What date was the Gameboy manufactured?

The Game Boy Story: How We Played Before Smartphones

Many things from the 1990s are still popular today, but true 90s CULT is just a toy: The Game Boy!

The portable video game console has lost none of its fascination to this day. In the world of computer games and game consoles, 27 years is more than half an eternity. And yet the Game Boy, which was first launched in 1989, has a magic that is difficult to explain to this day.

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Even the sight of the first successful portable game console should not only bring back fond memories for most children of the 90s, but also awaken the need to immerse themselves in the world of Super Mario, Donkey-Kong and Zelda. Objectively, however, this is difficult to explain.

The Game Boy is by no means timeless, but technically hopelessly outdated today. It had a memory of 8 KB and a graphic with 160 × 144 pixels. For a long time there were no colorful pictures to be seen - until the introduction of the Game Boy Color, the picture only consisted of four different shades of gray.

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If you were to put an old Game Boy under the Christmas tree for a child today, it would probably not be entirely wrong to show the bird to its parents. But the probability would be high that the father would make another trip to his own youth over the Christmas holidays.

1989 in Japan, 1990 in Germany: The first Game Boy

As is so often the case, game fans in Europe had to wait the longest for the new technology. Because Nintendo first brought the Game Boy into stores on April 21, 1989 on its home market in Japan.

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At that time, however, very few people would have guessed what a success story began that day. Because many experts criticized the simple black and white screen and the low performance of the device. They assumed that digital games would be played on a more powerful console or computer instead. But the Game Boy belied all of its critics and has been sold more than 118 million times to date.

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On September 28, 1990, the time had come in Germany, which was reunified shortly afterwards, and the Game Boy also came to the shops we trusted here. The Game Boy soon became a status symbol among children in Germany. However, I had to do without it for a long time because my parents thought I should play outside.

But then rescue seemed near: I was supposed to have an operation on my tonsils and in return for brave behavior I was promised the coveted Game Boy. When the operation turned out to be unnecessary, I cried bitter tears - until I finally got my beloved Game Boy.

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Classic games: From Tetris to Zelda and Donkey Kong

The Game Boy wasn't a smartphone. It wasn't really smart, and it certainly couldn't be connected to the internet. Probably inconceivable for today's children: The individual devices can only be connected to one another with the help of a cable. Nevertheless, the Game Boy was never a toy for loners, but always an integral part of the community.
They talked about the levels they had passed and showed their friends newly bought games. If you played alone at home and didn't know what to do next, you picked up the phone and asked your buddies for advice. Just google it quickly - that wasn't possible back then. And yet at some point we played through most of the games to the end.

There was one notable exception, however - which was due to the fact that it was an endless game. Because the Game Boy also ensured a comeback of a classic game that was not considered possible. In the beginning, the playmate could only be bought together with the Tetris game. The success of the Game Boy played its part in making Tetris the best-selling computer game of all time.

Soon all the legendary games came onto the market, the names of which still make children of the 90s look bright: Super Mario, Donkey-Kong, Zelda, Metroid and later perhaps the most successful game series for the Game Boy: Pokemon.

The controls remained the same for all models

It speaks for the Game Boy that he has produced such a series of simple and yet highly complex games. Because the control of the device was anything but sophisticated: There were essentially the A and B buttons and a directional pad.

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In addition, there were the Select and Start buttons, which were usually of no importance for controlling the character. The worlds created by the games also inevitably remained rather simple. On the one hand for graphic reasons, on the other hand also because of the not yet so advanced technology. The opponents acted according to predetermined patterns - the development of AI was still in its infancy. These comparatively simple worlds were then brought to life through one's own imagination.

Small and handy: the Game Boy Pocket

Nintendo has therefore not changed anything in the basic game principle of the Game Boys until the end. All Game Boy games can be played with the four buttons and the control pad. However, the somewhat clumsy original version of the Game Boy has been further developed over time.

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The Game Boy Pocket was launched in 1996. This was narrower and lighter than the original and had a slightly better screen. On the other hand, it came with a disadvantage that should not be disregarded: the slightly smaller AAA batteries were required for the pocket version. However, these were significantly more expensive than normal batteries. For a while, most of my pocket money was spent on Game Boy batteries. Then my brother bought rechargeable batteries and added the cost to his home electricity bill.

Only available in Japan: The Game Boy Light

Obviously, my brother and I weren't the only ones with this problem. Because just a year later, Nintendo brought the Game Boy Light onto the market.

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This was very similar to the Pocket, but was slightly larger and had a stronger contrast on the screen. Most of all, however, it worked with normal AA batteries. That didn't help me though, because the Game Boy Light was only sold in Japan. A fact that may seem meaningless today, but was quite relevant back then: Simply ordering on the Internet was still something for specialists back then - Ebay and Amazon had only just been founded.

Game Boy on TV: The Super Game Boy

Anyone who wanted to see the worlds of Game Boy games in color could rely on a technical solution as early as 1994. The so-called Super Game Boy was an add-on module for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) game console. This made it possible to play normal Game Boy games on the television.

