Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Nintendo Takes a Poke at Microsoft, Sony and Nokia: Another day, another patent. This time it's Nintendo in the news, as they have applied for and been granted a patent covering many aspects of online console gaming. The new patent looks to be an extension of this earlier patent filed for in April 1999 and awarded in July 2003, which is common under the current US patent system. Together, the two patents cover about everything you need for online gaming with your favorite console. Looking at the features described in the most recent patent, you will no doubt note similarities between this hypothetical device from Nintendo and other consoles currently on the market.

  • Communications circuitry, coupled in use to said game processing system and to a user's communications network, for linking said game processing system to the Internet and permitting communication from the player to another party over the Internet
  • A writeable mass storage device coupled in use to said game processing system for receiving information downloaded from the Internet

In addition, it covers keeping track of player performance data, multiplayer gaming, and an entire online gaming service.

At first glance, it is a curious move from a company that has limited support for online gaming in its flagship console and has publicly expressed a lack of interest in the whole online gaming scene. The Nintendo GameCube is the only one of the "big three" consoles that does not support online gaming, and the only plans they have made known for online gaming is via the new Nintendo DS handheld. It is unclear if their next-generation console will allow players to go online. However, it does give them a certain amount of leverage over competitors such as Sony and Microsoft, both of which have made online gaming a centerpiece of their user experience. Even Nokia could be in trouble with the N-Gage. Until Nintendo makes their Internet connectivity intentions known for their next-generation console, it is likely that they will use the patents as leverage over its rivals, even to extract licensing revenues.

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