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Feature: The Weird and Wonderful World of Nintendo Patents

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Because gaming needs more wackiness

Nintendo is well known for pushing new ideas, often utilising established technology to broaden our horizons and shake up gaming experiences. The Wii Remote may have used well-worn technology in innovative ways to prompt a motion-control craze, yet it wasn't received with universal rapture before the Wii launched and sold in significant numbers — a number of people dismissed the very idea. Not all of Nintendo's bold ideas and gadgets have been runaway successes, but it continues to look beyond existing products for the next irresistible hook.

With such a creative outlook there are, naturally, plenty of ideas that flirt on the boundaries of innovative and incomprehensible. Getting a perspective on some of Nintendo's concepts is as simple as trawling its patent applications, an area where firm and speculative ideas meet and, in a number of cases, never get beyond the drawing board — this neat "illumination device" is a recent example that's been discovered. These documents may have a lot of money and time invested behind them, but they can also bring a smile to weary faces as we contemplate some of the madness that could have been.

We've trawled through our archives to find some of the most intriguing, amusing and bizarre Nintendo patent applications of recent years.


Who Wants A Touch Pad For The Wii Remote? Anyone?

The Wii U GamePad has a sizeable touch screen, and the latest DualShock for the PS4 has a small touch pad, both examples of controllers having an extra input requiring some tapping and swiping. Undeniably looking rather like a periscope, the funnel above would have housed a screen that would have used infra-red to detect touch, supposedly ideal for drawing or mimicking a mouse pointer. With the rather nifty Wii Pointer and the impending Wii U at that point, it's no surprise that this went absolutely nowhere.

Everyone Should Have An Inflatable Horse-Riding Peripheral

A personal favourite of this article's humble writer, as it neatly exemplifies the moments of madness that the Wii bandwagon prompted. Many of us adore the Wii and what it did to revolutionise mainstream gaming, but this inflatable seat shows the insane lengths almost pursued to make motion controlled gaming more immersive. A Nunchuk could also be used to simulate "bronco riding, a lasso, a sword, or other weapon". We would have bought one.

A Squishy American Football Thing For The Wii Remote

Those that enjoy silly E3 presentations may remember an early Microsoft Kinect demo, in which a photogenic extra attempting to be macho ran on the spot and played invisible American Football; it worked, but why do it was the question. Nintendo almost went down that road to madness in a more literal sense, with a squishy shell shaped like a football with a Remote embedded inside — you'd run on the spot, lift it in the air to jump and simulate throws. The dark side is strong with this one, as pretending to throw accessories likely leads to actually throwing them — remember kids, broken TVs aren't funny.

This 3DS Stylus Can Draw Without Any Touch, And Vibrates

This one could, in theory, be rather neat, albeit peculiar. A special stylus would have a 'marker' that's picked up by the inward facing camera on the system, allowing you to manipulate objects on the stereoscopic 3D screen without direct contact — so you could grab items and pull them "out" of the screen or vice-versa pushing them into the depth of the 3D effect. That marker could also utilise the external cameras, like AR cards, and also be placed on a finger-tip for some trippy stylus free effects. The same patent application also proposed a vibrating stylus, essentially a rumble feature that would react to what's happening in the game.

An Ornamental Circle Pad, Because The Original Is So Ugly

This certainly qualifies in the "pointless but I want it" category, as it essentially takes the concave design of the Circle Pad (sloping inwards) and makes it convex, so therefore more like a typical analogue stick — it resembled the GameCube equivalent. This would have to be some sort of clip-on accessory, as that clamshell won't close with a Circle Pad sticking out.

R.O.B. for Wii, Seeing As It Worked So Well On NES

R.O.B. has had a number of cameo appearances and is recognisable to Nintendo fans, but despite the boldness of the idea wasn't actually a very functional toy. Released in some NES bundles, he was an attempt to introduce a robotic buddy to gaming, and the technology simply wasn't ready. This patent shows that Nintendo has considered the idea recently, with a Wii Remote embedded for the toy to interact with and control games. Toy robots have come a long way so this may not be that barmy and, again, we'd probably buy one.


Those are some that we've reported on in recent years, and there are more interesting examples out in the wild. Let us know which you'd actually want to own in the poll below, which boggle your mind, and any other examples you feel deserve recognition.

Which of these patents is your favourite? (285 votes)

I'm digging the Wii Remote touch pad / periscope

  2%

That inflatable horse-riding peripheral looks comfortable and fun

6%

I want the Wii Remote football, because FOOTBALL

  1%

I want a rad 'marker' stylus that vibrates

40%

The ornamental Circle Pad, just because

10%

A new R.O.B., because it would be awesome

40%

Please login to vote in this poll.

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User Comments (45)

brewsky

#3

brewsky said:

I can see why the Wii Remote Touchpad went nowhere. It looks useless.

The horse-riding peripheral looks pretty useless as well.

Same for the Wii Remote football, another useless peripheral.

The stylus is a different story. This could've took off, but the main issue is the stereoscopic 3D on the 3DS. In order to make things "pop out", everything else has to pushed back. That would feel weird.

The GameCube-like Circle Pad would be interesting, but it's too late now. Besides, the Circle Pad is very precise as it is.

No comment on the R.O.B.

SakuraHaruka

#4

SakuraHaruka said:

Very Good, the more interesting things (and improved well) that will improve the gameplay, much better

Goginho

#5

Goginho said:

Keep 'em coming Nintendo. One of these experiments will end up being a great idea, once again :)

So, keep researching and trying out new things.

erv

#8

erv said:

Inflatable horse! Fart controlled achievement system!

