Nintendo has been famously hesitant to bring its most beloved franchises to mobile for fear that would cannibalize its handheld console sales. Still, smartphones aren’t going away any time soon, and Nintendo might have an angle. The company has submitted a patent in the US for a phone case that adds Game Boy buttons to your phone.
Just glancing at the lead image of the patent, you could be forgiven for thinking you were looking at an actual Game Boy. But no, this is a flip-style phone case. There’s a transparent window where the Game Boy’s screen would be, along with physical buttons for A, B, the D-pad, start, and select. They’re all in the right place out of respect for your decades-old muscle memory.
According to the patent, the case works like any other flip case insofar as it protects your phone. It actually looks very similar to Samsung’s old S View cases with the window up top. The buttons sit above conductive contacts on the back of the flip cover. Those contacts touch the screen of your phone, so pressing the buttons registers as a touch. The hinge and phone surround would need to be rather rigid to make sure the buttons are in the right location when closed. That means this would not be a universal phone case — Nintendo would have to make a custom version for each phone, and let’s face it, that means iPhones and Samsung Galaxy devices.
The window would presumably frame a Game Boy-style title on the phone’s display. The rest of the screen could display nothing but still accept touch input. A phone with an OLED display like most of today’s high-end offerings would use no power to display black pixels on that section of the display. The patent makes it sound like games may also have a full-screen mode with on-screen buttons if you don’t have the fancy Game Boy case.
The patent naturally doesn’t go into any detail on what such a case would control on the phone. Nintendo has been going after websites that list emulators and ROMs in the last few months. However, it’s unlikely Nintendo would offer official emulation software for Android or iOS. More likely, it would port a selection of games as standalone games that pair with this case. The dream of playing a real Pokémon game on your phone isn’t dead yet.
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