A number of Nintendo patents have recently been made public, with these documents reportedly relating to unique mechanics in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Per reporting from Automaton, Nintendo has patented ToTK mechanics including Link’s Ultrahand and Fuse abilities, registering their unique functionality and code base to ensure legal protection in future.
Between July and August 2023, Nintendo publicly released around 32 patents, many of which relate to Tears of the Kingdom – with some focussing on specific gameplay mechanics, and others focussing on more general gameplay features, like the game’s fast travel loading screen.
Per Automaton, one patent relates specifically to the physics and movement calculations for in-game traversal on moving vehicles. The patent describes the ‘movement of movable dynamic objects placed in the virtual space’ and how physics calculations control both vehicle movement, as well as how a character moves in relation to this vehicle.
Observation by analyst naoya2k is that while the system appears generic, Nintendo‘s unique coding solution means that the character riding the vehicle is not specifically interacting with it. Rather, the solution provides for the vehicle to move without shared physics with its rider.
Likewise, other patents for mechanics like Ultrahand reveal other unique coding solutions – for example, including caveats for items being stood on – that are now patented by Nintendo. The loading screen patent filing is the strangest of the bunch, but this also relates directly to a unique implementation for Tears of the Kingdom.
The filed patents will be used to protect Nintendo‘s intellectual property and unique coding solutions, and to prevent other game companies directly copying the mechanics of Tears of the Kingdom.
Given the complexity of the game’s mechanics – which were frequently a topic of conversation following its launch in May 2023 – it’s unlikely abilities like Ultrahand and Fuse are easilyreplicable. That said, they are now legally protected.
Since Nintendo‘s patents were discovered, many have criticisedNintendo‘s approach, alleging patents stifle creativity and innovation in video games. The closest example flagged is in the patent filing for Shadow of Mordor‘s Nemesis System, which allows players to battle a gauntlet of enemies that remember events, and grow stronger over time. Since this filing, the Nemesis System has remained largely exclusive to the dormant Middle-earth franchise.
Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows.
You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.