Handheld game console

Handheld game console

A handheld game console is a lightweight, portable electronic machine for playing video games. Unlike video game consoles, the controls, screen and speakers are all part of a single unit. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, several companies--including Coleco and Milton-Bradley--made lightweight table-top or handheld electronic game devices. Today, these machines are not considered strictly consoles, since they often would only play a single game. The first true handheld game console with interchangeable cartridges was the Milton Bradley Microvision in 1979. Nintendo has dominated the handheld market since the release of the Game Boy in 1989, and is often credited as popularizing the handheld console concept.

History

Origins

The first handheld game console to use interchangeable game cartridges was the Microvision, designed by Smith Engineering, and distributed and sold by Milton-Bradley in 1979. A small screen and a minuscule selection of games (only thirteen) led to its demise only two years later. Today, working Microvisions are quite rare. The keypad could be easily damaged and the LCD technology of the late 1970s was poor, leading to liquid crystal leaking and darkening. In 1983, Palmtex released the Home-Computer Software Super Micro Cartridge System. However, only three games were made for it and it never sold many units. Nintendo also released its Game & Watch collection, which contained 60 games, however they were to be sold in separate built-in units.

Early 1990s

The early 1990s saw the relaunch of the handheld game console pillar of the video game market after the demise of the Microvision. As backlit LCD game consoles with color graphics consume a lot of power, they were not battery friendly like the non-backlit original Game Boy with monochrome graphics which allowed more battery life. During this timeframe, rechargeable battery technology was not yet mature thereby rendering the more advanced game consoles of the time such as the Game Gear and Atari Lynx to not have nearly as much success as the Game Boy.

Even though third-party rechargeable batteries were available for the battery-hungry alternatives to the Game Boy, they had to be discharged before being recharged since they were in Nickel cadmium format. NiMH batteries, which do not require discharging before recharging, would not be released until the late 90's, well after the Game Gear, Atari Lynx, and the original Game Boy had been discontinued. During the time when technologically superior handhelds had strict technical limitations, batteries had a very low mAh rating since batteries with heavy power density were not yet available.

Game systems of today have rechargeable Li-Ion batteries with proprietary shapes, such as the Nintendo DS and Sony PlayStation Portable. Unlike the aforementioned current-generation consoles, the GP2X uses standard alkaline batteries. Since the mAh rating of batteries has gone up to a high quantity, some lower end handhelds of today like the GP2X only need a couple of AA batteries for power.

Game Boy

". The Game Boy came under scrutiny by some industry critics, saying that the monochrome screen was too small, and the processing power was inadequate. The design team had felt that low initial cost and battery economy were more important concerns, and when compared to the Microvision, the Game Boy was a huge leap forward.

Yokoi recognized that the Game Boy needed a killer app – at least one game that would define the console, and persuade customers to buy it. In June 1988, Minoru Arakawa, then-CEO of Nintendo of America saw a demonstration of the game "Tetris" at a trade show. Nintendo purchased the rights for the game, and packaged it with the Game Boy system. It was almost an immediate hit. By the end of the year more than a million units were sold, and 25 million were sold by 1992.Verify source|date=November 2007 As of March 31, 2005, the Game Boy and Game Boy Color combined to sell 118.69 million units worldwide.cite web|url=http://www.nintendo.com/corp/report/NintendoAnnualReport2005.pdf |title=05 Annual Report |accessdate=2008-03-22 |date=2006-03-31 |format=PDF |publisher=Nintendo Co., Ltd. |pages=65] cite web |url=http://images.businessweek.com/ss/06/10/game_consoles/source/7.htm |title= Game Boy |accessdate=2008-03-22 |work=A Brief History of Game Console Warfare |publisher=BusinessWeek]

Atari Lynx

In 1987, Epyx created the Handy; a device that would turn into the Atari Lynx in 1989. It was the first color handheld console ever made, as well as the first with a backlighted screen. It also featured networking support with up to 17 other players, and advanced hardware that allowed the zooming and scaling of sprites. The Lynx could also be turned upside down to accommodate left-handed players. However, all these features came at a very high price point, which drove consumers to seek cheaper alternatives. The Lynx was also very unwieldy, consumed batteries very quickly, and lacked the third-party support enjoyed by its competitors. Due to its high price, short battery life, production shortages, a dearth of compelling games, and Nintendo's aggressive marketing campaign, and despite a redesign in 1991, the Lynx became a commercial failure. Despite this, companies like Telegames helped to keep the system alive long past its commercial relevance, and when new owner Hasbro released the rights to develop for the public domain, independent developers like Songbird have managed to release new commercial games for the system every year until 2004's "Winter Games".

