Are you sick of staring at boring loading screens? Reading those same game tips over and over again? Well good news! Namco’s 1995 patent that basically prevented other developers from creating mini-games to hide loading screens has expired! The patent prevented other developers from including “auxiliary games” that would play while the main game loads.
Namco initially used this feature with Ridge Racer. While waiting for the game to load, the player had a small Galaxian Mini-Game to play while they waited. A great idea, especially when you consider how long the load times for some games are nowadays, in fact it was so good that Namco filed a patent for it which effectively prohibited other developers from doing the same thing.
EA Sports were able to sidestep Namco’s patent though. In FIFA while waiting for the game to load, Players can take part in a variety of mini-games that involve kicking a ball in some way. (I don’t understand FIFA or Football that well) The point is, Namco’s patent prohibited other developers from creating mini-games that are separate from the main game, such as the aforementioned Galaxian in Ridge Racer. FIFA was able to get away with it by creating mini-games that simply re-purposed the core gameplay mechanics in to small time-wasting mini-games that took place while the game was loading.
There’s already people celebrating the patent’s expiration with the Loading Screen Game Jam which seeks to “defile the patent that held back game design for so many years!” The Jam wants participants to “Create games/interactive material based on infringing the now-defunct patent in any way possible!”
Claiming it held back game design for so many years might sound like a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s fun to think that loading screen mini-games can become more common now. Imagine Fallout 4 letting you play those pip-boy games instead of staring and rotating a static prop while the game loads, or GTA V having something, literally anything to do while waiting for the main game to load up.
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