Nintendo has entered a divisional patent for Game Boy emulation to be utilized in mobile devices, PDAs, in-flight entertainment, PCs, and more. The patent was initially filed back in June and published on November 27th and is a continuation of one filed back in 2000, which also received an update in 2012.
A software emulator for emulating a handheld video game platform such as GAME BOY.RTM., GAME BOY COLOR.RTM. and/or GAME BOY ADVANCE.RTM. on a low-capability target platform (e.g., a seat-back display for airline or train use, a personal digital assistant, a cell phone) uses a number of features and optimizations to provide high quality graphics and sound that nearly duplicates the game playing experience on the native platform. Some exemplary features include use of bit BLITing, graphics character reformatting, modeling of a native platform liquid crystal display controller using a sequential state machine, and selective skipping of frame display updates if the game play falls behind what would occur on the native platform.
Cutting through all the legal speak and diagrams, the patent essentially says what you would think it says: Nintendo wants the rights to create video game emulation on a number of digital platforms other than their own. Since the initial patent was written on 2000 and worked on as early as 1999, it also includes comedically outdated devices such as PDAs and even the term “Game Boy” itself is no longer relevant as the platform has been almost completely changed to the DS line.
The obvious modern-day aim for this patent is mobile devices but that does not necessarily mean that Nintendo is about to create their own emulation app. While Nintendo has said in the past they are open to letting other companies use their first-party characters, and they even entertained the idea of utilizing mobile phones as part of their business model, they are not likely to just open the floodgates so quickly.
There is a much more straightforward use for the patents on mobile devices.
As it is currently, Apple is usually quick to shut down any emulation apps that they find. Android on the other hand, with its mostly-open ecosystem, allows anything to go that does not break the law. If a software developer creates an app that can play Super Nintendo games, but doesn’t include the ROMs to actually play them, that is currently legal. By applying for the patent over the domain of such emulation software, Nintendo would have the legal grounds to go after these developers and either entice gamers to make the jump over to the 3DS and buy classic games from them, or they could create their own app.
After an abysmal first couple years of their Wii U sales floundering, 2014 has been a turnaround year for Nintendo. Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros Wii U were both record selling games for the console when they came out, and the company posted a second quarter 2014 that beat analyst estimates. Their handheld gaming division has been going strong for years now as well, so making the jump off their own hardware (something Nintendo has always been reluctant to do) may not be in their best interest.
If you’re interested, the full patent application can be seen at the source link below. In the meantime, enjoy these application images dating all the way back to 2000, curated by NeoGAF user Rösti.