Nintendo applies for 'massively single-player' patent

Nintendo has dipped its toes in the online gaming pool again, this time with a bizarre-sounding patent for a "massively single-playing online game." In the patent initially filed in early 2010, Nintendo describes the idea as a game in which one player's actions affect the environment for other players, but each are essentially playing a single-player experience.

GameSpot reports that Nintendo's aim is to provide the benefits of online gaming without some of its drawbacks. "Those who want to play games that are more dynamic, not-based on AI and not-pre-scripted like multiplayer games, however, don't want to 'deal' with other people, appreciate the privacy it provides."

Nintendo suggests a few examples: a dynamic in-game economy in which individuals could impact the supply and demand; or one player building a house out of a pile of lumber, leading another player to find the house instead of the lumber. Nintendo even suggests "gossip" could pass from player to player. If the two have "friended" each other, Nintendo suggests they could see and interact with each other more directly.

Perhaps most strangely, Nintendo claimed this could be used on "a home video game system such as the Nintendo Wii 3D video game system, a Nintendo DS or other 3D capable interactive computer graphics display system." This was probably filed before Nintendo announced the 3DS, though, so we could chalk it up to the company not wanting to show its hand.

We've seen similar gameplay mechanics before. GameSpot compares the concept to the neighbors in Nintendo's own Animal Crossing series. We've also seen single-player game interaction in titles like Demon's Souls, and the term "asynchronous multiplayer" has become popular in mobile games. We'll have to see how broadly the patent office interprets Nintendo's claim to the idea, as other companies are bound to continue exploring the concept.