Noonch

#9

Noonch said:

I wonder why they never made an inflatable Wii girlfriend. Maybe that'll be their new non wearable product.

Falco

#10

Falco said:

Nintendo is a company that has the power to bring new ideas to market, so out of all the crazy ideas they might get a good one.

Liquid_ice

#13

Liquid_ice said:

I like the idea of the new '3D Stylus'. The only problem is... well, to be honest, I don't think it would work. I think 3DS's cameras aren't good enough for this to work well.

Kaze_Memaryu

#14

Kaze_Memaryu said:

All these ideas are way too specific (and in case of the Wii touchpad, too impractical) to be successful, but they could use some of these ideas (especially the horse seat) for different devices, like arcade cabinets. But I suppose that'd require another patent.

sinalefa

#15

sinalefa said:

I am sorry but I would find the ornamental Circle Pad incredibly useful. At least my thumb would not slip off when I am engaged in what I am playing, as my hands get sweaty when I get nervous.

Superryanworld

#16

Superryanworld said:

Would it be possible to produce a slim circle pad pro for the 3ds xl?I know it's wishful thinking,but with that attachment holding my xl reminds me of the bulky game gear.

Liquid_ice

#17

Liquid_ice said:

@Superryanworld It would be challenging. Circle Pad Pro has another Circle Pad, but also ZL- and ZR -buttons, so it wouldn't be easy to create a slim CPP. Same goes for new 3DS -models that could potentially include second Circle Pad: in order to make these models work with games that utilise Circle Pad Pro, the models would need to have ZL- and ZR-buttons.

I can't imagine a portable system that would have L-, R-, ZL- and ZR-buttons. Nintendo makes relatively slim and good looking portables, so I think 3DS Lite with another Circle Pad integrated in it will not be released.

WesCash

#18

WesCash said:

I actually hate the concave 3DS circle pad. I could totally go for a traditional analog stick.

Dark-Link73

#19

Dark-Link73 said:

Now if the inflatable horse had a vibrating feature.... I'd buy that in a hurry! "Honey! I got us a new Wii toy!" LoL!!! ;-)

Shworange

#20

Shworange said:

Well hey. If a new installment if leisure suit Larry ever was brought to Nintendo, that horse peripheral could come in handy.

GuSilverFlame

#21

GuSilverFlame said:

I understan people voting on ROB but I don't want a vibrating stylus(as if my coordination wasn't bad with a non-vibrating one....)
the concave Circle pad was my favorite

Spoony

#22

Spoony said:

There should be an option for "All of the Above". That would have been my vote. :)

DeathlyDarkness

#29

DeathlyDarkness said:

Hilarious. The 3DS Stylus I legitimately want, though. :P

Speakin' a' patents and such, how 'bout that there Flappy Bird game? Haha, Nintendo wasn't too happy about that. XD

JaxonH

#31

JaxonH said:

More evidence of awkward brilliance. Nintendo makes some of the best gaming inventions, but they also make some of THE stupidest lol...

HyperSonicEXE

#32

HyperSonicEXE said:

I'm bummed that the top screen stylus never went through. Don't want kiddos scratching the top screen. Probably interfered in too ugly a way with the 3D, too.
Still!

Symorek

#35

Symorek said:

I would love the concave circle pad, just so my thumb won't slip off when I make a sudden movement while my thumb isn't pressing down on the circle pad.

Henmii

#36

Henmii said:

The stylus, if it adds something to a game! However, the fibrating could damage the screen! That's probably one of the reasons why it never got released!

SCAR392

#37

SCAR392 said:

R.O.B.U. would be awesome. Then you can show it stuff that's on the GamePad or use the GamePad to see he what he sees, while something else is going on on the TV.

WiiLovePeace

#38

WiiLovePeace said:

I like the idea of the no-touch stylus the best, but they all seem "fun" in their own weird way haha.

StarDust4Ever

#39

StarDust4Ever said:

Votes for ROB the Robot Wii attachment! :D

LOL on the horse riding thing; that drawing never gets old; it looks more like one of those weird "marital aid" devices they sell at adult novelty shops. :*

PLATINUM7

#40

PLATINUM7 said:

That horse riding peripheral is so odd and hilarious. I wonder how comfortable it would have been.

DinoFett

#41

DinoFett said:

R.O.B and I will buy $$$ several. Also I see R.O.B. as a street-pass assistant and a Mii Plaza sidekick.

LavaTwilight

#42

LavaTwilight said:

I think the vibrating marker would be awesome but more for the camera and the way it responds to the stereoscope and the new functions it could bring in. The others seem far-fetched but that's how you eventually come up with the ideas that do work!
I think the new ROB would've been neat but since it came out when I was barely 1 I only vaguely remember my older brother playing with it. Am I not mistaken in thinking that it was originally for people to play co-op when they had no one but a drooling 12month sibling to play with? In this era, people can play with others online. I know some games only support local co-op but eventually that's going to be a thing of the past too and the 'new' ROB will be like the old one - rare and short-lived.
Incidentally, anyone else in the UK thinks he looks like he could save you 'pounds' on confused.com ??

McHaggis

#44

McHaggis said:

The ornamental thumb pad isn't as pointless as you might think. At times where you need to push the analog stick to the right for a length of time, I sometimes find my thumb slowly slipping from the tip. This happens even more on my partner's pink 3DS XL: her thumb pad is a slightly lighter colour than mine but is much more difficult to grip.

Maybe I just sweat more in my hands at times of intense gaming, but an ornamental thumb pad wouldn't have these problems.

KiwiPanda

#45

KiwiPanda said:

I have a feeling the only reason I'm in love with the idea of a vibrating stylus is because the example featured a cat's purr.

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