The Patent On Loading Screen Mini-Games Is About To Expire

Illustration for article titled The Patent On Loading Screen Mini-Games Is About To Expire

For twenty years, Namco Bandai has held patent US 5718632 A, which has given them ownership of the idea of a loading screen minigame. On November 27 (this Friday), that patent expires.

This is a big deal! For two decades, companies that wanted to keep players busy during load times (like Ridge Racer’s amazing Galaga) either had to pay Namco, find ways around it (as EA’s FIFA series has) or...give up and go back to writing a ton of boring tips and lore screens for people to read.

Come Friday though it’s open season. To celebrate, there’ll be a Loading Screen Jam held, asking developers to “Create games/interactive material based on infringing the now-defunct patent in any way possible!”


Don’t go expecting minigames to start turning up in bigger games quite so quickly, though. The patent forbids people from even working on minigames, let alone implementing them, so it might take a while to get them ready.

If you want to read more about the inherent weirdness of Namco having been granted this patent, David Hoppe wrote this thing in February which will help you out.

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I was always confused by this because I could always think of examples where it could count as a minigame, some examples include Okami if you tapped A enough you’d get money and Dragon Ball Budokai had a Yamcha target practice minigame