While Game Boy emulators have been on mobile devices for more than a decade, Nintendo is seeking a patent on software to bring titles from its legacy portable consoles to smartphones and tablets and even aircraft cabin displays.
In the application, Nintendo says its seeking to secure a patent on a Game Boy emulator that would target "low-capability" devices.
"While GAME BOY.RTM. platforms are inexpensive and have long battery life, there may be situations in which it would be desirable to play or use applications developed for GAME BOY.RTM. on other platforms," states the patent application. "For example, an airline, train or other vehicle passenger might want to play video games during a long journey."
The Game Boy emulator would have a number of optimization mechanics built into it to ensure that it solidly executes games played on a wide range of hardware. Some of the optimization features of the emulator would enable alphanumeric characters to be reformatted on the fly to scale to various screen sizes and intelligent frame skipping to drop the least valuable images, saving resources and maintaining playability.
The filing of an application to patent a Game Boy emulator may be just an act of prudence on the part of Nintendo, as the game maker has vehemently stated that offering its games on smartphones and tablets would hurt the long-term success of its handheld consoles.
"[We] believe that we cannot show our strength as an integrated hardware-software business in this field, and therefore it would difficult to continue the same scale of business in the medium- to long-term," stated Nintendo President Satoru Iwata back in January 2014.
Despite Iwata's stance on protecting his company's handheld devices, the release of the Pokemon trading card game onto PC and iOS devices rekindled hope among investors who have been lobbying for the game maker to capitalize on the swelling market for smartphones and tablets. Nintendo may now be looking toward a time when it finally gives up on hardware and goes the route of Sega, but the popularity of the company's 3DS handheld could birth a descendant.
If Nintendo does actually have solid plans for building a Game Boy emulator, the software would make it to market more than a decade after Game Boy and Super Nintendo emulators became available on Pocket PC and eventually on Android devices. Nintendo's 2014 filing for a patent on a Game Boy emulator is new, but the company filed a similar application back in 2000 and then requested an extension for it 2003 and 2012.