Sony and Immersion End Tussle Over Rumble

Sony Computer Entertainment and Immersion Corporation have agreed to settle their patent dispute over so-called "rumble" vibtration technology built into video game controllers and have announced plans to work together to bring the technology back to PlayStation products.

Rumble technology is much-loved by gamers, and adds to a game’s realism by shaking and vibrating a game controller as a direct result of on-screen actions like collisions, explosions, or, say, being konked on the head with a large pink inflatable rabbit.

"We are pleased to have put this litigation behind us," said Immersion CEO Victor Viegas, in a statement. "Our new business agreement with Sony Computer Entertainment is specifically intended to enable advanced vibration capability for the benefit of the PlayStation gaming community. We are happy to provide our technology in this regard and hope to make technical proposals very soon with respect to use of our technology in the PlayStation products."

Immersion filed suit against Sony in 2002 seeking $299 million in damages; in 2004, a federal jury found Sony had violated two of Immersion’s patents; in 2005, a judge ordered Sony to pay significant damages to Immersion and stop selling rumble-enabled products, although that injunction was put on hold while Sony appealed.

The settlement looks to bring Sony’s cost in the dispute to over $150 million. Under the settlement, Sony will pay Immersion $97.2 million in damages and interest, plus an additionsal $22.5 million to license Immersion’s technology through 2009. Sony will pay an unspecified additional amount in fees and royalties—and all this is on top of over $30 million Sony has already paid Immersion in licensing fees.

Sony very publicly did not include rumble technology in its PlayStation 3 Sixaxis controller, much to the dismay of PlayStation fans, although the company blamed the difficulty of integrating vibration technology with wireless orientation-based controls rather than the long-running litigation with Immersion. Now, Sony will apparently work with Immersion to bring rumble to future PlayStation products: "We look forward to exploring with Immersion exciting new ways to bring the largest and best range of gameplay experiences to our customers," said Sony Computer Entertainment’s Kazuo Hirai. "We are very excited about our new partnership with Immersion and the potential for new and innovative products incorporating their technologies."