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Nintendo patents Game Boy phone controller/case

Filing invites speculation of a new way for Mario maker to monetize its legacy games on smartphones

A patent application suggests Nintendo is considering new ways to monetize its catalog of classic Game Boy titles. As reported by Siliconera, a Nintendo US patent application filed in March of this year details what is essentially a smartphone case made to look like an original Game Boy handheld with a D-pad and buttons on the cover flap that would function with capacitive touchscreens.

The application was filed in the US in March of this year, but originally applied for in Japan in March of 2017. The patent's name is "cover," and the first purpose given in the patent summary is to be a novelty cover. However, the patent art unmistakably evokes the Game Boy, and the patent does describe a version of the idea where the cover has a hole cut into it so that users could see a game playing on their device's screen and control it using the buttons on the cover.

If Nintendo were to roll out a way to play its catalog of Game Boy games on smart devices, it would represent another shift in the company's changing approach to monetizing its older titles. After offering vintage games as a la carte downloads through the Virtual Console service on the Wii, Wii U, and 3DS for years, the company's strategy more recently has been to sell them in microconsoles like the NES Classic and SNES Classic, or to offer them as incentives for subscribers to the Nintendo Switch online service.

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Brendan Sinclair avatar
Brendan Sinclair: Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot.
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