While there may be a number of third-party gaming accessories for the iPhone on the market, Apple is considering making one of its own. On Tuesday, the company was granted a patent for a gaming accessory that could turn an iPhone into a portable game console in just a snap.

Apple Gaming Accessory Patent Apple's invention could turn the iPhone into a game console with d-pad and buttons Photo: USPTO

The patent, granted and published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was first filed in 2008, shortly after the release of the iPhone 3G, which also brought the App Store with it. The App Store enabled iPhone and iPod Touch owners to do more with their devices, including playing games. But it also highlighted a problem with the advent of touchscreen gaming: controls often covered valuable screen real estate.

Apple Gaming Accessory iPhone In some embodiments, the accessory could have physical keyboard or keypad Photo: USPTO/Apple

“The same screen used for viewing an avatar's activities is used to control the avatar,” Apple’s patent states.  “This arrangement causes the user's fingers to block the action. Thus, while these portable electronic devices include a highly efficient interface, when playing games it is often desirable to have a more specialized user interface.”

In an effort to remedy this problem, Apple created a case-like device, which an iPhone could be placed into. This effectively turned the smartphone into a portable game console, complete with d-pad and physical buttons. And in some embodiments Apple had also accounted for different control methods, including a vertical keypad and a case that adds a second screen to the iPhone, much like Nintendo’s line of 3DS consoles.

Apple Nintendo DS clone In one embodiment, Apple describes an accessory similar to Nintendo's line of 3DS portable game consoles. Photo: USPTO/Apple

In addition, the accessory could add other features to the gaming experience, including a camera, microphone or force feedback.

The publication of Apple’s patent follows several new inventions from the company related to gaming, including a pop-up joystick and another invention, which could add virtual buttons to its iPad lineup.

The company credits its senior patent counsel, Sanjay Gadkari, and former Apple patent development and enforcement director, Brett Alten, as the inventors behind the patent.