Nintendo Game Boy / Advance

Vital Statistics

Introduced 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)
Retired: 2001 (introduction of Game Boy Advance)
Price: $169, from June '93 $109 (GB), $79 (GBC), $59 (GB Pocket), $100 (GBA), GB Micro ($99)
Quantity Sold: over 115,000,000 (GB), 48m (GBC), 37.7m (GBA), 43m (GBA SP), 2.5m (GB Micro)
Countries: Worldwide
Dimensions: 90 x 148 x 32 mm
Weight: 394g (original), 148g (Pocket)
Ports: Cartridge slot, serial cable connection, headphone jack
CPU: Z80 @ 4.19 MHz (GB/GBC/Pocket), Sharp ARM7TDMI & Z80 (GBA/GBA SP)
Usable RAM
: 8K (GB/Pocket), 32K (GBC/GBA/GBA SP)
Built-in ROM: 8K (carts usually 32K but supports up to 1Mb)
Display: STN dot matrix LCD
Colours
: 4 grey shades (Game Boy), 56 (Game Boy Colour), 32,768 (GBA/SP/Game Boy Micro)
Graphics: 160 x 144 pixels, on 2.6" LCD, with up to 40 sprites of either 8x8 or 8x16 pixels in size (GB/GBC/Pocket), 160 x 240 pixels on 2.9" LCD (GBA/GBA SP)
Sound: 4-channel FM stereo
Built-in Language: none
Clones: none

 

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What's it like today?


Fun Factor:
4/5
Rarity
: Very common
Typical value*: $30 (GB), $45 (GBC), $20 (GB Pocket), $15 (GBA), $23 (GBA SP)
Boxed & Mint: $80-$120 (GB/Pocket), $73 (GBC), $55 (GBA) $90 (GBA SP)

*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