Playable minigames will be able to return to loading screens soon, thanks to today's expiry of the patent governing them.
Bandai Namco (pre-merger, just Namco) has held the patent since November 27th, 1995, and its twenty years are up.
The patent refers to "auxiliary game program code," which is smaller than the main game, "such that the auxiliary game program code is loaded first, before the main game program code."
Various games from Bandai Namco have featured loading-screen games, including Dragon Ball Z: Budokai, Tekken 5, and Ridge Racer.
But thanks to the patent, other companies have only been able to put relatively static graphics or text on their loading screens, or use game environments to hide the loading process (as with Mass Effect's elevators).
Meanwhile, EA's FIFA games have circumvented the patent by loading a subset of the main game's code (like a goal-kicking minigame) as opposed to an entirely "auxiliary" game.
In celebration of the patent's expiry, a game jam is underway, with entries closing December 4th.