Nintendo's Game Boy turns 20

Apr 23, 2009 by Karyn Poupee
Nintendo's portable game console "Game Boy Advance" with a video phone unit "Campho Advance" (camera-phone), allowing game users to enjoy real-time chat services. Twenty years ago Japan's Nintendo Co. launched the Game Boy, the iconic handheld video game player that spawned characters from Super Mario to Pokemon and sold 200 million units worldwide.

Twenty years ago Japan's Nintendo Co. launched the Game Boy, the iconic handheld video game player that spawned characters from Super Mario to Pokemon and sold 200 million units worldwide.

When the Boy was first launched this week in 1989, Japan was enjoying its economic "bubble years," Madonna's "Like a Prayer" topped international charts, and Chinese students were just starting to mass on Tiananmen Square.

Video games had recently moved from the arcades into family homes. In Japan children were playing Nintendo's Family Computer or "Famicom" games on their television sets, and simple handheld games called Game and Watch.

But the Game Boy -- sold at 8,000 yen (80 dollars at today's exchange rate) -- was the first portable console with changeable game cartridges and marketed as "35 hours of games in your pocket with just four batteries."

"Children were so happy they could play on the train after school and before the inevitable evening crash courses," recalled Hirokazu Hamamura, head of Enterbrain, a publishing company on the gaming industry.

"If Nintendo beat its rivals in this field, it's because the company has spent decades in the universe of social gaming," he said.

Kyoto-based Nintendo started off in 1889 as a maker of card games and moved into toys in the early 1900s. In 1983, it launched the hit Famicom, called the Nintendo Entertainment System in the United States.

Nintendo "understood the young public, which was not the case for electronic groups like Sony, which targeted adults," said Hamamura.

Sony came up with the Walkman in 1979 but only launched a hand-held game console, the PlayStation Portable, years after the Game Boy.

The Game Boy -- first associated with games ranging from Tetris to the endless adventures of Pikachu and its Pocket Monsters friends -- has since then kicked off a revolution in gaming software.

"Video games played on television essentially revolved around fight games or a game between two players or against the console," said Hamamura.

"But with the Game Boy and Tetris, the types of missions began to evolve," leading to more diverse and sophisticated games such as Pokemon, he said.

Consoles of the Game Boy series -- which includes the pocket, lite and colour versions -- have since sold 118 million units, while the follow-up Game Boy Advance series sold 82 million consoles.

Twenty years on, Nintendo's portable consoles have grown up with their users. Nintendo in 2004 launched the dual-screen or DS portable console, which has since sold more than 100 million units around the world.

It boasts games such as the popular "Dragon Quest," but also study applications, restaurant guides, dictionaries and other functions. Some primary schools in Japan now use it to teach English and Japanese kanji characters.

"Nintendo has always preserved the same philosophy: entertaining the family," said Hamamura. "But in 20 years the company has also expanded its range of games with educational titles, which has turned adults into players."

president and CEO Satoru Iwata reportedly said recently that "it's a grand vision to have every student at every school using a DS.

"It will take time and energy to reach that goal because the DS has been viewed by teachers as an enemy for a long time."

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Samsung phones cleared for US government use

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Global sales of Nintendo's Wii top 50 million

Mar 26, 2009

(AP) -- Japanese game maker Nintendo Co. said Thursday global sales of its popular Wii video game console have topped 50 million since it went on sale worldwide in late 2006.

Nintendo sells 100 million DS consoles

Mar 12, 2009

Nintendo said sales of its handheld DS have topped 100 million machines less than five years since its launch, reaching the milestone faster than any other game console.

Nintendo not planning price cuts for hit machines

Apr 09, 2009

(AP) -- Nintendo has weathered the global recession because of the popularity of its game machines and won't be resorting to price cuts to boost sales, the company's president said Thursday.

Sony PS3 tops Nintendo Wii in Japan in March: survey

Apr 07, 2009

Sony has been given a vital boost in the battle for the multibillion-dollar video game industry, with a survey showing its PlayStation 3 outsold Nintendo's Wii in Japan for the first time in 16 months.

Recommended for you

Samsung phones cleared for US government use

3 hours ago

Samsung Electronics Co. said Tuesday some of its Galaxy mobile devices were approved by the National Security Agency for use with classified U.S. government networks and data, a boost to the company's efforts to expand in ...

Review: Apple Pay in action

5 hours ago

If there ever comes a day I can ditch my wallet and use my phone to pay for everything, I'll look back to my first purchase through Apple Pay: a Big Mac and medium fries for $5.44. That wallet-free day won't ...

Samsung seeks boost from redesigned Note

5 hours ago

The latest version of Samsung's popular big-screen Galaxy Note has gone on sale at a crucial time for the South Korean company as it suffers a rapid decline in profit from its global smartphone business.

New iPad cellular models have Apple SIM flexibility

Oct 19, 2014

Cellular-enabled iPad models are under a new paradigm, said AppleInsider, regarding the Apple SIM. Apple's newest iPad models with cellular connectivity use a SIM card which tech sites said could eventually ...

User comments : 0