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Nintendo patent hints at mobile possibilities, but it’s wishful thinking

by Phil Hornshaw

A new patent granted to video gaming giant Nintendo hints that the company might be heading in some kind of mobile device direction. While it would be nice to get Pokemon and Mario on smartphones and tablets, don’t expect it to happen anytime soon.

Engadget has the story, which cites U.S. patent number 8,157,654, which grans Nintendo ownership of a software system for emulating the gameplay of handheld gaming devices such as its Nintendo 3DS on other devices, including cell phones. Essentially, the patent sounds like something akin to mirroring on iOS or a remote desktop application, putting the picture you’d normally see on a game device up on a different screen. That would leave the 3DS or other game device in your hand as an effective controller for the second screen.

As Slide To Play notes, it’s easy to fall into the hope that Nintendo’s patent might indicate plans for the company to take on the mobile gaming platform. Indeed, many players would love for that to happen. Right now, Nintendo’s business model has it creating and selling video game hardware that plays its proprietary games, and that probably causes many potential would-be players to forego the costs of, say, a Nintendo 3DS, even though they might want to play Nintendo’s games.

So it’s possible the patent indicates some new leaning toward Nintendo making a play for mobile platforms, giving them a way to bring its games to other people’s hardware without losing the ability to sell hardware of its own. In fact, that’s a lot of what Nintendo’s business model entails – selling games and the hardware to play. As Wired explains, Nintendo doesn’t want to sell its games on other people’s platforms, which is a pretty good reason for it not to.

But does the patent mean that Nintendo is angling for a way into mobile? Probably not. Engadget notes that tech companies, even video game makers such as Nintendo, acquire a lot of patents without ever necessarily intending to use them. In fact, having those patents in the bag are key to legal defenses against other companies. Many companies gather patents in order to protect themselves, even though they never make anything with the products. That’s probably what Nintendo is up to here.

At least for the time being, there’s no real reason for Nintendo to start bringing its games to mobile devices unless it’s the one making them. Though the company’s new patent is interesting, you’re probably still going to need to go buy a new Nintendo handheld if you want to play the company’s games.