EverQuest II.
However, a recently published patent application, originally filed in April of this year, suggests that Sony may now be seeking to reenter the MMO genre. The patent is titled "MASSIVE MULTI-PLAYER COMPUTE," and describes new methods and systems for "allocating resources for an online game." Specifically, the patented technology would aim to improve allocation of computing power on MMO servers when a large number of players enter the same area in the game world. As it stands now, high player populations can overwhelm MMO servers, so a technology capable of better managing server load would represent a big step forward for the genre.
The central claim of the patent outlines in broad strokes how Sony's new technology would achieve its goal. This boils down to a method of predicting where in the game world players are going to be concentrated at a given time, and preemptively allocating computing resources to those locations. In other words, the server would focus its resources on maintaining the most heavily populated parts of the game world at any given time. The patent's claims go on to describe some of the factors its systems would use to predict where players will concentrate, including timed challenges occurring in specific areas, local time zones for different player populations, and the relative popularity of certain events or game regions. This last point may be informed by the fact that MMOs like Final Fantasy 14 have had issues with server load in popular locations.
While the filing does not prove anything, this latest Sony patent speaks to the possibility that the company may be looking to explore the MMO genre. Such plans might be connected to persistent rumors of a multiplayer spinoff of the Horizon games, introducing the possibility of a full-fledged MMO set in that vibrant post-apocalyptic world. Ultimately, as the "Massive Multiplayer Compute" patent is still in the midst of its application process, fans will likely have to wait a while longer to see if such plans will materialize.