After trying multiple times since 2015, WB Games has successfully secured a patent on the nemesis system featured in Shadow of Mordor and its sequel, Shadow of War. The patent goes into effect later this month.
As reported by IGN, on February 3 the US Patent and Trademark Office released an issue notice confirming that WB Games’ patent on the system was approved and would become effective officially on February 23, 2021.
(That issue notice link wasn’t working at the time of publication.)
The nemesis system first appeared in 2014's open-world-stab-athon Shadow of Mordor, and would be expanded on greatly in the 2017 sequel Shadow of War. The Nemesis System uses randomly generated orcs to populate the world. Players then attack these orcs, sometimes killing them, taking control of them, or even losing to them. As these events happen the orcs will react, becoming more powerful, gaining new abilities, and directly referencing past experiences with the player. It’s a cool system. And soon, only one publisher, WB Games, will have the ability to use it.
Once the patent becomes active, other developers or publishers wanting to use a Nemesis System will have to cut a deal with WB Games or face legal action.
Since 2015, shortly after the release of Shadow of Mordor, WB Games has been trying and failing to secure this patent. Previous issues included a lack of specificity, which is very important in a patent, and conflicts with other existing patents.
WB Games will have the ability to maintain this patent until 2035, assuming they keep all their orcs in order legally and financially.