TurboExpress

The TurboExpress was a portable version of the TurboGrafx, released in 1990 for $249.99 (the price was briefly raised to $299.99, soon dropped back to $249.99, and by 1992 it was $199.99). Its Japanese equivalent was the PC Engine GT.

It was the most advanced handheld of its time and could play all the TurboGrafx-16's games(which were on a small, credit-card sized media called HuCards). It had a 66 mm (2.6 in.) screen, the same as the original Game Boy, and could display 64 sprites at once, 16 per scanline, in 512 (some say only 482?) colors. It had 64 kilobytes of RAM. The Turbo ran its two 6820 CPUs at 3.58 MHz in parallel.

The optional "TurboVision" TV tuner included RCA audio/video input, allowing users to use TurboExpress as a video monitor. The "TurboLink" allowed two-player play. "Falcon", a flight simulator, included a "head-to-head" dogfight mode that could only be accessed via TurboLink. However, very few TG-16 games offered co-op play modes especially designed with the TurboExpress in mind.

ega Game Gear

The Sega Game Gear was the third color handheld console, after the Lynx and the TurboExpress. Released in Japan in 1990 and in North America and Europe in 1991, it was based on the Sega Master System, which gave Sega the ability to quickly create Game Gear games from its large library of games for the Master System.

Late 1990s

The Game Boy was nine years old before it got its first significant makeover. In 1998, the Game Boy Color was released. It used the smaller and lighter form-factor of the Game Boy Pocket, but featured a full color screen. It was also backwards-compatible, so that it could play not only games specifically made for the Game Boy Color, but standard Game Boy games as well. It did not have significantly more computing power than the Game Boy, however.

By this time, the lack of significant development in Nintendo's product line began allowing more advanced systems such as the Neo Geo Pocket Color and the Wonderswan Color to achieve moderate success.

Game.com

The Game.com (pronounced in TV commercials as "game com", not "game dot com" and not capitalized in marketing material) was a handheld game console released by Tiger Electronics in September 1997. It featured many new ideas for handheld consoles and was aimed at an older target audience, sporting PDA-style features and functions such as a touch screen and stylus. However, Tiger hoped it would also challenge Nintendo's Game Boy and gain a following among younger gamers too. Unlike other handheld game consoles, the first game.com consoles included two slots for game cartridges and could be connected to a 14.4 kbit/s modem. Later models reverted to a single cartridge slot.

Game Boy Color

communications port for wireless linking which did not appear in later versions of the Game Boy, such as the Game Boy Advance.

The Game Boy Color was a response to pressure from game developers for a new system, as they felt that the Game Boy, even in its latest incarnation, the Game Boy Pocket, was insufficient. The resulting product was backward compatible, a first for a handheld console system, and leveraged the large library of games and great installed base of the predecessor system. This became a major feature of the Game Boy line, since it allowed each new launch to begin with a significantly larger library than any of its competitors. As of March 31, 2005, the Game Boy and Game Boy Color combined to sell 118.69 million units worldwide.

The console was capable of displaying up to 56 different colors simultaneously on screen from its palette of 32,768, and could add basic four-color shading to games that had been developed for the original Game Boy. It could also give the sprites and backgrounds separate colors, for a total of more than four colors.

Neo Geo Pocket Color

The Neo Geo Pocket Color (or NGPC) was released in 1998 in Japan. It was a 16-bit color handheld game console designed by SNK, the maker of the Neo Geo home console and arcade machine. It came after SNK's original Neo Geo Pocket monochrome handheld, which debuted in 1998 in Japan (and was released in the U.S. in 1999).

