From July 10 to August 4, 32 patent applications filed by Nintendo were made public in Japan, 31 of which concern the game mechanics in “Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom”.
The hottest patents that are being discussed relate to specific mechanics, the player character’s abilities, and loading sequences.
While patents are not common in the video game industry, Nintendo has always been considerably active – A well-known example includes Nintendo's patent related to Wiimote’s (Nintendo Wii remote controller) motion-tracking capabilities. Nonetheless, with this splurge the company seems to be on a spree right now, likely due to the success of Tears of the Kingdom.
Although patents are not a developer’s go to tool for protecting a game’s inherent value due to the costs and difficulties involved with acquiring a patent, there have been noteworthy attempts to patent mechanics and features which often are not protectable otherwise. Famous examples include Bandai Namco’s patent to loading screen minigames, and Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment’s patent to the Nemesis system used in both Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, and its 2017 sequel, Shadow of War.
What we know now of Nintendo’s spree is that the patents that are the topic of discussion are filed in Japan. Given that patents are territorially limited in their scope, it may very likely be that Nintendo attempts filing in other jurisdictions and countries. Further, since the patent application process usually takes between two and three years from the filing date in Japan, they will likely all be processed by May 2026.
Author: Jesper Rantatulkkila
First Published: 8/15/2023 on linkedin