Why Was Nintendo’s Gameboy So Successful?
The Gameboy has celebrated its 25th birthday and Nintendo can look back on a wildly successful history. Nintendo released the Gamboy in Japan back in 1989 at the price of 12,500 yen and it immediately sold out. The game of Tetris came with the Gameboy, but the game everyone wanted back then was Super Mario Land which would go on to sell over 18 million copies.
This perfect start was a sign of things to come. But let’s look first at what those 12,500 yen actually got you. For a relatively low amount of money you got, what we would call today, a grey brick with a 2.5 inch green screen and a couple of buttons with a similar layout as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES): A, B, Select and Start plus a d-pad. On the inside it contained a cheap Z80-based CPU. Due to the lack of colors the handheld promised up to 30 hours of play on four AA batteries. This was truly a genius move as its competitors, the Atari Lynx and the Sega Game Gear lasted much, much less due their color screens.
The game that was originally included is now considered one of the greatest game ever: Tetris. The game was simple, but difficult to master due to the limited playing field and the ever increasing speed at which the blocks came down. Using a Link Cable, players could play against each other, granted that they both owned a Gameboy and a copy of the game.
Fantastic games and great gameplay
Although the games may have looked simplistic due to the low resolution and lack of colors, the gameplay was superb. That coupled with an ever growing list of great games vaulted the Gameboy into handheld domination. As developers got more accustomed to the the hardware the graphics improved as well music and sounds. Super Mario Land’s blocky visuals were followed up by a much more detailed Super Mario Land 2 and Wario Land. A handheld version of The Legend of Zelda was released in 1993 and it graphics were very reminiscent of the Super Nintendo’s version rather than the original Legend of Zelda on the NES. Other noteworthy games include Metroid II, the Megaman series, Final Fantasy I – III, Gargoyles Quest, Castlevania and Donkey Kong Land.
Nintendo already lorded over the handheld world, but still had an (unexpected) ace up its sleeve. With the release of Pokemon Red & Blue its dominance was even more profound. A very simple concept of catching monsters took the world by storm and Nintendo made billions by game sales, merchandising, cartoons and movies. The core behind this success was a game with superb gameplay that was immersive and addictive, a staple for many games on the Gameboy and certainly a requirement for Nintendo’s own games.