In 2000 following SNK's purchase by Japanese Pachinko manufacturer Aruze, the Neo Geo Pocket Color was dropped from both the U.S. and European markets, purportedly due to commercial failure.Fact|date=August 2007

The system seemed well on its way to being a success in the U.S. Indeed, it enjoyed a greater success than any Game Boy competitor since Sega's Game Gear. However, it was hurt by several factors, such as SNK's infamous lack of communication with third-party developers, and anticipation of the Game Boy Advance.Fact|date=August 2007 The decision to ship U.S. games in cardboard boxes in a cost-cutting move rather than hard plastic cases that Japanese and European releases were shipped in may have also hurt U.S. sales.Fact|date=August 2007

Wonderswan Color

The WonderSwan Color is a handheld game console designed by Bandai. It was released on December 30, 2000 in Japan, and was a moderate success.

The original WonderSwan had only a black and white screen. Although the WonderSwan Color was slightly larger and heavier (7 mm and 2 g) compared to the original WonderSwan, the color version featured 64KBVerify source|date=July 2007 of RAM and a larger color LCD screen. In addition, the WonderSwan Color is compatible with the original WonderSwan library of games.

Prior to WonderSwan's release, Nintendo had virtually a monopoly in the Japanese video game handheld market. After the release of the WonderSwan Color, Bandai took approximately 8% of the market share in Japan partly due to its low price of 6800 yen (approximately $65 U.S. Dollars).

Another reason for the WonderSwan's success in Japan was the fact that Bandai managed to get a deal with SquareSoft to port over the original Famicom "Final Fantasy" games with improved graphics and controls. However, with the popularity of the Game Boy Advance and the reconciliation between SquareSoft and Nintendo, the WonderSwan Color and its successor, the SwanCrystal quickly lost its competitive advantage.

2000s

Game Boy Advance

In 2001, Nintendo released the Game Boy Advance (GBA or AGB), which added two shoulder buttons, a larger screen, and more computing power to the Game Boy Color.

The design was revised two years later when the Game Boy Advance SP (GBA SP), a more compact version, was released. The SP featured a "clamshell" design (folding open and closed, like a briefcase), as well as a frontlit color display and rechargeable battery. Despite the smaller form factor, the screen remained the same size as that of the original. In 2005, the Game Boy Micro was released. This revision sacrificed screen size and backwards compatibility with previous Game Boys for a dramatic reduction in total size and a brighter backlit screen. A new SP model with a backlit screen was released in some regions around the same time.

Along with the Nintendo GameCube, the GBA also introduced the concept of "connectivity": using a handheld system as a console controller. A handful of games use this feature, most notably "Animal Crossing", "Pac-Man Vs.", ', ', ', and '.

As of December 31 2007, the GBA, GBA SP, and the Game Boy Micro combined have sold 80.72 million units worldwide.cite web |url=http://www.nintendo.co.jp/ir/pdf/2008/080124e.pdf#page=8 |title=Consolidated Financial Highlights |publisher=Nintendo |date=2008-01-24 |accessdate=2008-03-22 |format=PDF | pages=8]

Game Park 32

The original GP32 was released in 2001 by the South Korean company Game Park a few months after the launch of the Game Boy Advance. It featured a 32-bit CPU, 133 MHz processor, MP3 and Divx player, and e-book reader. SmartMedia cards were used for storage, and could hold up to 128mb of anything downloaded through a USB cable from a PC. The GP32 was redesigned in 2003. A front-lit screen was added and the new version was called GP32 FLU (Front Light Unit). In the summer of 2004 another redesign was made and a back-lit screen was added. It was called the GP32 BLU. This version of the handheld was planned for release outside South Korea; in Europe, and it was released for example in Spain (VirginPlay was the distributor). While not a commercial success on a level with mainstream handhelds (only 30,000 units were sold), it ended up being used mainly as a platform for user-made applications and emulators of other systems, being popular with developers and more technically-adept users. [http://www.clockerz.org/articles/gp2x_qa_with_craig_rothwell.html GP2X Q&A, With Craig Rothwell] . "Clockerz". Accessed on 24-03-2008.]

