Posted on April 5, 2012
Retro Reaction 2.3 The evolution of hand held gaming.
To say it started with the Game Boy would be unfair. Nintendo had sent out feelers in the form of the game and watch series. But for the purposes of this article we begin with the Game boy.
The machine was 8 bit, had a black and white screen and was portable. It also had a great launch line up and proved massively popular.
The Game boy (and later Game boy colour) sold 118.69 million units worldwide
A major factor in it’s success was Tetris. Tetris is the now legendary puzzle game that as well as being highly addictive was also a perfect game to play on hand held. This combined with Nintendo’s mascots Mario and Zelda led to a winning competition. It wasn’t long however before.. as a famous fighting game would say
Here comes a new challenger!!
Do you remember the Master System. Well the technology of the master system and an early colour screen gave us the Sega game gear.
It took the best parts of the master system and made them portable. In most territory it outlived the master system allowing this technology to live on until 1997 in the US. That’s only one year shy of the Genesis (US mega drive)
Although a great handleld the Game Gear lost the console war with the Gameboy largely because of the issues with battery life. That and the list of amazing and popular titles released for the game boy (Mario land 1,2, Zelda, later Pokeman) kept this great handheld stuck in position 2.
Just as the NES had the Master system, Sega here had the technically superior device on the losing end of the war. Things were to even themselves out for Sega who’s technically inferior Mega Drive won the sales war with the SNES.
Power meant less than franchises and gameplay back in the 1990s
That largely is true of the hand-held today. The main change is in the way we get these games.
We got various GameBoy’s and a few competitors.
After the highly popular DS and PSP handheld battle we see sales dying off for the traditional hand-held. The 3DS was forced to reduce it’s prices quite soon after launch. The reason? We are taking with us the swiss army knife off all media technology. The mobile phone.
Now mobiles are more than capable of being game systems many consumers have no reason to buy both. Game’s on platforms like the Iphone or the Android traditionally cost far less than the cartridge or disk based games of the hand held console.
The back to basics success of casual friendly games such as the angry birds (never played but told it’s massive) and things like the fantastic free Android game Bubble Break reiterate that the Game boy had it right in the beginning. Yes indeed Tetris really is the best hand held game of all time. Light, fun, casual and addictive games work best on the hand held.
In this case back to basics seem to work best.