BusinessWeek reported today that Nintendo suffered a setback as the company was denied a listing on the Nikkei 225. With the increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets as gaming devices, many analysts have questioned the future of Nintendo’s traditional gaming focus of handheld game-only devices.
Envision IP analyzed Nintendo’s US patent assets to understand how the company has protected various aspects of its gaming technology. We identified over 1,000 US patents and 425 pending patent applications assigned to Nintendo. Since 2003, Nintendo has seen a steady increase in patent grants, with a peak of 162 patents in 2012. To date in 2013, Nintendo has received 116 patents.
Beginning in 2004, Nintendo had generally year-over-year increases in patent application filings, with a spike of 150 filings in 2006, and a subsequent rise in filings peaking with 230 in 2011. Patent applications are published 18 months after filing; thus our analysis does not include any 2012 and 2013 patent application filings by Nintendo.
Not surprisingly, the majority of Nintendo’s US patent portfolio is focused on gaming hardware (controllers, consoles, display technologies, and related components), with approximately 740 patents. The remaining patents generally fall into the following categories:
Storage technologies ~ 120 patents
Wireless gaming (does not include wireless controller technologies) ~ 60 patents
Multiplayer gaming technology ~ 60 patents
Networked content distribution and delivery ~ 30 patents
On-demand gaming ~ 15 patents
With the constant integration of social networking and mobile technology, we found it interesting that Nintendo does not appear to have any issued patents related to social gaming. Seemingly ignoring the increasingly popularity of social gaming (i.e., Zynga, Facebook, etc.), Nintendo appears to have focused its R&D efforts on its console platform, with a focus on multi-player experiences and distributed game and content delivery.
Nintendo does own, however, three patent applications recently published in 2013 that relate to various aspects of social networking, such as inviting players from a social network, creating game contests within a social network, and delivering social media driven promotions.
While Nintendo faces significant pressure from other console manufacturers, as well as competition from mobile gaming systems, the company’s patent portfolio may be prove to be a valuable asset. Acquisition hungry Microsoft (who just last week announced a deal with Nokia), as well as PlayStation maker Sony, may find Nintendo’s patents attractive and complementary to their own gaming platforms and products.
In addition, companies such as Google and Apple, which are reportedly developing augmented reality glasses and smart television systems, may be able to utilize components of Nintendo’s patent portfolio in their future product offerings.