Yes, Google and YouTube are getting in the games industry. And why not? They're already in a slew of other online service industries, so why not one more. But this one is special because it's using web-based video. Not only that, but it takes otherwise fairly non-interactive content and gives it a massive interactive component.
What on Google Earth am I talking about? A patent that recently came to light for a:
WEB-BASED SYSTEM FOR GENERATION OF INTERACTIVE GAMES BASED ON DIGITAL VIDEOS
In a nutshell of technical lingo it is:
Systems and methods are provided for adding and displaying interactive annotations for existing online hosted videos. A graphical annotation interface allows the creation of annotations and association of the annotations with a video. Annotations may be of different types and have different functionality, such as altering the appearance and/or behavior of an existing video, e.g. by supplementing it with text, allowing linking to other videos or web pages, or pausing playback of the video. Authentication of a user desiring to perform annotation of a video may be performed in various manners, such as by checking a uniform resource locator (URL) against an existing list, checking a user identifier against an access list, and the like. As a result of authentication, a user is accorded the appropriate annotation abilities, such as full annotation, no annotation, or annotation restricted to a particular temporal or spatial portion of the video.
How are they going to implement it?
I believe this to be the heart of the matter:
A video may have associated with it one or more annotations, which modify the appearance and/or behavior of a video as it was originally submitted to an online video hosting site. Some examples of annotations are graphical text box annotations, which display text at certain locations and certain times of the video, and pause annotations, which halt playback of the video at a specified time within the video. Some annotations, e.g. a graphical annotation (such as a text box annotation) comprising a link to a particular portion of a target video, are associated with a time of the target video, which can be either the video with which the annotation is associated, or a separate video. Selecting such annotations causes playback of the target video to begin at the associated time. Such annotations can be used to construct interactive games using videos, such as a game in which clicking on different portions of a video leads to different outcomes.
So Google and YouTube are going to turn the service into something like those DVD-based games where something happened on screen and then you would click one of several buttons to choose your own path through the story. These types of games were generally accompanied by some sort of board game etc. But with YouTube it looks like you will be able to shoot an entire story out of sequence and then have annotations that first pause the video and then depending on which annotation is clicked, forward or reverse the video to another specific clip that ends in yet another annotation with multiple options. You could even have an entire story play through and then have the viewers choose their own ending.
This is going to be great for all sorts of video marketing, especially if that technology will be licensable and usable outside of the Google sites or even if the videos are fully embeddable and retain their interactivity.
This is not only an ingenious way to create interaction with online video but it also plays into the video game madness that has been consuming the world and pushing the games industry into the upper echelons of entertainment (I think it was $27B in the US in 2008). This could certainly mean a whole new way to utilize YouTube and online video, not only for fun but for profit. Bonus! It seems I'm uniquely positioned being in both the online video and the video game worlds so I may have the best view possible of the entire possibilities of Google's patent. Perhaps, just this once, I'll keep some of my thoughts to myself and use them to my own benefit…