Since smartphones and tablets have begun to replace traditional portable game systems, users have hoped Nintendo would eventually make an emulator for these devices. Even Nintendo’s investors have tried to push the company to porting their classic games onto iOS to profit off of titles they’re no longer selling. It’s a way to help the struggling company lean on their beloved classics to save the company. Super Smash Bros for the Wii U may have boosted Nintendo’s profits, but it’ll be short lived. Perhaps that’s why Nintendo has finally started to consider alternatives. A new patent shows that Nintendo could finally be ready to make an emulator for smartphones and tablets.
Apple has been quick to remove third party emulators from the App Store. However, when the company that made the original hardware releases an emulator, they get to take advantage of Apple’s in app purchases system. This means users can download the emulator for free, but they have to pay for each game they download. It’s a good business model, and lets a company make a profit off of their classic games.
Nintendo has patented an emulator for their handheld video game systems, such as the Gameboy line of devices. Below is an excerpt from that patent which describes how Nintendo’s Gameboy emulator would work.
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.
Often, companies patent hardware or software, but they never use those patents. It’s worth noting that the patent seems a bit dated. The seatback display for train or plane use sounds like an idea that would be relevant today, but the language referring to personal digital assitants and cell phones (instead of smartphones and tablets) seems a bit dated. Besides that, today’s smartphones make Nintendo’s Gameboy look like ancient technolgy, they certainly aren’t “low-capability target platform(s)”. Nintendo could have created this patent some time ago, and only decided to register it now. In fact, the patent doesn’t mention Nintendo’s DS line of handheld game systems at all. Nintendo has been denying plans to create emulators for other hardware for some time now, but perhaps they’ve been considering it for years, and they’re finally ready to come around. It would certainly make gamers and investors very happy.