N-Gage

Nokia released the N-Gage in 2003. It was designed as a combination mp3 player, cellphone, PDA, radio, and gaming device. The system received much criticism alleging defects in its physical design and layout, including its vertically-oriented screen and requirement of removing the battery to change game cartridges. The most well known of these was "sidetalking," or the act of placing the phone speaker and receiver on an edge of the device instead of one of the flat sides, causing the user to appear as if he is speaking to a taco.

The N-Gage QD was later released to address the design flaws of the original. However, certain features available in the original N-Gage, including MP3 playback, FM radio reception, and USB connectivity were removed.

Second generation of N-Gage launched on April 3, 2008 [cite web |url=http://www.n-gage.com/ngi/ngage/web/g0/en/community/articles.Detail.general-anewdayforngage.1.html |title= A New Day for N-Gage |publisher=Nokia |accessdate=2008-04-03] in the form of a service for selected Nokia Smartphones.

Tapwave Zodiac

In 2004, Tapwave released the Zodiac. It was designed to be a PDA-handheld game console hybrid. It supported photos, movies, music, Internet, and documents. The Zodiac used a special version Palm OS 5, 5.2T, that supported the special gaming buttons and graphics chip. Two versions were available, Zodiac 1 and 2, differing in memory and looks. The Zodiac line ended in July 2005 when Tapwave declared bankruptcy.

Nintendo DS

The Nintendo DS was released in November 2004. Among its new features were the incorporation of two screens, a touchscreen, wireless connectivity, and a microphone port. As with the Game Boy Advance SP, the DS features a clamshell design, with the two screens aligned vertically on either side of the hinge.

The DS's lower screen is touch sensitive, designed to be pressed with a stylus, a user's finger or a special "thumb pad" (a small plastic pad attached to the console's wrist strap, which can be affixed to the thumb to simulate an analog stick). More traditional controls include four face buttons, a D-pad, and "Start" and "Select" buttons. The console also features online capabilities via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection and ad-hoc wireless networking for multiplayer games with up to sixteen players. It is backwards-compatible with all Game Boy Advance games, but not with games designed for the Game Boy or Game Boy Color.

In January 2006, Nintendo revealed an updated version of the DS: the Nintendo DS Lite (released on March 2, 2006 in Japan) with an updated, smaller form factor (42% smaller and 21% lighter than the original Nintendo DS), a cleaner design, and brighter, higher-quality displays, with adjustable brightness. It is also able to connect wirelessly with Nintendo's Wii console.

As of December 31 2007, the Nintendo DS and Nintendo DS Lite combined have sold 64.79 million units worldwide.

In October 2008, Nintendo announced the Nintendo DSi, with larger, 3.25 inch screens and two integrated cameras. It will have an SD card storage slot in place of the Game Boy Advance slot, plus internal flash memory for storing downloaded games. It will be released on November 1, 2008 in Japan, and 2009 in North America and Europe.

PlayStation Portable

Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP) was first revealed at E3 2004, and was released in Japan and North America in late 2004 and early 2005, respectively. The PSP, as well as several other handhelds in the seventh generation, is designed with an emphasis on convergence, with video and music playback functions in addition to game playing. As of March 31 2007, 25.39 million units have shipped worldwide. [cite web|url=http://www.scei.co.jp/corporate/data/bizdatapsp_e.html|title=PSP (PlayStation Portable) Cumulative Production Shipments of Hardware|accessdate=2008-03-22|publisher=Sony Computer Entertainment Inc]

The PSP features four face buttons with the distinctive PlayStation symbols, a directional pad, two shoulder buttons and several hardware control buttons along the bottom of the console's face. The PSP has a single analog control in the form of an "analog pad": a small plastic circle which can slide along the plane of the console's front panel. The PSP's screen is often considered one of its most obvious hardware advantages, an unusually large 4.3 inch (11 cm) widescreen (16:9 aspect ratio) LCD. Unlike previous handheld games, PSP games are stored on UMD optical discs rather than a solid-state medium. In terms of hardware connectivity, the PSP supports Wi-Fi for multiplayer gaming both locally and over the Internet, as well as a standard four-pin USB connector on the top edge of the console. The system is designed to connect to Sony's PlayStation 3 console (There are noted similarities between the two consoles, such as the "XMB" user interface).

