What just happened? Electronic Arts, one of the largest video game companies in the US, has announced a Patents Pledge that’ll allow competitors to use select accessibility-related patents and technology without fear of legal repercussions. Included in the haul is the patent for the “Ping System” used in Apex Legends.
EA in announcing the move said it hopes that opening up its accessibility-related patents to other devs will encourage them to build new features that make video games more inclusive.
The ping system enables players to communicate using a mappable ping system, and is said to be especially helpful for those with speaking, hearing or cognitive disabilities who struggle to communicate. It has also been instrumental in reducing in-game toxicity, something we’ve all no doubt experienced while gaming online.
Three other patents included in the pledge are related to making games more accessible to players with vision issues. Examples include automatically detecting and modifying colors, brightness and contrast to improve the visibility of objects with similar luminosities. These methods are already in use in the Madden NFL and FIFA franchises.
EA is additionally open-sourcing code that addresses colorblindness, brightness and contrast issues in digital content. Interested developers can find the code over on GitHub.
The fifth and final patent in the bundle relates to audio technology. Specifically, it helps those with hearing issues by modifying or creating music based on their hearing preferences, overcoming any constraints they might face.
EA is following in the footsteps of others like Microsoft, who started shipping an accessibility-focused controller a couple of years back. Logitech got involved as well, releasing a kit for Microsoft's Xbox Adaptive Controller that further expands its functionality.
This is only the beginning, EA said. Over time, the publisher plans to add future accessibility-focused patents to the pledge and identify additional tech to open source for the benefit of everyone.