April 21st 1989: Game Boy released

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Game Boy, released in 1989

 

On this day in 1989, the original Game Boy was released in Japan. It was later released in North America in August and in Europe in September 1990. The device was one of the first handheld gaming consoles, making it a groundbreaking invention that revolutionised the concept of videogames by allowing for them to be played on-the-go. The Game Boy was relatively cheap compared to rivals on the market (costing ¥12,500 at launch) and was a huge success, selling almost 120 million units. The designers of the console, the same team who gave us the Game & Watch series, ensured the device handled in a similar way to the familiar Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) with its eight-way D-pad controller and four buttons.

 

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Super Mario Land screenshot

 

Some of the most popular original Game Boy games included: Super Mario Land, which sold over 18 million copies; Tetris, which sold 35 million copies; and the first Pokémon games, released in 1996.

 

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Tetris screenshot

 

Nintendo continues to produce handheld game consoles and the popularity of the Mario and Pokémon franchises endures.

 

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Pokemon Red screenshot

 

The most recent handheld was the Nintendo 3DS, which features touch screen control and 3D graphics; technology only dreamed of in 1989. Nintendo has struggled in recent years to keep up with competitors, and sales of the 3DS and the latest home console the WiiU have been under expectations. I am a loyal Nintendo fan, owning every handheld console since the Game Boy Colour, but I can see why they are having problems. Personally I love the 3DS, but I can understand that the novelty of handheld gaming which was so successful in 1989 is being overshadowed by mobile gaming. Anyone with a smartphone can now play games on-the-go without the need to buy an expensive separate console; the face of the videogame industry has changed drastically from 1989. However this is not the place to overly lament Nintendo’s plight, but to celebrate the 25th birthday of the Game Boy. No matter where Nintendo stand now, they have historically been an incredibly successful and innovative company. So happy birthday Game Boy, thanks for the hours I spent as a kid and still as an adult trying to save the princess and catch em’ all!

 

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Nintendo 3DS, released in 2011

25 years ago today

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