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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Nintendo's Handheld World
Innovative or Rehashing???


Matthew Prunty

Throughout the years, the handheld market has been one of great, but not lasting competition. There has been several companies, i.e. Sega, Nintendo, Atari, Tiger, etc¦ and now we have Sony. The handheld market has had it shares of ups and downs, but the one thing that didn't change is the presence of one entity known as Nintendo. Ever since 1986, Nintendo has prided themselves on bringing quality entertainment to gamers across the world. In 1989, the Game Boywas released to the world. The Game Boy swept the lands like a ravishing plague. Everyone had to have his or her hands on this technological marvel one way or another.

Throughout the following years, several franchises made a name for them or became even bigger. From Mario, too Metroid, too even Mega Man, big name franchises were popping up all over the place. Nintendo enjoyed a sweet dominance of what was known as the Handheld Market, until mid 1989. In September of 1989, Atari returned to the gaming world with the Atari Lynx.

At this time, Nintendo was riding a high wave of success in a market that needed resurgence. The Atari Lynx was Atari's way of getting back into the mainstream and an effort to succeed where Nintendo had no trouble. The Lynx was enjoyed by lots of gamers, as it was the first 16-bit color handheld on the market that offered true multiplayer action. Though a technological marvel of its time, it just couldn't compete with the great support and shear power of presence that Nintendo and the Game Boy had to offer. Like the Game Boy, the Lynx made a fee key franchise players and reborn a few more. From Ninja Gaiden, too Robotron, the Lynx provided a wide range of games that apparently appealed to a small few (compared to the Game Boy).

Another company came out of the woodworks in an attempt to succeed in the handheld market. Sega, one of the favorites in the console market at the time, released the Sega Game Gear in mid 1991.

Just like the Atari Lynx, the Game Gear set out to truly compete with the Game Boy and snag a name for them in the handheld market. Unlike Atari, Sega used their console backing to fuel their handheld competition. Soon to be household names like Sonic, Mortal Kombat, Tails, Shining Force, etc. But the one thing that hinders its competition with the Game Boy was its battery life. The Game Boy ranged from 10-35 hours, whereas the Game Gear lasted about 3 hours. Towards the mid-1990s, the Game Gear was virtually on its last legs, so Sega decided to release a portable version of its home console Sega Genesis.

The Sega Nomad thought to be a solution to get back in the handheld market, turned out to be a big flop for Sega. It allowed gamers to take their Sega Genesis cartridge games on the road with them. Like many others, it sold a lot, but nothing that could even measure up to the numbers of the Sega Game Gear.

A little bit after the release of the Sega Nomad, Nintendo released a redesigned version of the Game Boy, known as the Game Boy Pocket (1996).

Though, not really needed, Nintendo decided to make their Game Boy more compact and easier to carry around. Just like its older brother, the GBP sold millions and was the first Game Boy to come in several colors, which appealed to gamer around the world. Over the next couple of years, there were several competitors to come to the forefront in an effort deny Nintendo their great dominance. We even saw Nintendo acceptance of the color domain with the Game Boy Color.

“Game Boy Color was the ultimate evolution of the original Game Boy system. Released in 1998, Game Boy Color added a color display, allowing for a palette of over 32,000 colors. Game Boy Color was compatible with hundreds of original Game Boy games.” This evolution in gaming also brought about one of the most dominating franchises in handheld history known as Pokemon. Nintendo had a little competition with the Wonderswan (03.04.1999), but they had an easy ride pretty much throughout the next few years.

In 1999, Sony had planned on releasing a handheld similar to what we have today in the PSP, but not as powerful. Due to indecisiveness and delays, the project was scrapped at the last minute, right before launch. So when the Game Boy Advance came out in mid 2001, there was pretty much no challenger in the midst. Around this time, Sony was working on what was soon to be the PSP, but nothing was known about it. The Game Boy Advance was the most successful handheld to date, with its little brother Game Boy Advance SP right behind it. With more that a staggering 70 million units sold (to this date) It’s clear that Nintendo had the perfect formula for supreme dominance.

