A new patent published by the USPTO yesterday details an invention by Nintendo that would allow it to emulate its mobile game consoles, including the Game Boy line of devices specifically, in other settings, including on seat-back displays in airplanes and trains, and on mobile devices including cell phones. The patent is an updated take on an older piece of IP, so it’s not an entirely new idea, but it’s still very interesting to consider that Nintendo could have renewed interest in the idea of running its own back catalogue on many different kinds of screens.
The patent talks specifically about emulation, which is the technique by which a hardware platform is mimicked by a software application on a different type of hardware, in order to run versions of the games for said platform without requiring either the console itself, or physical cartridges. Generally, it’s been used by fan communities to play their favourite games of old on PCs, Macs and mobile devices, but in this patent Nintendo details using it for its own legitimate, licensed distribution of software.
Already, Nintendo emulates some of its past console titles on newer systems, providing access to SNES, NES and Game Boy classics on the Wii, Wii U and 3DS. This patent would see it expand those offerings to a range of devices, including potentially smartphones. Many have called for the company to consider making its signature titles available on smartphone devices as a way to shore up struggling hardware sales, but thus far the company has seemed reluctant to the idea. Lately, it has been offering spin-off games from the Pokémon series on iPhone and iPad, but it has yet to provide full ports, as Square-Enix has with the Final Fantasy series, for instance.
Emulators on iOS generally get shut down as soon as the Apple review team is made aware of their function, so a legitimate offering from Nintendo on the platform would likely be met with huge consumer interest. Again, though, Nintendo has laid down patents around this general concept in the past, so its interest in protecting IP on the matter doesn’t necessarily indicate any desire to explore product offerings in the area.