Nintendo was recently granted a patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office that could have a major impact on all of mobile gaming. The patent filing could simply be a case of a large company protecting itself…or it could be an exciting hint at a major change in direction for Nintendo. Check out the abstract on the patent below.
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.
Given all the litigation that happens in tech, many pundits view this patent as Nintendo protecting itself from companies that would sue it and giving it ammunition against developers that make emulators. The pie-in-the-sky dream is that this is a hint that Nintendo is targeting other platforms to run its amazing games on. Many experts believe that there isn’t much of a future in standalone portable gaming systems. While Nintendo sells millions of 3DS units today, the argument is that consumers will only want more versatile entertainment devices in the future.
Personally, I wouldn’t expect new Nintendo games on your iPhone or Android device any time soon. Nintendo makes crazy money on portable hardware and first-party software. That’s not going to change in the immediate future. If (when?) Nintendo officially makes its software available on other devices, I imagine it will be classic games first and eventually new titles — both steps would be a long way off. Nintendo doesn’t appear to be in a rush to do this (rightfully so) and has demonstrated a pattern of being slow to change (friend codes are absolutely stupid in 2012). A new Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, or Metroid game debuting on an iOS device seems like it will happen around the same time electric cars become the norm.
What do you think? Is this patent simply an IP move that enables Nintendo to protect itself and go after emulator developers? Or is it a sign that Nintendo games on mobile phones and tablets are coming?