Nintendo Game Boy / Advance
21st April 1989 (Game Boy, Japan), 21st July 1989 (Game Boy, USA), 21st July 1996 (GB Pocket, Japan), 3rd Sep 1996 (GB Pocket, USA), 21st October 1998 (GB Color, Japan), 18th November 1998 (GB Color, USA)
What's it like today?
*Last updated June 28th 2013
The first Game Boy unit was launched by Nintendo in 1989 with a retail price of $169 USD. It relied solely on its portability for success (up to 35 hours battery life!), but to sell the product it needed a game that would appeal to the masses. This came in the form of Tetris, developed by a Russian mathematician called Alexey Pajitnov. What followed were hundreds of game cartridges developed by Nintendo and others, and several key accessories were introduced years later whenever sales needed a boost.
The success of the Game Boy system prompted rival companies to try their hand at entering the market. Sega introduced the Game Gear in 1991, but the Game Gear failed to catch on. Likewise, the Atari Lynx, which debuted in September 1989, also failed to provide the GameBoy with any solid competition. Despite the fact that both these systems had significant technological advantages over the Game Boy (both the Game Gear and Lynx had full-color displays, as well as multi-channel sound), there was one thing they didn't have - The Nintendo name, which by this stage stood for pocket gaming complete with simple, fun and addictive games. It has since become the most popular handheld video game system ever.
In 1994, Nintendo released the Super Game Boy, which was a special cartridge and cable for the Game Boy which allowed you to play GameBoy titles on a conventional television. On September 3rd 1996, the Game Boy's dimensions were shrunk even further with the release of the Game Boy Pocket - 30% smaller but with the same screen size as the Game Boy (2.6"), the screen was a much improved high resolution reflective LCD - it replaced the 4 AA-type batteries of the original with 2 AAA batteries to reduce size. This did mean battery life dropped to around 8-10 hours, but the red LED would dim to show failing power. Available initially to the US market with a price tag of $59.99 USD, it was released only in metallic blue or silver. Other colours were produced later on, including green, blue, black, red, atomic green and clear. Japan got it sooner (21st July 1996) and was available immediately in grey, red, yellow, green and black, for Y6,800. Silver was introduced on 19th October 1996, gold on 18th April 1997, pink on 11th July 1997 (also coincided with the power LED being equipped), and clear purple came out 21st November 1997. All for the price tag of Y7,600.
By October 1997, work on the Game Boy's successor had begun. The Game Boy Color was released in November 1998, around the same time that Pokemon was unleashed to the public. This sent sales of GameBoy Color units through the roof. The Color had a palette of 32,768 colours of which 56 could be displayed on-screen at once. Initially it was made available in various colours, including red, purple, yellow, blue, clear purple, and clear. The unit could take advantage of new technology and also play all original Game Boy games (a first for a handheld console). Physically it was slightly taller and thicker than the Game Boy Pocket. It ran it's CPU at 8 MHz, twice the speed of its predecessor, and had four times the amount of RAM (32K system RAM and 16K video RAM). Screen resolution remained the same as for the Game Boy, at 160 x 144 pixels. When playing original black & White Game Boy games on the Color, the user could choose a colour palette to use with a combination of pressing the A or B keys and a direction while the Game Boy logo was displayed on the screen. Choosing B+Left provided a monochrome palette authentic to the original Game Boy. The Color was powered by 2 AA batteries, which was usually good for approx 20 hours of use.
In March 2001, Nintendo launched the next generation of Game Boy consoles, the Game Boy Advance. It featured a new ARM7TDMI CPU running at 16 MHz, and boasted 512 simultaneous colours on its 2.9" colour screen. It provided backward compatibility for Game Boy and Game Boy Color games via a built-in Z80 co-processor running at 8.4 MHz. The screen supported a resolution of 240 x 180 pixels, and the device could accept a host of new accessories and link-up with other GBAs via a 'Game Link' cable. Over 38 million Advance units have been sold (as of March 2008).
