Eurogamer.net

Games now allowed auxiliary mini-games during loading screens

Namco's 20-year patent runs out.

How many hours in your life have you sat watching loading screens? Two? Twenty? Two hundred? Enough, right? Wouldn't it have been nicer to be entertained with a mini-game while you wait?

There's a reason you weren't: Namco. In 1995, Namco filed a patent protecting its use of auxiliary mini-games while a main game was loading. Ridge Racer on PlayStation One entertained players with a Galaxian mini-game, if you remember. It was a good idea; the only problem was no one besides Namco could use it.

Those mini-games in FIFA aren't the same thing, which is how EA sidesteps the patent. Auxiliary mini-games are classified as games that are separate or different to the main game that's loading, whereas in FIFA the mini-games are smaller chunks of the whole.

Thee good news, and the reason I'm writing about all of this, is that the patent has now expired. It lasted 20 years and was filed 27th November 1995 (thanks PC Gamer). A Loading Screen Game Jam has been organised in celebration.

What kind of effect will this patent expiring have? Could new FIFA games include older FIFA games for us to play while matches load, or is that more of a headache than it's worth? Could Elder Scrolls games of the future give us access to more than a 3D model we can spin around while we wait? How could mini-games have been used during The Witcher 3 loading screens, which were plenty and long on console?

Mind you, the issue I and probably you have is not with loading screens being boring but with interrupting the flow of bigger adventures, and adding mini-games to them won't solve this. Perhaps mini-games during loading screens suits some games and not others? What do you think?

GameSpot made a nice video about all this.

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