Nintendo may be working on a case that turns your smartphone into a Game Boy10
credit: iOS '86 concept by Anton Repponen used
In this day and age, where dedicated portable gaming systems are fading away — not counting the Switch, which is a hybrid console — Nintendo is reportedly looking for a way to bring the Game Boy back into everyone's pocket. But how does the Japanese video game giant intend to achieve this when all of us are already carrying capable gaming machines pretty much everywhere we go? Simple, convert our smartphones into Game Boys.
Nintendo has long been rumored to be working on some sort of peripheral for smartphones that would bring them closer to a portable console. That is, an accessory that adds actual, physical buttons to the phone. Now, a lot of you folks out there may be okay with touchscreen controls, and that's quite alright, but there's a lot of us that are turned off by smartphone games at large simply due to the input method required to play them. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of great games that are built from the ground up for touchscreens and play great, but there are traditional genres that could really benefit from actual, physical feedback when playing (platformers and fighting games come to mind).
But I digress. A new Nintendo patent filing from earlier this year, as first spotted by Siliconera, reveals that the video game company may be working on a Game Boy case for smartphones. By the looks of it, it will be a flip case that overlays a set of buttons over the screen — a D-Pad, A and B buttons, and Start and Select buttons — and uses a "window" to limit the screen area to roughly match that of old Game Boys (as far as aspect ratio goes, at least).
That's both a good and a bad thing. The good news is that Nintendo is likely planning to officially release many old classics on mobile for the first time ever. The bad news is that this case won't really be new Nintendo hardware as such. It'll simply be a flip cover with buttons that will be pressing the touchscreen underneath. Knowing the company, there's going to be something like an official
emulator Nintendo hub app where old games will go for a couple bucks a pop. You launch the app, close the case, and play the game, that's it. But the worse, perhaps, is the fact that there won't be new games coming out. It's not like Nintendo is going to develop and release new titles for this peripheral. No, it's just going to be the classics.
And speaking of the classics, another question that this rumored Nintendo peripheral rises is what's going to happen with the plethora of Game Boy emulators available on the Google Play Store, should the case ever be made available for Android phones. Emulation falls in a legal gray area, but with Nintendo's recent crackdown on ROM sites, we wouldn't be surprised if the company tried to pull some popular emulator apps from the store. Why? Because these apps have been offering everything Nintendo's rumored flip case could offer for years and years. Well, aside from the buttons, but believe me, should this accessory come out, all popular emulator apps will try to add support for it. That's not something that's going to fly with Nintendo.
We still don't know if and when the Game Boy case is going to launch, but it's really not that surprising that Nintendo is interested in the concept. After the company made bank with the NES and SNES Mini Classic, and with Sony recently jumping on the bandwagon with the PlayStation Classic, something like a Game Boy case for smartphones makes a lot of sense. I, for one, am guilty of owning the NES Mini (as are some of my colleagues) and I'd buy such a case in an instant. Excuse me while I wipe my nostalgia goggles.