Sony has emphasized the PSP's non-gaming functions. The machine can play movies and music from the system's UMD disks, or from a Memory Stick Duo memory card (Sony's proprietary flash storage format). Some of the games for the PSP, such as "Wipeout Pure", can use a wireless Internet connection to download new content, and as of firmware version 2.0 the console has an integrated web browser. Later firmware updates have added more non-gaming functionality such as LocationFree Player support in firmware 2.50; RSS Channel audio which can be streamed or downloaded to the memory stick in 2.60, Video and Photo RSS Channel (Although users cannot stream videos or photo off the internet, they can only download) in 2.80; Full PlayStation 3 connectivity in 3.00 and the ability to use the "Chotto Shot" (Quick Shot) camera accessory without the "Chotto Shot Edit" Universal Media Disc software. However, the success of the non-gaming functions, particularly the UMD playback, has been limited.Fact|date=August 2007

In 2007, Sony announced an updated version of the PSP at E3: the PSP Slim & Lite. It was officially released in September 2007. The price for the Core Pack is US$169.99. Firmware update 3.90 added Skype functionality to the PSP Slim & Lite allowing users to use their Skype account to make and receive calls using VOIP, anywhere Wi-Fi in accessible.

In 2008, Sony announced another upgraded version of the PSP, with an integrated microphone, a brighter screen and some minor changes. It is expected to launch near October.

Gizmondo

Tiger's Gizmondo came out in the UK during March 2005 and it was released in the U.S. during October 2005. It is designed to play music, movies, and games, have a camera for taking and storing photos, and have GPS functions. It also has Internet capabilities. It has a phone for sending text and multimedia messages. Email was promised at launch, but was never released before Gizmondo, and ultimately Tiger Telematics', downfall in early 2005. Users obtained a second service pack, unreleased, hoping to find such functionality. However, Service Pack B did not activate the e-mail functionality.

Game Park Holdings GP2X

Released in November 2005, the GP2X is a handheld game console that uses the Linux operating system and is designed to support videos, music, photos, and games in an open architecture allowing any user to develop software for the device. Expandability for future upgrades (new media formats, features, operating system, etc) has been made possible by flash upgradable firmware.

The GP2X natively supports codecs and formats such as DivX, Xvid, MP3 and Ogg Vorbis, but because the player is based on the open-source media player named mplayer, it is easily possible to add other codecs unsupported at the launch. It can also emulate games for many systems, including the NES, SMS, PC Engine, SNES, Mega Drive/Genesis, GBA and PlayStation (but not full-speed).

The current number sold is unknown, but 30,000 were sold by October 2006. [cite web | url=http://www.gamespot.com/news/6159783.html | title=Q&A: GP2X chief Craig Rothwell - News at GameSpot | publisher=Game Spot | accessdate=2006-10-30]

A new version called the "F200" was released on November 1, 2007 and featured a touchscreen, among other changes.