My boyfriend got this from his mom today, believe it or not she found it at a swap shed, all cords, 2 controllers and these games all together! Someone tried throwing it all away!

There the shades of gray were then converted into colors - albeit on a very rudimentary basis. None of this had anything to do with the elite graphics of today's computer games. In theory, however, the games could be played through a little faster on the SNES than on the classic Game Boy. Because the Super Game Boy had slightly better hardware and played the games about 2.4 percent faster. In 1998 the Super Game Boy 2 was only launched in Japan.



For the first time with color: The Game Boy Color

But from 1998 we were finally able to enjoy the games in color on the go, because the Game Boy Color came on the market. He could even color the old gray games. A color - black, red, blue or yellow - was assigned to each of the four gray levels.

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This simple method worked surprisingly well, at least for our expectations at the time. For today's children's eyes, however, the games should look like a relic from times long past. In theory, the color version could do a lot more. In games programmed directly for the Game Boy Color, up to 56 colors can be displayed simultaneously. That sounds like an outstanding development: from four shades of gray to 56 colors. We found that too back then. However, some computer screens can still be scaled down to 56 colors today - a selection that very few are likely to make permanently.

All Game Boy models remained compatible with each other

With all innovations of the different Game Boy variants, Nintendo always made sure that the devices remained compatible with each other. The input for the required link cable changed, but the company always provided a free adapter. The idea of ​​a community, which is so modern today, was already being lived back then.

(Top left to right): The Original Game Boy 1989, Game Boy Pocket 1996, Game Boy Light (Japan release only) 1997, Game Boy Color 1998. (Bottom Left to right): Game Boy Advance 2001, Game Boy SP 2003, And last but not least the Game Boy Micro 2005. (It came out after the DS so not many people knew it was created.)

The games could also usually be played on all versions of the Game Boy without any problems. Owners of the original variant could easily exchange games with someone who owned the Game Boy Color. This ensured that we Game Boy owners became a large community in which no differences were made between the different models. Some swore by the bulky original right up to the end, while I mostly - despite the small batteries - resorted to the Game Boy Pocket.

The games were simple yet complex

But what was the reason for the great success of the Game Boy? Presumably, Nintendo simply hit the nerve of the time. Today, when everyone has their own smartphone, it's probably hard to imagine, but back then, portable computer games were something very special. In addition, there is the ingenious mixture of simplicity and complexity. The controls of the games were intuitively understandable, almost every game could just be played on.

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And yet many games had an astonishing depth that could captivate you to the device. Often, however, by necessity, because many games simply did not have a memory function. Still, we weren't classic nerds back then. We didn't gamble against anonymous opponents on the Internet, but met normally in the school yard, in the outdoor pool or to play football. The Game Boy theme was never missing. Either we had it with us in our rucksack anyway to show our buddies something new. Or sooner or later someone brought up the topic in conversation and told them about newly reached levels and newly purchased games.

Interesting side aspect: While our parents and grandparents were still afraid of Japan's rise to a leading export nation, we were just happy that Nintendo had brought us the Game Boy. And let's be honest: For all the German engineering, the Game Boy would probably never have been developed in this country - the controls and the design are not complex enough.

New technical developments: The Game Boy Advance and the Game Boy Micro

As early as the 2000s, Nintendo launched two other models, the Game Boy Advance and the Game Boy Micro. Technically, these were no longer based on the original, but were actually more Super Nintendo entertainment systems in mini format.

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With the Game Boy Micro, Nintendo finally broke with the backward compatibility - the very old games no longer worked on it. Perhaps because of this, this variant turned out to be quite a sales flop. When it was launched in 2005, however, another time had long since dawned. We all already had cell phones in our pockets and played the cult game Snake there when needed. Two years later, the iPhone would also hit the market and revolutionize the world of wearable technology devices from the ground up.

The Game Boy has cult status to this day

But many fans have remained loyal to the Game Boy to this day. Old devices are still being sold on the Internet and are fetching considerable prices. The Game Boy Micro, of all things, is the most valuable and can still be sold almost at the original price.

Almost all classic games are still actively traded online. Many children of the 90s still seem to feel the need to immerse themselves in the play worlds of their youth from time to time. The new technical possibilities are also used: For example, numerous videos of Game Boy games can be found on YouTube. Youtube itself was only founded in 2005 and is 16 years older than the Game Boy. In the 90s, videos were still recorded with large cameras and then exchanged via video cassette.

Game Boy's legacy

For the different versions of the Game Boy and also for some games, there are also carefully maintained and lovingly designed websites and online magazines on the Internet. Old instructions are posted there, experiences are exchanged and tips are given on how to get the games to run on modern devices today. Many of these pages have succeeded in networking the countless small microcosms that existed in the 90s and bringing them into the online world.

And ultimately the spirit of the Game Boy lives on in many supposedly new games: Nowadays, many smartphone and browser games also rely on the ingenious mixture of intuitive controls, simple graphics and yet sophisticated content. Not to mention that many of those who play video games or own game consoles today naturally began their gaming careers with the Game Boy.