Nintendo files patent application for Game Boy emulator app

The company is seeking a patent for Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advanced emulators, compatible with a variety of devices.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
2 min read


Every now and again, rumour sneaks out that Nintendo is going to allow its titles on non-Nintendo hardware. These rumours have, so far, amounted to nothing -- and it's likely this latest item won't amount to anything any time soon, but it's still an interesting titbit to file away.

The company filed a patent application for an emulator for its Game Boy devices on June 23 of this year, published by the US Patent and Trademark Office on November 27.

Called "Hand-Held Video Game Platform emulation", the tech is described as:

"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."

To be clear, this isn't all new. The request has existed in previous iterations as early as 2000, with updates in 2003 and again in 2012 -- however, this is an entirely new patent application, filed as a "divisional application", as opposed to the 2012 update, which was filed as a "continuation".

The patent application describes software that would allow software designed for the Game Boy systems to run on devices other than those for which it was designed -- as the Game Boy systems have proprietary sound and graphics hardware, as well as a microprocessor that is now obsolete.

Such devices, according to the application, include the touchscreen displays on the backs of aeroplane seats; home computers; cell phones and PDAs; and "other such devices" (remembering that this documentation was originally written in 2000).

"A number of GAME BOY.RTM. emulators have been written for a variety of different platforms ranging from personal digital assistants to personal computers. However, further improvements are possible and desirable," the patent application reads.

"One area of needed improvement relates to obtaining acceptable speed performance and high quality sound and graphics on a low-capability platform... Performance problems are exacerbated by the penchant of some video game developers to squeeze the last bit of performance out of the GAME BOY.RTM. platform."

The age of the patent application may seem to indicate that Nintendo has no current plans for the technology; but the renewal, paired with rumours that Nintendo is developing and Android tablet, could mean otherwise.

(Via NeoGAF)

Updated at 4:55 a.m. PT to clarify the status of the patent filing.