Will mini-games replace static loading screens in 2015?

Do you know the reason game loading screens are static and boring for the most part? It’s because one games publisher – Namco – holds the patent for “auxiliary games” that can be played while the main game loads, and other publishers haven’t cared to license it from them.

Fortunately, 2015 is the year the patent’s “exclusivity period” ends, opening up the possibility – nay, likelihood –  that other developers will integrate playable mini-games into their loading screens in the near future.

Since I’m currently slogging my way through Dragon Age: Inquisition and enduring rather long load times between regions on my PS4, I can certainly see the appeal of jazzing up my experience with something other than a static image and some text. Especially as Dragon Age only displays something to read for about half the time it takes to load the next region (the other half is blank except for a loading icon).

The original patent was filed back in 1995 and expires on the 27th of November, 2015, and Gamasutra’s David Hoppe writes that it’s possible we could see playable loading screens as soon as November 28.

Unfortunately it’s not that simple – apparently the patent also precludes anyone from even developing a game with interactive loading screens, even if that game is set to come out after the patent’s exclusivity period expires. Which kind of sucks, but what can you do.

Still, I have high hopes that 2015 is the year we see an end to static interludes between levels. It seems like loading screens are here to stay, given the amount of data the average game is comprised of and the fact that even modern hardware can’t load gigabytes of the stuff in the blink of an eye.

Having something else to do while stuff happens in the background sounds like a decent compromise, and I look forward to seeing how modern game developers rise to the challenge.

[Source – Gamasutra]


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