The Game Boy is an 8-bit handheld video game console developed and manufactured by Nintendo. It was released in Japan on April 21, 1989 (1989-04-21), in North America on July 31, 1989 (1989-07-31), and in Europe on September 28, 1990 (1990-09-28). In Southern Asia, it is known as the “Tata Game Boy”[vague] It is the first handheld console in the Game Boy line. It was created by Gunpei Yokoi and Nintendo’s Research and Development 1—the same staff who had designed the Game & Watch series as well as several popular games for the NES.
The Game Boy was Nintendo’s second handheld system following the Game & Watch series introduced in 1980, and it combined features from both the Nintendo Entertainment System and Game & Watch. It was also the first handheld game to use video game cartridges since Milton Bradley’s Microvision handheld console. It was originally bundled with the puzzle game Tetris.
Despite many other, technologically superior handheld consoles introduced during its lifetime, the Game Boy was a tremendous success. The Game Boy and Game Boy Color combined have sold 118.69 million units worldwide. Upon its release in the United States, it sold its entire shipment of one million units within weeks.
The Game Boy’s main controls for playing games are located on the lower half of its front frame. The Game Boy has four operation buttons labeled “A”, “B”, “SELECT”, and “START” as well as a directional pad. The functions of these buttons vary from game to game. There is a volume control dial on the right side of the console and a similar knob to adjust the contrast on the left side. A sliding on-off switch, as well as the slot for the Game Boy cartridges are located at the top of the Game Boy Normally, users leave the cartridge in the system as recommended by Nintendo to prevent dust and dirt from entering the system.
The right side of the Game Boy, showing the volume control and the extension connector.
A Red Game Boy with the Game Genie in it with the Tetris cartridge.
The Game Boy also contains the following optional input/output connectors. On the left side of the system is an external power supply jack that allows users to use a rechargeable battery pack instead of batteries; the rechargeable battery pack, which included a power adapter, was sold separately. Separate editions of the battery pack were made for 110V and 230V countries. The Game Boy requires 6V DC of at least 250mA. Finally, a 3.5 mm stereo headphone jack is located on the bottom side of the console which allows users to listen to the sounds from the system without anyone else listening to it.
On the right side is an external connector port that allows a user to connect to another Game Boy system via a link cable, provided both users are playing the same game. The port can also be used to connect a Game Boy Printer. The link cable was originally designed for players to play head–to–head two–player games such as in Tetris. However, game developer Satoshi Tajiri would later use the link cable technology as a method of communication and networking in the popular Pokémon video game series including Pokémon Red and Blue and Pokémon Gold and Silver.
The red and grey Game Boy together.
A transparent model.
The Game Boy and Game Boy Color combined have sold 118.69 million units worldwide, with 32.47 million units in Japan, 44.06 million in the Americas, and 42.16 million in other regions.
At the time of its release in 1989, the Atari Lynx was also just being introduced to the market. This system featured color graphics, a backlit screen, and networking capabilities. However, its release price of $179 and substantial requirement of 6 AA batteries that would provide roughly only four or five hours of gameplay (compared to 35 hours on 4 AA batteries for the Game Boy) doomed it to a second-rate status. Nintendo also experienced heavy competition from Sega’s Game Gear. To promote its new color console, Sega aired a number of negative but unsuccessful ad campaigns in the United States that criticized the Game Boy’s monochrome color palette. Like the Lynx, it too required six AA batteries that only lasted about 4–6 hours and was much more expensive than the Game Boy. The Game Gear had the advantage of being fully compatible (with an adapter) with all Sega Master System games and, while not as successful as the Game Boy, it sold from 1991 until early 1997.
Official Nintendo Magazine has praised the Game Boy and its models that follow it as it “got people who enjoyed gaming while sprawled on the couch in their undies to game wherever they liked.”
See also: Game Boy accessories
Several accessories compatible with the Game Boy were also produced:
* The Game Boy Battery Pack (or AC Adapter), sold for about US$30, was roughly 3 in. long, 2 in. wide, and 0.5 in. thick. One end of it had a 2 inch-long cord, ending in a 3.5 mm audio jack, while the other end had a standard mains plug. The first version of it was gray with purple lettering, to match the colors used on the Game Boy. It also featured a belt clip. The battery pack was good for several hours of gameplay per charge, providing an alternative to purchasing more AA batteries once their power was exhausted. The product used nickel-cadmium batteries, lasted about 4–5 hours per charge, and could be charged roughly 1000 times before a significant loss in effectiveness. A major drawback of the battery pack was its weight, as well as the way the phone plug stuck out prominently.
* The Game Link Cable an accessory that established a data connection between two Game Boys using the same game or game from the same series.
* The 4-player adapter (DMG-07) was a special link adapter for certain games which supported more than 2 players, such as F1-Race (up to 4 players) and Faceball 2000 (up to 16 players).
* Released in 1998, the Game Boy Camera was able to take pictures that could be printed out using the Game Boy Printer. The photos were in black and white only, and the resolution of the pictures was 128 x 123. Both the Game Boy Camera and Game Boy Printer products were marketed together in Japan, the United States, and Europe, primarily towards children.
* Released at the same time as the Game Boy Camera, the Game Boy Printer was a thermal printer. It ran on six AA batteries. In addition to printing out Game Boy Camera photos, it also ran in conjunction with several Game Boy games, such as The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX, Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition, and “Super Mario Bros. DX”
* The Work Boy was an unreleased accessory for the Game Boy which included a mini keyboard that plugged into the link cable outlet. The Work Boy cartridge featured such programs as a clock, calendar, measurement conversion, and a phone book. This accessory was described in Volume 36 (May, 1992) of Nintendo Power.
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