On April 21st, 1989, Nintendo’s first hand held, the Game Boy, hit retail shelves and started a portable revolution that Gunpei Yokoi and his team might never have imagined. But for his boss, Hiroshi Yamauchi, you could probably say that he was counting on it.
It wasn’t the most sophisticated handheld compared to the competitors that later arrived such as the 16-bit Atari Lynx a few months later in October which also boasted the first color LCD for a handheld gaming device.
The Game Boy lacked color, didn’t have the greatest sound, and let’s face it — it was pretty big. A slew of accessories rolled out later to try and beef up its shortcomings ranging from magnifying screens to new speakers. But it was cheap. And it did have one big advantage.
It had games, lots of them, proving the adage that software makes the hardware. The low price it debuted at ($89.99) compared to the Atari Lynx ($189.95) was also a plus. The Lynx sold well, but the Game Boy eventually ran away with the crown.
Great licenses and properties beefed up its library compared to its peers. Instead of people flocking to the prettiest looking titles (or the much more expensive alternatives), the Game Boy proved over time that they didn’t have to look that great in order to be fun. Bundling Tetris in with it was also something of a big bonus which burned so many hours on my end.
The Game Boy also had lasting power thanks to its batteries which could go on and on for almost an entire day while its fancy competitors chewed through theirs from anywhere between two to six hours.
Since then, handhelds have been something of the insurmountable mountain that Nintendo ruled all to itself — at least until mobile gaming had improved on devices such as Android and iOS phones and tablets. Sony’s PSP and Vita are also good systems that provide exciting alternatives to Nintendo’s library, but for nearly a quarter of a century, Nintendo’s Game Boys had dominated a niche of the market.
A number of other sites are also celebrating with a number of great writeups, so check them out if you have the time.
Congratulations, Game Boy!
- From Nintendolife, Talking Point: The Game Boy is 25 Years Old, and Deserves Its Place in Gaming History by Thomas Whitehead
- Jared Newman at Time takes a moment to salute the legendary handheld with the Game Boy’s startup screen chime. Ah, memories…
- Nick Summers over at The Next Web also takes a moment to reflect on the Game Boy and patches in a classic commercial to remind us all of how awesome the 80s used to be.
- And Channel NewsAsia has an article with a few quotes from those sharing their thoughts on Nintendo’s Game Boy including a gamer in Japan browsing through a retro store and a student admitting his own appreciation for simpler games versus those today