Warner Bros. Interactive has applied for one patent on the nemesis system used in Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War, its sequel. Specifically, the patent is for “Nemesis characters, nemesis forts, social vendettas and followers in computer games”. Mark Brown has compared it to the patented floating arrow that told players where to go in the Crazy Taxi.
After establishing the mechanics in Shadow of Mordor, a similar one was used in other games. The nemesis patent is currently listed as “Pending”, but it was rejected in 2019 and re-examined in 2020. It progressed to the “notice of allowance” stage, which means if the fees and paperwork were filed in time, a final patent would be issued.
It is said that owning a patent on a videogame system is not the exact same as preventing anything similar from ever being made. Microsoft has a patent on games offering bonus points “if the player performs feats of style that are not necessary tasks of the game” for 19 years. This patent was filed to specifically protect the kudos points of Project Gotham Racing.
One software patent that was actually used to target the videogames broadly was the Uniloc Corporation’s patent on the concept of product activation. After being used in an infringement suit against Microsoft, it was dubbed an act of “patent trolling”.
The conclusion is, yes, Warner Bros. Interactive filed a patent on the nemesis system, but that is not a necessary reason that we haven’t seen many games use it. Since the Eternal Darknesses publish, Nintendo had a patent on the sanity system, yet we have seen similar ones in the Amnesia games, Tokyo Dark, Don’t Starve, World of Horror, Knock-Knock, and others.