Welcome back! In our last post, we touched on the history of the Nintendo TV game. Now, it’s time to explore another realm of the Nintendo empire…the handheld device!
So, let’s get started.
There are two series of handheld game consoles developed by Nintendo – the Game Boy series, and the DS series. Both are extremely well-known within the gaming industry, and have paved the way for Nintendo’s success as it has met all three generations. Both series set Nintendo’s seal on handheld devices as much as the red and white television.
Let’s introduce you to the GB (Game Boy) – however, it’s more than likely you’ve met it before.
GB (Game Boy)
Released in April 1989, it was Nintendo’s first game console, its design concept stemming from their previously-made Game & Watch portable game machine. Let’s get a little technical. It boasted four stereo channels and uses a custom Z-80 CPU, with a 4.19MHz speed and LCD display.
Lightweight, cheap, and low-consuming were just three characteristics that Nintendo handhelds needed to possess. Due to these restrictions, the hardware functions and components used to manufacture them were inferior to consoles of the same generation (Sega Game Gear, Atari Lynx, etc). Despite this, it managed to stay well ahead of its competitors and attained the top title of best-selling portable console ever, thanks to a myriad of good software and the introduction of the Tetris cassette tape.
Tetris was a game that captured the initial attention of universal players from the earliest stage possible. Another game, Super Mario Land, was made specifically for the GB series. Players experienced the peak of travel entertainment – due to the console’s hardware configuration and operation buttons, games could be carried out with simplicity. Its popularity was evident. By June 2000, the console had sold over 100 million units – the first of its kind to achieve this.
GBC (Game Boy Color)
The GBC (Game Boy Color) is simply an improved version of the Game Boy. This time, it featured a color screen and graced the shelves from October 1998 onwards. Famous GBC Cards include Pokemon gold, silver and aqua gold. After the Game Boy’s initial release, Nintendo’s competitors quickly picked up on this trend – brands such as Sega, Atari and NES then brought out their own portable consoles with the latest LCD technology.
Nintendo was concerned that their console would be overshadowed. So, to avoid defeat, the GBC was their weapon in this gaming battle. Compared to the Game Boy, it had a color screen, a custom Z-80cpu with speeds up to 8MHz, a mono speaker, and a wirelessly-connected infrared communication port.
The GBC was far more successful than anyone could’ve predicted. By 1998, more than 50 million of Game Boy devices were sold, reaching a new dimension altogether. At this point, GBC’s quality of graphics, sound and production had caught up with the FC era.
So, what else do we have?
GBA (Game Boy Advance)
The Game Boy Advance is Nintendo’s second generation console, released during March 2001. It featured a color TFT LCD screen, compatible with the previous Game Boy consoles. Game Boy was and still is recognised as the main representative of handheld devices. Despite the original GB being relatively-poor compared to standards these days, Nintendo continued to introduce evolutionary models to maintain Game Boy’s legacy.
In 1999, BanDai’s Wonder Swan was so overwhelming that Nintendo felt compelled to release Game Boy’s successor – the Game Boy Advance, as mentioned above. The GBA was able to connect with other GBAs, but also the original Game Boy and the Nintendo Game Cube, in order to enrich video game content. With some games, you could dial phones online or communicate using wireless means, so that friends in different cities could link. And, by 2010, a huge 81.51 million GBA devices were sold worldwide.
During February 2003 in Japan, Nintendo released an upgraded version of the GBA – namely, the GBA SP. In terms of software, the GBA SP is the same as the GBA – they share hardware, a folding body, and a 32000 colour TFT LCD screen with luminous features, meaning they can be seen in the dark. The GBA SP’s design was also interesting. It featured a ‘wood leaf ninja’ mark, coupled with a brilliant orange shade, providing players with a strong sense of ‘Naruto’.
It took only two hours for the first batch of GBA SP to sell out the shelves. The surge of demand was extremely intense; a harsh contrast from the deep Japanese recession.
GBM (Game Boy Micro)
Next, we have the Game Boy Micro (GBM). It’s a portable machine released in 2005, being another revision of the GBA. It can be equipped with the GBA SD memory card ‘Playan’, providing MP3 music and ASF/MP4 video playback function. It’s currently scheduled to launch silver and black versions, with a selection of replaceable cases, including pink, dark blue, bright orange and green camouflage.
The GBA console series cemented Nintendo’s position within the handheld industry, and the popularity of their products has greatly enhanced the trust of third-party vendors and players. Its influence is undeniable. Even Square, the traditionally-hardline Japanese game maker, cannot ignore this.
As you can see, Nintendo’s got a firm grip on the gaming industry. And it’s likely it’ll stay this way for a long time.