You may have heard Nintendo has filed a patent for a Game Boy emulator that could run on any device. Specifically, the patent says it’s for “A software emulator for emulating a handheld video game platform such as GAME BOY, GAME BOY COLOR, and/or GAME BOY ADVANCE on a low-capability target platform.” It’s the “low-capability target platform” that’s getting some people excited, as it could mean anything.
Some of the more ignorant news outlets have taken this to mean Nintendo may have finally blinked on their long-standing policy of only allowing their games on their own devices. This is unlikely to anyone familiar with how the company actually works.
Allowing any Nintendo game on iPhone or Android, even a decades-old Game Boy title like Alleyway, would fly against everything Nintendo stands for and everything we know about their arrogant pride. They have said multiple times protecting their IPs is far more important to them than making a quick buck, Mario Teaches Typing notwithstanding.
CEO Satoru Iwata put it this way in a Bloomberg interview: “Our games such as Mario and Zelda are designed for our game machines so if we transfer them into smartphones as they are, customers won’t be satisfied. If customers aren’t satisfied with the experience, it will decrease the value of our content.”
While he’s correct about this, “Value of our content” also refers to Nintendo’s belief that their brands could be cheapened if they are made available outside of Nintendo machines and, in theory, consumers would come under the impression they don’t have to buy the hardware to get the software. Big N feels strong enough about that possibility that they would not even allow an official Game Boy emulator on a smartphone.
So if that’s the case, then what is this patent for? Well, it’s a common practice for companies to file patents for inventions they have no plans of ever making — simply so nobody else can make one. If someone tries to sell a Game Boy emulator of their own as a phone app, Nintendo will now have the legal backing to sue them. Now you see the trick!