Vintage handheld gaming consoles are fascinating pieces of innovation. As with other numerous examples, at the time of innovation there was no need for them, but after it has launched people find uses and develop a need for them. Maybe they did not even know they needed it until they lay their hands on them. This was the case with handheld consoles or game boys. With time the love of them grew exponentially and slowly the curve began dying off because now phones have more capabilities for gaming and the need for the hand eld consoles is slowly dying out. Some handheld consoles have curved out a special place in the universe and are not going to fade from memory anytime soon.
The Microvision was the Big Bang of hand held consoles. It was the godfather to what was to come. It was released in 1981, a time where consoles were still finding their way. This was the only one of its kind and it used interchangeable cartridges. It surprisingly had no processor and instead the cartridges carried the brain. The cartridges housed and processed all the gaming information.
1984 Portable Videogame System
This console was a creation of Palmtex and it processed information just as the Microvision did. It was among the first to use an LCD screen as part of its user interface. It was later named the Super Micro and its design is simple, a design still used to date with other hand held consoles. About 37000 units were sold this number a result of how often it was prone to breaking and the fact that only 3 games are known to have accompanied it.
1989 Nintendo Game Boy
This console was and still is a grand icon of hand held console design and practicality. It sold over 100 million units because it was a pocket Nintendo Entertainment System. It was a defining technological piece for kids and teens throughout the 1990s because it was durable and had a good battery life. When you leave your house to go out with friends during the summer, apart from your walkie-talkie, the Game Boy was a must have for those stretches of the day that nothing happens. The development of Pokémon Red and Blue for the Game Boy was the icing on the cake that cemented the Game Boy to be one of the greatest handheld consoles ever.
1991 Sega Game Gear
Nintendo and Sega were battling it out on all gaming fronts at the time. The Game Gear was Sega’s answer to Nintendo’s Gameboy. This was the first handheld console from Sega and it was successful but only by about 1 tenth of the peak the sales of the Game Boy reached. It had an 8-bit processor and a full-color backlit screen. It was not as successful as the Game Boy because it had a shorter battery life and was larger than most of its competitors. However, it is still a defining console of the fourth generation of handheld consoles and it did not enjoy a production run as long as the Game Boy did.
1995 Genesis Nomad
Following the success of the Sega Genesis console, Sega in 1995 released a portable, handheld version of the home video game console which was the Genesis Nomad. It had a 16-bit processor which drove up its price and was therefore considered expensive to most consumers. The Nomad came to market very late and would have performed better if it had a better battery life and better price point. Though it does not shine as much as the Sega Genesis home console did, it remains a large and definitive piece in the handheld console puzzle because it was a true 16-bit portable console.
1999 Neo Geo Pocket
This console was a product of the Shin Nihon Kikaku Corporation (SNK). It had a 16-bit Toshiba high performance core CPU. The outstanding feature of the Neo was its forward and backward compatibility. The games that came with the Neo at its release received re-releases and updates, this was no problem with the Neo because of its forward compatibility. This feature made it stand out compared to its competitors.
2001 Game Boy Advance
Nintendo seemed to have mastered the art of a making timeless handheld consoles. The Advance was released in the heel of the success of the Nintendo Game Boy. This console had a 32-bit processor taking the Game Boy to its sixth generation. It went on a production run of just over 9 years. It too tasted the successful only the Nintendo Game Boy had reached. This console sold over just 81 million units meaning it fell short to the Nintendo Game Boy by about 30 million units.
2004 Nintendo DS
This console was and still is a beautiful creation. Again Nintendo redefined handheld gaming consoles and defined the seventh generation of handheld consoles. It sold 154 million units worldwide eclipsing the individual numbers of the Game Boy Advance and the Nintendo Game Boy. It did big numbers really because Nintendo were not playing at all. They were the cool kids at the party, everyone wanted to be them. It had two LCD screens (the bottom one being touchscreen), an in-built microphone, wireless connectivity capability and was able to connect with other DS consoles over short range Wi-Fi.
2004 PlayStation Portable
Sony was slowly building a gaming empire. They had seen success in the home video gaming console industry and they decided to dip their toe in the handheld console industry because why not? They did so with the PSP and it was an instant hit. The PSP felt like the big brother to the Nintendo DS. Heavier and somewhat more commanding. It was heavier and had to be on this shortlist because every child wanted one. Sony sold about 80 million units, which is good but not very good which would be the Nintendo DS.
Handheld gaming consoles are slowly fizzling out because phones can do everything these consoles can do and then some. They had a very good run and we will always remember them.