The Game Boy Advance SP was more of an upgrade to the original. The main differences between the two were that the SP ran of a rechargeable battery pack (provided 18 hours max of Gameplay). The display screen was backlit to provide for optimal Gameplay in the dark (with light on, only 10 hours of Gameplay). With this era of handheld gaming, Nintendo brought great franchises, and new innovative ways to play games. We saw new and dominating franchises like Pokemon, Golden Sun, Shining Force, Fire Emblem, The NES Classic series, etc.¦ (The list could go on and on). We saw the creation of the wireless adapter, allowing for wireless Gameplay with up to 3 other players without the need for cables. Nintendo even dabbled in handheld-to-console link up known as GBA-GCN Connectivity. This allowed for the Game Boy to be used as a map, inventory screen, etc.¦ depending on the game being played. Some of these games included Mario Golf, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, Splinter Cell, etc…

In mid to late 2003, both Nintendo and Sony both announced that they were coming out with their own respective handheld. Nintendo's handheld soon became known to the word as the Nintendo DS. This time around Nintendo was doing something they never done before, but mixing it with a little Game 'N' Watch flavor. The DS possessed two processors (One ARM9 and one ARM7), two screens, and one being a touch screen, wireless capabilities, and the ability to play GBA games. With its launch on November 21st 2004 (North America) and December 2nd 2004 (Japan), Nintendo saw a huge success made out of its DS handheld, with almost its whole shipment whipped out for both North America and Japan, Nintendo was seen with a huge dilemma on their hands. The handheld sold way beyond Nintendo's expectations and were forced to increase their shipment of 1 million (overall) to 2.8 million worldwide by the end of 2004. There was and is a high demand for this handheld, which boggles some people’s minds.

While Nintendo was riding a high off the success of the DS both in Japan as well as North America, Sony unveiled their new entry into the handheld market known as the Sony PSP. First showed at E3 2004 (from behind a glass casing) gamers, musicians, developers, etc. alike got a chance to the see the acclaim PSP in action through video footage of some of the upcoming titles. On December 12th 2004, the Sony PSP was released to the Japanese market first (in an effort to establish themselves and test the waters). Though their initial shipment was smaller than that of the DS, it still sold like crazy, selling through 88% of its initial shipment of 200,000 units. Some analyst saw this as good start, but Sony saw it as a great one, though their shipment was smaller, it still almost completely sold out, something that they new was going to happen. Their supply and demand quota would be on level with that of the Nintendo DS. For the simple fact that they sent way less and their selling percentage was higher than Nintendo's on launch day. The PSP has a similar set-up to that of the DS (well not too similar). The PSP also has wireless Gameplay, a 4.3 inch liquid screen display (compared to the DS two 2.6 inch screens), an analog nub for a true 3D gaming experience, a processor with the ability to pushing near early ps2 graphics, etc…

Now before anyone tries to bight my head off, both handholds weren't without their problems. The Nintendo DS had a dead pixel issue with their handheld, and there were a few reported problems with the PSP having dead pixel issues too (Ds with 1 or 2, but the PSP having 3 or 4), analog nub mal-functions, and supposed dead systems on site. Now either camp has officially confirmed known, but both are looking into perfect their handheld in the coming months.

But the main reason for the creation of this editorial is at hand. Throughout the years, in the portable gaming market, Nintendo has been known for doing things their way, and on their terms. But with the recent news of Nintendo coming out with an adapter to allow for music and video playback on the DS, it seems that Nintendo isn't as original as we thought. Sure they took a different approach to Gameplay and innovation with the DS, when compared to the PSP, but with the latest news release, it would seem that Nintendo is following Sony's way of thinking. Sony is all about multimedia, whereas, Nintendo is about gaming. So the question you should ask yourself and Nintendo is why are they making this adapter? And that question can be answered real easily. Nintendo saw the potential that the PSP possessed when the spec was first released about the handheld and the deals that Sony were making with Paramount, Square-Enix, Bandai, etc… for video content on their handheld.

Now, I know that I may be getting ahead of myself, but the facts and proof is in front off everyone who has a computer and the Internet. Though at the current moment, the adapter is only set for a release in Japan at the price of $47.47 (5,000 yen), there may be a future home for this adapter in the states by way of importing. And if Nintendo does indeed release this adapter around the time of the U.S. launch of the PSP, it can do some considerable damage to Sony and its PSP. But like with all things, it takes time and effort, and Nintendo is truly bent on staying at the threshold of the handheld market leading board, they will indeed have to pull a Sony just to do it.

Well anyways, I hope you guys enjoyed my thoughts and feelings on Nintendo's direction and motivation.

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