Portable Wonders


When it comes to portable games, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

If you said Game Boy, you’re spot on. The little pocket powerhouse has for many years now led all comers to the handheld gaming crown. But has its success come at a cost to the industry? While it has become an amazing success story, Nintendo has left the handheld industry in a mess of forgotten consoles with so much potential, and at a poor rate of evolution compared to its console cousins. Today, with a new era of handheld gaming on the horizon, I will show you around the handheld world, taking a closer look at the real effect the Game Boy has had, the many challengers that have come and gone, and what we can expect in the future.

The story begins in the 70’s, where video games were finding their feet after the early success of arcade machines. Although far from the spectacle that games development is today, the 70’s had a collection of companies from around the world working hard to develop text based adventures and early 2D platform and sports titles (Pong anyone?). And of course, there were thousands of school students creating their own games every day.

During this early age, handheld gaming found a tiny market for children thanks to the work of Mattel and their LCD based gaming systems. Many other companies joined the LCD race eventually, but it wasn’t until the 80’s that the market would find a big voice, thanks to a little Japanese company called Nintendo.

Nintendo began a revolution in pocket gaming with their Game & Watch series, including a range of pocket games in arcade cabinet style, double-screen and, of course, the watch series. Titles such as Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. pushed LCD games into mainstream entertainment. The thing that attracted many gamers to the LCD series was their simplicity. All the developers needed was an entertaining challenge and no matter what, everyone would play. Of course, the cheaper price had an added incentive to the younger crowd.

While all of this was happening, Milton Bradley’s Microvision had made its way onto the market in the late 70’s, becoming the first true handheld system that included interchangeable cartridges. Although overshadowed by the cheaper LCD titles, MB’s creation would have a major influence on the next phase in handheld games, and once again it would be Nintendo that led the way.

Continued: A little boy named Game

Table of Contents: Portable Wonders