Business Technology

Monday 9 December 2019

Spotlight on: Gameboy turning 25


Before Tamagotchi, Playstation and the Nintendo DS, came the Gameboy.

Gen X-ers will remember the sheer delight the handheld console brought – if you bought it with your confirmation money or begged Santa for it, it's the console that will forever hold a special place in your heart, regardless of the smartphones and tablets that have come since. Its sturdy grey exterior, unlit greenish screen and pedestrian graphics were the height of cool at the time, and there was something about clicking in a Tetris cartridge that you just can't replicate with a digital download.

Released on the 21st of April 1989, the original Gameboy was a black and white 8-bit handheld video game device, followed by a colour version in 1998, which was a rework of the 1996 'GameBoy Pocket'.

The Game Boy and the Game Boy Colour together sold almost 118million units until the range was discontinued in 2003 for the Game Boy Advance SP, a sales record beaten in recent years only by Nintendo's DS range with 154m units.

Featuring only four buttons – A, B, SELECT and START, along with directional arrow keys. The gameplay was in 2D and range of movement was limited to the four arrow keys – left, right, up, down.

The GameBoy Colour was the first gaming console, handheld or otherwise, to be 'backwards compatible' – in other words, to work with games intended for previous consoles. This feature became a major selling point of the entire Game Boy line, allowing any new devices to launch with a much larger back catalogue than its biggest competitors.

The Game Boy Colour first launched with the now-iconic Tetris and Bomberman, two games that have stood the test of time. Donkey Kong and Super Mario are more examples of classic games which resonated well with users of the handheld Game Boy. It was also one of the first consoles to feature 'wireless linking' – utilising an infrared communications port which would be replaced in later models for WiFi.

Before wireless linking, the original Game Boy allowed users to play against each other through a link cable, provided both players were playing the same game. The only exception to this was when two users were playing different colours of the now iconic Pokemon, which inspired a TV series in 1996. The 18-year-old game is still the second most popular game-based franchise in the world, beaten only by the SuperMario franchise, also owned by Nintendo.

Irish Independent

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