While playing my favorite MMORPG a couple of nights ago with a friend, the subject of emulation came up - one that I'm always happy to indulge in. This friend told me that while mobile, she uses a Game Boy emulator on her phone to help pass the time. That led to me say, as I have many times in the past, that it'd be a smart move for Nintendo to release its games on mobile platforms. But alas, that's something that's been talked-about for a while, and Nintendo is infamously stubborn when it comes to games being made available on non-Nintendo platforms.
Well, little did I realize, a patent was made public mere days earlier that described the exact thing I figured would never happen: Nintendo has plans to create emulators for the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance. That's a list that could grow over time, but those are the only three that are explicitly mentioned in the patent.
Before going further, I should clarify an important point: It's highly unlikely that Nintendo is going to release actual emulators that will allow players to drop in their own ROMs. Instead, the company is likely to sell individual games on various mobile marketplaces, as well as compilations. What this means is, it's not as though the entire library for each of these Game Boy platforms will suddenly become available on mobile.
For emulation fans, nothing here is likely to change outside of the fact that you'll be able to get the games legally and support Nintendo directly. I should note that it is already legal if you want to play ROM dumps you created of games you own.
One thing to consider, though, is that if Nintendo is creating its own emulators - even if they are not open-ended in terms of features like already available ones - the company might be able to exercise its legal power to stop the distribution of pre-existing emulators. However, since that has never been done up to this point - there's even a Nintendo DS emulator that works well - I am not entirely sure that will happen.
In addition to providing Game Boy games on mobile platforms, the patent also describes deploying the games to entertainment systems found on aircraft and trains.
For a number of reasons, this is an interesting development. For those who never use emulators, it's exciting because it will probably allow them to play their favorite Game Boy games on mobile. For those who do use emulators, namely Game Boy ones, the future is uncertain. To say that there are many Game Boy emulators out there would be a major understatement - I have three on my NVIDIA SHIELD Portable alone. We'll have to wait and see where this goes.