Once upon a time, consoles were sold on the fact that they loaded software instantly without the waiting times associated with formats that used tapes, floppies or sluggish CD drives, but these days that distinction has all but vanished, with some next-gen releases making players stare at near-featureless screens for prolonged periods as data is loaded.
One of the most innovative solutions to this seemingly unavoidable problem was found by Namco way back in 1994 - the company included a copy of Galaxian with Ridge Racer which could be played while the game was initially loading up. It was such a good move that Namco repeated the trick for other PlayStation titles, and even went as far as registering a patent to protect the idea. That pesky patent is the reason why no other developer has been allowed to use the idea since.
You can see the loading sequence in action here:
"Wait a second!" we hear you collectively cry. "I distinctly recall playing a mini-game in a recent title while it was loading." You're probably right - some titles offer smaller, bite-sized chunks of the main game to keep you occupied while the data is loading (the recently-released Star Wars Battlefront and Just Cause 3 both do this), but that falls outside the patent - it is only totally unique mini-games which are unconnected with the main game which count.
""Wait a second!" we hear you collectively cry a second time. "What about the retro mini-games you play on the Wii U GamePad while waiting for a match in Splatoon?" Well, that's not technically a period where the game is loading - it's simply waiting for enough players to join the match, which we would imagine allows it to neatly sidestep the terms of the patent. Plus, it's happening on a second screen rather than the main display, which may also help avoid any infringement.
Not that any of that matters anymore, because the patent has now expired after 20 long years. That means we could see more mini-games appearing during load times in a whole host of releases, and that's good news for Nintendo fans in particular - the company could follow Namco's example and include short bursts of NES, SNES or Game Boy titles as bonus mini-games.
You could be playing the original NES Metroid as you wait for the next installment to load on your shiny new NX, or tackle a dungeon in Zelda as the forthcoming Wii U outing vomits its data from disc to internal memory. Let us know what examples you'd personally like to see by posting a comment.