List of notable handheld game consoles

* Milton Bradley Microvision (1979)
* Epoch Game Pocket Computer - (1984) - Japanese only; not a successFact|date=November 2007
* Nintendo Game Boy (1989) - First internationally successful handheld game consoleFact|date=November 2007
* Atari Lynx (1989) - First backlit/color screen, first hardware capable of accelerated 3d drawing
* NEC TurboExpress (1990, Japan; 1991, North America) - Played huCard (TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine) games, first console/handheld intercompatibility
* Sega Game Gear (1991) - Architecturally similar to Sega Master System, notable accessory firsts include a TV tuner
* Watara Supervision (1992) - first handheld with TV-OUT support; although the Super Game Boy was only a compatibility layer for the preceding game boy.
* Sega Mega Jet (1992) - no screen, made for Japan Air Lines (first handheld without a screen)
* Mega Duck/Cougar Boy (1993) - 4 level grayscale 2,7" LCD - Stereo sound - rare, sold in Europe and Brazil
* Nintendo Virtual Boy (1994) - Monochromatic (red only) 3D goggle set, only semi-portable; first 3D portable
* Sega Nomad (1995) - Played normal Sega Genesis cartridges, albeit at lower resolution
* Neo Geo Pocket (1996) - Unrelated to Neo Geo consoles or arcade systems save for name
* Game Boy Pocket (1996) - Slimmer redesign of Game Boy
* Game Boy Pocket Light (1997) - Japanese only backlit version of the Game Boy Pocket
* Tiger game.com (1997) - First touch screen, first Internet support (with use of sold-separately modem)
* Game Boy Color (1998)
* Cybiko (Around 1998)
* Playblock (around 1998, possibly earlier)
* Sony PocketStation (1998) - Japanese only PS1 memory card / portable mini console in one.
* SNK Neo Geo Pocket Color (1999)
* Bandai WonderSwan (1999) - Developed by Gumpei Yokoi after leaving Nintendo
* Bandai WonderSwan Color (2000)
* Game Park GP32 (2001) - first with full homebrew support
* Game Boy Advance (2001) - First 32-bit handheld
* Pokémon mini (2001) - The smallest cartridge-based system that includes a black-and-white LCD screen, and the smallest integrated gamepad ever created.
* Bandai Swan Crystal (2002) - Minor redesign of WonderSwan Color
* N-Gage (2003) - Game system and GSM cell phone (first combination of the two); first included mp3 player and FM radio; used Bluetooth (first wireless multiplayer); first use of GPRS for online play
* Game Boy Advance SP (2003) - Redesign of GBA: slimmer, clamshell form factor; frontlit screen
* Gameking (2003) - first handheld developed by a Chinese company.
* Tapwave Zodiac (2004) - First PDA/game handheld hybrid; Palm OS PDA with game-focused form factor and features
* Nokia N-Gage QD (2004) - Redesign of N-Gage, removed mp3 playback and radio
* Nintendo DS (2004) - First inclusion of dual screens, built-in microphone, and Wi-Fi for wireless multiplayer; touchscreen
* PlayStation Portable (2004/2005) - First use of optical media; uses Memory Sticks for saved data; plays movies and music and views JPEG pictures.
* Gizmondo (2005) - Uses GPRS network; first inclusion of GPS for location-based games, first built-in camera
* Game Boy Micro (2005) - Redesign of GBA; smallest Game Boy form factor to date, first transflective LCD screen in a handheld.
* Game Boy Advance SP (Backlit) - A low key re-release of the GBA SP with a backlit screen.
* XGP (2005) and Game Park Holdings GP2X (2005) - Successor units to the GP32 handheld, each being developed by the two companies that split off from Game Park.
* Ez MINI (2005) by Shanda
* Nintendo DS Lite (2006) - Redesign of DS, including smaller size, brighter screen levels, and other subtle changes.
* VG Pocket Caplet Upgraded VG Pocket Max.
* PlayStation Portable Slim & Lite (2007) - Redesign of PlayStation Portable (PSP), including smaller size, lighter weight, video out capability, USB charge, and other changes.
* PlayStation Portable 3000 (2008) - Minor redesign of the current PSP Slim & Lite, including brighter screen, built in mic, and a PS button replacing the Home Button
* iPhone 3G (2008) - Apple's entry into the portable gaming market. Games are downloadable over the air through the iTunes AppStore.
* iPod touch (2008) (2nd Generation) - Phone-less iPhone with the AppStore pre-loaded.
* Nintendo DSi (2008) - Small redesign of the Nintendo DS Lite. Some changes include built in internet, camera, use of SD card, and no more backward compatibility with Game Boy Advance games

ee also

* Console emulator
* Handheld video game
* Calculator gaming
* Handheld television

References

External links

*


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