Electronic Arts have offered to let other developers use five of their technology patents for accessibility features for free, saying they hope this will encourage "to build new features that make video games more inclusive". The patents they're offering include the ping system from Apex Legends and colour blindness tech they use in Madden NFL. It's unpleasant that they patented them in the first place, and that companies even can patent features that make games more accessible, but I guess at least they are sharing now.
EA say in their Patent Pledge For Increasing Accessibility that they promise "not to enforce against any party for infringing any of the listed EA patents." They're starting with five patents, and say they may expand the pledge to include more later.
One patent is for a "contextually aware communications system", which EA manifested in the Apex Legends ping system to easily call out items, enemies, locations, and such. That's a handy feature even for people who don't have accessibility needs. Three patents cover tweaking colour and contrast for visibility. And the fifth patent is for tech which could tailor music to a player's hearing issues. If you want more info on these, the pledge has links to the full patent filings.
It's mostly patents they're sharing, the techniques and ideas behind game features. Developers will need to implement these themselves, write their own code, this is largely just EA stepping back and saying 'go wild, we won't sue'. But they have actually shared code for a colourblindess solution, which is a nice touch.
EA will charge no royalty fees to other devs who want to use these patents. However, they do say they can cancel someone's right to use the patent if that developer files a patent infringement suit against EA or their pals. Only a cynic would see this as a ploy to increase defense against patent suits by getting their patented tech deep into other people's games, though it is difficult not to be cynical about EA. Still, I'd certainly be glad to see more good accessibility options in games.
"Our accessibility team has long been committed to breaking down barriers within our video games, but we realize that to drive meaningful change, we need to work together as an industry to do better for our players," said Chris Bruzzo, EA's EVP of positive play, commercial and marketing.
"We hope developers will make the most of these patents and encourage those who have the resources, innovation and creativity to do as we have by making their own pledges that put accessibility first. We welcome collaboration with others on how we move the industry forward together."
Also in the spirit of sharing knowledge, Microsoft last year released their Xbox accessibility guidelines. These are a set of talking points, questions, and suggestions that can make a game friendlier, covering everything from subtitles and sound to haptic feedback and difficulty. Again, developers still have come up with solutions themselves, but it's helpful to have a company with years of experience point out potential pitfalls.