June 9th, 2014, 22:56 Posted By: wraggster
Year: 1989 Manufacturer: Nintendo Original cost: $89.99
Nintendo’s Game Boy became synonymous with handheld gaming overnight. A system with interchangeable games, it could be played anywhere, combining portability, miniaturization and entertainment – three of the most important attributes of today’s emerging technology – into a single, affordable, power-light device.Not only that, but the Game Boy is arguably the most iconic piece of video game hardware design. Its light grey casing is punctuated by two maroon buttons and a jet black d-pad, while a single bright red power light winks to life on the left of a square, luminous green screen, a miniature window into a world of two-tone possibility.The system’s marriage to Alexey Pajitnov’s Tetris is a pairing of hardware and software that is yet to be bettered, establishing the handheld’s place as a near-universally recognizable cultural artefact. Not only that, but this was the system to establish Nintendo’s most successful line of gaming hardware, one that stretches across the years in numerous iterations, leading up to the Nintendo 3DS, a handheld system in whose three-dimensional face the bold likeness of the original Game Boy can still be recognized.And yet, even at launch, the Game Boy’s components were technically obsolete. Its creator, Gunpei Yokoi, the man almost single-handedly responsible for Nintendo’s entry to the video game market (page 16), had been responsible for Nintendo’s range of Game & Watch handhelds, LCD-based machines dedicated to a single game. The Game & Watch games were created to make use of cheap LCD screens, a re- purposing of elderly technology that Yokoi imaginatively described as: ‘Lateral Thinking of Withered Technology.’Game Boy’s success led to a multitude of new iterations of the hardware.
It was this same philosophy that directed Yokoi and his 45-man team of designers, programmers and engineers to create the Game Boy, a system assembled from inexpensive, near-obsolete components that kept manufacturing costs to a minimum. While Sega and Atari busied themselves working with high-powered handhelds with colour graphics and impressive sound capabilities (the Game Gear and Atari Lynx respectively), Yokoi and his team opted for a monochrome screen and a tinny speaker. As a result, the Game Boy outlasted its rivals by several times over.The biggest benefit to Yokoi’s decision to use outdated technology was lowered manufacturing costs. As a result of the team’s insistence on using cheap components inside the Game Boy shell, the launch price was set at just $89.99 in the US, $100 cheaper than Atari’s rival Lynx, and $60 cheaper than Sega’s Game Gear. Nintendo’s competitors were quick to jump upon the Game Boy’s weaker specifications. Sega aired a number of negative advertising campaigns in the US that mocked the Game Boy’s monochrome display in comparison to Game Gear’s full colour display. But despite the jibes, the Game Boy’s popularity rose. The system’s affordability also elevated Nintendo’s own expectations, with company president Hiroshi Yamauchi predicting sales of 25 million within the first three years of its release. In reality, three years after its launch, the Game Boy had sold 32 million units, far exceeding Yamauchi’s seemingly wild speculation.In contrast to the console side of its business, Nintendo subjected the Game Boy technology to a series of iterations, releasing the Game Boy Pocket, then the Game Boy Color, small upgrades on the original hardware, that allowed the hardware to develop without rendering its back catalogue of over 650 games. Later, the Game Boy Advance arrived, a more powerful piece of hardware and one that itself went through a number of upgrades through the SP models and finally to the beautiful Game Boy Micro. With the arrival of Nintendo’s DS, however, the Game Boy brand took a back seat – though many would love to see it return again.
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