Six years ago, before the GameCube's launch, Nintendo had filed for a patent on a "messaging service for video game systems with buddy list that displays game being played," and on Tuesday they were granted the patent. The details involve a fully-fledged IM system featuring buddy icons, in-game messaging (via text or voice chat), and web-based storage of the user profile (i.e. Nintendo's servers). All the details can be viewed within the patent's claims.
You can see the similarities between Nintendo's patent and Microsoft's Xbox Live service, but there are two things you should take from this patent:
- It does not mean Microsoft copied Nintendo. While Nintendo filed this patent before the Xbox was even launched, chances are Microsoft also filed a patent just as long ago, if not longer.
- It does not guarantee these services will be included in the Wii. While Nintendo now has patent protection on such services, given the company the option to incorporate all these features into Wii Connect24, that does not guarantee Nintendo's willingness to implement every aspect of the patent into its service, although it is likely we will see a very similar (if not exact) system implemented by the time the Wii launches.