As we all know, Nintendo’s famous GameBoy series of systems are major successes in not only the handheld gaming industry, but the entire gaming industry in general. It always sported great games, beat out all other handhelds, and of course, conveniently supported portability in amazing ways. From its debut in the 80s until now, the GameBoy series has held its head twice as high as all its other competition in the handheld industry. We always thought of the GameBoy first when someone mentioned handheld gaming.
In the 1980s, Nintendo created their first form of gaming, a simple device called the Game & Watch. It was simply a game where you control a little guy, portrayed with many different images, using a directional control pad and some buttons. The challenge of the game is that you were timed. You always were trying to do better than you did last, until you find it difficult to do so. This is what made the game addicting.
Although bulky, and couldn’t fit in your pocket, the Game & Watch started the idea of handheld gaming. With the Game & Watch, Nintendo was starting to be known as an all out gaming company. Because of this, they were thinking behind the scenes of what they could do next for the handheld industry. No advancements would be made for a while, but they still had lots of time.
In 1989, Nintendo totally makes a huge jump with the release of the NES, or Nintendo Entertainment System. It was an 8-bit system, powerful for the time, which was supposed to get you to play games from the arcade. The only downfall is that you didn’t get that same graphical quality. Why was this? Wasn’t it powerful enough? In fact, it was, but it was just that some companies didn’t want to have themselves funding for just another version of the game. However, eventually, some of them wised up and made the games better, and the NES sported great-looking games in color, and eventually became something separate from the arcade, because its library consisted of many games you would never see in the arcade. Everyone loved the NES.
Soon after, in the 90s, Nintendo’s Gunpei Yokoi began thinking of how great it would be to have an entire NES in the palm of your hand. Nintendo went for it, and thought of it as an advancement to the Game & Watch, so they let Yokoi to work. Later on, in 1994, Yokoi presents his handheld, so named the GameBoy, which wasn’t quite as powerful as the NES, and didn’t support colors except for shades of grey, but it was still amazing for the time, and the size, seeing that it could arguably fit in your pockets. It’s later released to the public, and becomes a great success, with games such as Tetris, Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and the famed Pokemon series. It’s ability to link with other GameBoys using a link cable also became one of its famous features, allowing you to play with a friend. Pokemon takes advantage the linking ability in order to make itself what we know it as today: “To catch �em all, you gotta’ trade with your friends.”
In light of this success, Yokoi gets to work on his next invention. It was a very powerful 32-bit system that had great graphics, but it will turn out to be a total flop. Yokoi presented his Virtual Boy in 1995, which didn’t even look comfortable when you saw it. First, it didn’t fit in your pocket, and it looked like a giant set of goggles fro the 50s. However, things were worse after the view. It seemed that this Virtual Boy had made use of nauseating red colors, and was totally uncomfortable to use, so it was pulled much too soon after it hit the market. Yokoi was kicked out almost immediately, and Nintendo ran without him, making use of the Super NES.
Without Yokoi, Nintendo was surviving in the handheld industry still. The GameBoy was still selling like crazy, even with competition like the Lynx around. You see, other companies, such as Sega and Panasonic were making handhelds as well, that had amzing 16-bit, color graphics, but they had low battery power, and only ran for about an hour and a half, even just a half hour sometimes, as compared to the GameBoy’s excellent 10 hours of gameplay on one set of batteries. They even had a series called the Color GameBoy, which didn’t have games in color, but the skin of the GameBoy was in different colors. Yeah, sounds primitive, but the sales skyrocketed due to the change in style. I say Nintendo got lucky, but it was still all good fortunes. What of Yokoi, however?
Yokoi and his genius didn’t give up on Nintendo, he had too many ideas. He worked on a better version of the GameBoy in his absence, and so, in 1996, he brought his new invention to Nintendo, the GameBoy Pocket. This baby was way smaller, way sleeker, and way more technical than the original GameBoy. This thing came in all the colors of skins, had better processing power, and fit in everyone’s pockets. The GameBoy was doing well all over again, and Nintendo brought Yokoi back in.
That same year, Nintendo released the Nintendo 64, which had its own competition, but Yokoi set his sights on new advancements as well. He began working on the GameBoy everyone always wanted. In 1998, Yokoi brings out his next innovation, the GameBoy Color, which actually had games in color. This was still a little bigger than the GameBoy Pocket but it was still very tiny, and such a matter was very minor by now, because the memory and graphical advancements were great. The GameBoy Color had beautiful games, with up to 56 different colors, and brought back many classics in awesome color, such as Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Kirby. Two years later, in 2000, Pokemon versions Gold and Silver are released, and introduced the GameBoy-System connection, one of Nintendo’s popular features to be.
Nintendo couldn’t have done better at the time. Except for rivalries with Sony, Nintendo was at the top of the gaming industry, and beat down anything that jumped at them. However, in the midst of this, Nintendo is struck by the death of Yokoi death, in a horrible accident. Not only Nintendo, but the whole world had lost a good friend. However, Yokoi introduced concepts that won’t be forgotten for centuries. Nintendo will very well benefit from this.
In late 2001, Nintendo releases the GameBoy Advance, the best GameBoy yet. This baby was practically two GameBoy Color’s in one. It boasted crisp 32-bit graphics, able the produce over 32000 colors, and had a new design, and smaller game paks. And even more, you could easily pop your older games into it and play it using this new system. Nintendo had now seized what looked like a permanent spot at the top of the handheld industry. No one dared to challenge them, not again.
In 2003, the best advancement ever is introduced to the GameBoy series. The GameBoy Advance SP, is released, which again had a sleek design, was way less bulky than the GBA, even folded inwards, and best of all, had a backlight built into the screen, which allowed you to play your games in total dark. The sales even soar higher.
Success rolls in even again in November, 2004, when the GameBoy takes is all a dimension higher. With the release of the Nintendo DS, a dual screened system with a touch screen, wireless play, 3D games, and backwards compatibility with all other GameBoy games, Nintendo was doing even better. By now, we thought it did better so many times, it was perfect. However, even in light of this, Sony finally steps up and challenges Nintendo in the handheld industry. Sony practically equally matches the DS with the Sony PSP, each with special pros and cons, but competition was nigh, nevertheless.
However, while now faced with competition, the idea of the GameBoy will never die. And I can guarantee you that the sons of Nintendo will remain in your palms, and at the top of the list.