As TechCrunch reported this morning, the United States Patent & Trademark Office yesterday published a patent application for “Hand-held Video Game Platform Emulation” that Nintendo filed on June 23, 2014.

The invention describes software emulation of Nintendo’s popular mobile game consoles such as the Game Boy family on a variety of mobile devices, including smartphones and in other settings such as seat-back displays in airplanes and trains.

Emulating Nintendo hardware and software on third-party devices would use optimization techniques to target “low-capability target platforms,” with the examples provided including hardware such as cell phones, seat-back displays for airline or train use and personal digital assistants.

The invention specifically mentions emulating the Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance family of handheld consoles. It’s interesting that the optimization techniques Nintendo proposes would provide high quality graphics and sound that would ”nearly duplicate the game playing experience on the native platform.”


Some of the exemplary features mentioned in the patent abstract 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.

Like any patent filing, it’s impossible to tell whether Nintendo has had a change of heart when it comes to third-party Game Boy emulators. TechCrunch notes that the patent is “an updated take on an older piece of intellectual property” that Engadget described back in 2012.

Nevertheless, we can still make an educated guess that Nintendo might be warming up to the idea of running its own back catalogue on mobile devices by other vendors.

If so, Nintendo fans should jump with joy. On the other hand, even if granted the patent that doesn’t mean Nintendo will allow third-party emulators.

For all we know, the Japanese gaming giant may be simply exercising the idea of selling licenses to enable emulation in vehicles like trains, ships, vans, cars and in other contexts such as walk-up kiosks, within hotel rooms and so forth.

For more context, Nintendo already emulates some of its older console titles on latest systems, providing access to SNES, NES and Game Boy classics on the Wii, Wii U and 3DS, so the newly published patent filing could be an extension of Nintendo’s existing technology.

Every now and then, a Game Boy emulator surfaces in the App Store but only briefly as Apple and Nintendo typically pull such apps in a matter of days, if not hours.

Gba4iOS (iPhone screenshot 005)

Perhaps the best example is developer Riley Testut’s popular Gameboy Color and Game Boy Advanced emulator for the iPhone and iPad, GBA4iOS, which briefly appeared in the App Store before being pulled due to complaints from both Nintendo and Apple.

A new version of the software is now available for download from in an open beta form, no jailbreak required. As a bonus, they’re also planning to release GBA4iOS on the Cydia store so jailbreakers will be able to enjoy Mario games and more on the best Nintendo emulator available on Apple’s platform.

[TechCrunch via Neogaf]

  • QDS

    All emulators are freely available on the Play Store 😉

    • jack

      I hate Apple so much for not allowing that

    • NervJMSL

      That’s because not even Nintendo cares about what runs on Android.

      • QDS

        found the butthurt

      • Jason Baroni

        Nice shot!

      • Ich2222

        Nintendo would not care if it would run on iOS. But Apple does not allow Emulators on their Devices, because the downloading of .gba files of games that you do not own is not allowed.

    • They’re also freely available on iOS. There’s absolutely nothing stoping you from going out and compiling the source code for GBA4iOS or any of the other open source emulators in existence and running it on your iOS device.

  • Alex Langan

    I thought GBA4iOS was never on the app store, it used enterprise certificates and the date trick exploit that got patched in ios 8.1 Never was on the app store.

    • The Honk

      Wow iDownloadblog screw up much? Can’t believe they let that through.

    • Tyler Smith

      it was available…. you are not very intelligent…

      • Alex Langan

        Not Testut’s emulator… Thanks for attacking my intelligence for just possibly being misinformed That doesn’t make me stupid.

  • Manuel Molina

    Nintendo is gonna make a phone. Lol.

  • NekoMichi Kobayashi

    Either they are planning to bring official emulators to other platforms (not likely) or they want to use this to stop development of Game Boy emulators as a whole (more likely).

    • yungcinnabun

      They’re gonna put them on airplanes

    • I don’t think it works that way. I’m no expert on patent law but to my knowledge you can’t use a patent to destroy work made prior to when the patent was granted.

      • NekoMichi Kobayashi

        I’m not experienced with patent law either, but Nintendo could indirectly use this to stop development of others. Even though Game Boy emulators already existed prior to the patent being granted, the Game Boy itself was originally made by Nintendo, which makes sense why only they would be granted such a patent.

        And with this patent, they would have the sole reserved legal right to produce Game Boy emulation software, making any other emulators infringing material.

  • Anthony Nguyen

    Did you used CoolRom?

    • Brian Brown

      That sites been offline for a good minuet now. I got it going but I used emuparadis. I preferred coolrom Forsure though.

    • Brian Brown

      No emuparadis

  • GBA4iOS is not working on my iPad Air, im the only one with this issue?

  • ShawnTXDFW

    Doesn’t RetroArch support these emulators to?! I’m not sure which source to use for emulators anymore. Or does it even matter?

  • The Honk

    Dangerous website

  • Eldaria

    Ehh Prior Art! They really should not get this patent approved. There are so many versions of emulators. Even if they are not approved by Nintendo doesnot mean they do not exist.