Nintendo files for patent for Game Boy emulation on phones and other devices


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]