30 years Game Boy – How a gray block revolutionized the game


30 years Game Boy – How a gray block revolutionized the game

KYOTO. Games on the smartphone are part of everyday life today – not 30 years ago. Nintendo has launched the Game Boy in Japan, its first mobile video game console – from today's perspective, a clumsy block with laughable technical data.

The gray pack was a constant companion in many families. Image: DPA / Andrea Warnecke

The Japanese game creator reached with the Game Boy not only children but – thanks to games like "Tetris" – and adults. Over several generations, nearly 120 million devices have been sold.

The Game Boy was not the only mobile console on the market. Even strong competitors such as Sega and Atari have created their own devices. But the Game Boy won – among other things, because Nintendo was so smart in containing its ambitions and not exhausting the state of the art.

The LCD screen was black and white instead of colored and had no backlight. In the dark you could not play with it. The resolution was only 160 to 144 pixels. By comparison, every application icon on today's iPhone screen is displayed at 180 to 180 pixels. The restrictions caused, but to the delight of users for a long battery life.

Father of the Game Boy was Gunpei Yokoi. He first came to Nintendo in the 1960s and initially had to deal with the maintenance of the playing card printers – this was the company's traditional core business. By the way, Gokoi toy discovered. One of his first inventions – the extensible arm "Ultra Arm" – became a success. Gokoi was also behind the predecessor of the Game Boy – a small device called Game & Watch, which contained simple games.

Over 40 million devices sold

But Game & Watch had a major disadvantage: they could not change games, but they were coded. The Game Boy with its removable cartridges solved this problem. Nintendo knew that the mobile console needed an attractive game as a draft horse – and was found behind the Iron Curtain. Developed by a Moscow programmer "Tetris" in which the player has to install top-down blocks in various forms quickly, they fit perfectly with the Game Boy technique – and it was also suitable as non-binding entertainment on the go.

Soviet bureaucrats responsible for marketing had already sold "Tetris" licenses to the West. But Nintendo quickly realized that the new category of mobile device devices was not covered. In an adventurous trading marathon in Moscow, the Japanese guaranteed their rights. The children of the inventor "Tetris" Alexei Pashitnov obtained consoles of Nintendo.

From "Tetris" to "Pokémon"

"Tetris" was exactly the game Game Boy needed. Later, on the platform, among other things, to this day the series of games "Pokémon" celebrated its debut. Gokoi invented for Nintendo mid-90s, a first console with VR glasses. But the "virtual boy" with glasses on the table, instead of being used on the head, today failed. Probably, among other things, because the optics with red LED was very primitive and exhaustive for users. Gokoi left Nintendo to start his own business – and died in 1997 in a traffic accident.

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