In early 2003 the GBA was given a refresh with the launch of the Game Boy Advance SP to address the more common complaints consumers had with the original Advance, including its dark screen and discomfort when holding. The new SP came in a clamshell design that was approximately half the size of the Advance, and sported a built-in front light and much brighter LCD display. Internally, however, it had the same capabilities of the Game Boy Advance. Over 43 million SP units have been sold to date (as of March 2008). Both the Advance and Advance SP can be used wirelessly with the optional Wireless Adapter, released in 2004, thus allowing gameplay with friends without the need for a Game-Link cable.
Nintendo ressurrected the Game Boy platform for a final time in 2005 with the announcement of the Game Boy Micro at the E3 show. The smallest Game Boy device of all time, yet this newest addition to the family also boasted their best-ever screen—it's sharp, colorful and remarkably bright. Compatible with Game Boy Advance and Game Boy Advance SP, it can run all 700+ GBA games, however it cannot play original Game Boy or Game Boy Color games. Appealing to the style savvy, this device commanded a premium above the larger, older, clamshell-style Game Boy Advance SP (successor to the original, horizontal Game Boy Advance), setting back the gotta-have-it crowd a cool $90. A rechargeable battery is built in, and the Micro includes an AC adapter, along with a drawstring cloth pouch, two alternate faceplates, and a faceplate ejector tool. Another plus for the GB Micro is that it also plays movies, albeit in proprietary cards. The individual movie titles; Shrek, Shrek 2, and Shark Tale; cost $20 each. Oh, and the Game Boy micro also plays the vast array of amazing Game Boy Advance games. It sold on 13 September 2005 to Japan, and 19 September 2005 to the US market priced at $99.
Original Launch Titles
Alleyway - Game Boy, August 1989
Baseball - Game Boy, August 1989
Super Mario Land - Game Boy, August 1989
Tennis - Game Boy, August 1989
Tetris - Game Boy, August 1989
Centipede - Game Boy Color, November 1998
Game & Watch Gallery 2 - Game Boy Color, November 1998
Pocket Bomberman - Game Boy Color, November 1998
Tetris - Game Boy Color, November 1998
The original Game Boy got a number of accessories, most of which were available from launch:
DMG-01: Game Boy
DMG-02: Stereo headphones (not great quality though). MSRP in Japan was Y1,000.
DMG-03: Rechargeable battery pack - can also be used as an AC adapter. Battery life is ~10 hours. MSRP in Japan was Y3,800.
DMG-04: Game Link cable - used to connect two Game Boy. Look for compatible Game Boy carts with the Game Link logo. MSRP in Japan was Y1,500.
DMG-05: Battery case - an extra battery for the DMG-01 (Game Boy). Supports 4 C-type batteries for up to 40 hours of use.
DMG-06: Soft case - The pouch for the Game Boy and Game Pak (cartridge). Made of a material that doesn't attract dirt. MSRP in Japan was Y800.
DMG-07: Four Player adapter - Connects four Game Boys together when used with compatible software.
DMG-08: Cleaning Kit - Used to clean the cartridge connector of Game Boy.
DMG-09: Game Pak (cartridge)
DMG-13: Rumble Game Pak (cartridge) - a Game Pak with a vibration motor, e.g. Pokeman Pinball.
DMG-14: Universal Game Link Adapter - Converter required to connect a Game Link cable (MGB-008) to the Game Boy (DMG-01).
DMG-20: Tilt Sensor Game Pak - Game Pak with an acceleration sensor. Game Boy can sense inclination. Used by compatible game paks, e.g. Korokoro Kirby.
Game Boy Color Part #'s
CGB-001: Game Boy Color.
CGB-002: Game Pak (cartridge) - 16 Mbits to 32 Mbits capacity (2MB-4MB).
CGB-003: Game Link cable - used to connect two Game Boy Color for two-player gaming when used with compatible games displaying the game link logo.
CGB-005: Mobile adapter GB - used to establish a data connection using a cellular phone or PHS. Released only in Japan. Service of mobile system GB was ended on 14th Dec 2002, however, PIA-to-PIA is still possible.