Last year I discussed how Video Game Tournaments Point to A Future Mass Medium, if console makers offer an audience or spectator mode for online video game play.

Last week, that ‘s 5,000th patent “covers technologies that will be featured in Xbox 360 games, brings new innovation to online gaming by allowing consumers to tune into a video game much as they would a sporting event broadcast.”

Indeed, video games such as “” and “” already offer such a feature but the execution is not quite ready for primetime. The game “” has a in which the spectator mode works quite well simply because the nature of a racing game lends itself far more naturally to a televised event-type experience.

The fact that Microsoft has filed a patent for virtual spectator sport means they at least recognize it as a potentially lucrative technology.

Curtis Wong, senior program manager with the Next Media Research Group in Microsoft Research, was quoted in the GameDaily BIZ article, saying “I have a vision of really large numbers of people watching tournaments online. The top players could become as famous as sports stars, even endorsing products. This could really help gaming move into the mainstream.”

Virtual spectator sport will come to pass and I’m guessing that it will be enormously successful as a pay-per-view service, as well as an advertising and product placement vehicle.