Issue 124 | The Hound: Death of the Nintendo Game Boy

By Harold Cuthbert Hound 30.05.2006 15


James Temperton :: Issue 124 :: 28th May 2006

Industry analysis with added bite.

Is the Game Boy dead? A perfectly valid question and one that Nintendo have (thus far) failed to answer conclusively. Until the Japanese giant does finally announce the next wave of Game Boy hardware there will of course be doubts. Talk of the brand dying altogether is utterly stupid; the name is synonymous with success and is one of Nintendo's most potent selling assets. So why would they kill it and why are some idiots convinced they will?

Nintendo have been effervescing with turgid crap about "paradigm shifts" and "changing perceptions" for just over two years now, with barely a mention of the Game Boy. Occasionally George Harrison would open his mouth and let lots of tedious numbers fall out with the occasional uttering of "Game Boy success", but apart from that...nothing. The Game Boy micro is the obvious point of Game Boy interest during recent times, and is perhaps Nintendo's only hint that the system is at the forefront of their minds.

From a personal standpoint, I would argue that the Game Boy Advance has turned into nothing more than a SNES emulator with the occasional new title worth my interest. Admittedly, I've never been a massive fan of handheld consoles, but the GBA in particular has never gone out of its way to persuade me to buy anything for it. The micro is a very cool piece of kit, it looks nice, it has lots of different faceplates and the whole design and image of the system is superb, plus it actually fits in your pocket, unlike my veritable lump of an original GBA. I even got the SP in an attempt to enjoy it more. Whilst I could finally see the games I had wasted far too much money on, I was still a bit bored and uninspired.

Then the DS came along. Whilst it is still a huge ugly lump of plastic, the DS Lite is soon set to turn up here in Europe which should rid the console of its somewhat ugly image. What the DS represents (as if the PR blurb hasn't harped on about it enough already) is a change, a disruption, something exciting, something daring, something fresh, something new, and something that will cook healthy food for you and turn off lights when you accidentally leave them on. As the Book of Reggie tells us, "change is good" (admittedly, Nintendo would be stuffed if it wasn't) and that is exactly what the DS is about, change. The Game Boy Advance is the exact opposite, a fact only enhanced by the rather amusing 'Classics' range, which, although vastly popular and an unquestionable commercial hit, did little more than replicate the past. If I want to go back two decades I'll shove on a shellsuit and watch Dallas, grow a mullet and change my name to Bret.

Moving back on topic, where does Nintendo's new philosophy leave the little old Game Boy? You could argue that it leaves it on the same rubbish heap as Nintendo's purple powder-bag, but whilst the GameCube just represents one console progression, the Game Boy represents a lot more. I always thought it was odd that the DS was launched as a totally different option to the Game Boy. Why didn't Nintendo call it the Game Boy DS? From a marketing point of view it would have worked wonders with brand recognition, but perhaps then the connotations of the name would have hurt the perceived image Nintendo had for the system. Add to that the 'Touch Generation' initiative and Nintendo's drive to get non-gamers playing the DS and you have some fairly substantial reasoning in place for not using the Game Boy brand to help establish the DS. In hindsight it is clear to see that the console didn't need any help, which is undoubtedly a good thing for Nintendo.

The problem this leaves Iwata and pals with is a big one: what do you do with the Game Boy? Nintendo would be somewhat shooting themselves in the foot if they announced a handheld console with the power of the N64 and the ability to play games at that sort of graphical and technical level and there would be no point in making it an innovative unit as it would then tread on the DS' demographical reach. Nintendo can't go for a lack of innovation, but they also can't go for innovation. That would either cause them to go against all their current philosophy and hard work with the DS and the Wii or release a console that is remarkably similar to one that is already on the market. Both would be hugely pointless and laughable exercises in corporate idiocy.

As I said earlier, killing of the Game Boy wouldn't make much sense, as Nintendo would be killing what is arguably their strongest global brand name outside Pok

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Hmmm...wise words as usual...Your absolutely right that releasing it may completely ruin their newfound direction.

But your conclusion that Nintendo will certainly not let the franchise go may very well be wrong..It will depend on the success of the Wii and DS, if these REALLY take off
(which the DS appears to be doing) its very probable that they will be rid of it.
Game boy represents their old direction..their hardcore audience. The image that they are trying to shake off.
Its surely too big of a risk..Smilie

IANC said:
Dude yuor totally awesome. And i won't be killing you anytime soon.

I completely agree with everything you said... I think it wise to not speculate too much on what the GBA could be too...

I see that the DS could potentially become the GBA of old, and the new GameBoy will be something to link the Wii and everything else. I'm not sure.

In a way Nintendo or sort-of screwed whatever they do- just what will the next-generation handheld Nintendo be like? No one really has a clue!

It's going to be interesting at the very least to see what decision they make!

i think with the whole rebrading they have undergone, gameboy will be dropped, it doesnt fit in with their business model, wuite franckly, it is associated with 10 year old boys. They know this and are changing, the gameboy name is dead, i think

They just don't mention 'gameboy'. They have DS and Wii - they are 'growing up' a bit and also with names. Before the name is forgotten they may revive it or let it die, who cares with DS taking the... spear?

Hey, I have this big grey Gameboy Type 1 right here. *pling* wow, it still works *plays Super Mario Land*

I find your lack of faith disturbing!

"I was still a bit bored and uninspired."

This nails exactly how handhelds have always made me feel (hopefully DS will change all that). I've tried many times to get into them, but they just left me feeling empty. For that reason (with the utmost respect for the brand), I wouldn't miss the 'Game Boy' name were it to be retired. The DS is the natural evolution of the GB - the pubescent GBA having grown-up and blossomed, gaining some interesting new 'features' you've just gotta get your hands onSmilie

Less posty, more gamey.

In your article, you've missed a couple of points. First the GBA has a strong library of quality games. This prompted an IGN journalist to question whether the DS and PSP games will reach the quality of the GBA's games. This question is still unanswered. Also, Nintendo stated that it was using a three pillar approach with its consoles and the DS would sit between the GBA and Gamecube. However, the success of the DS has caught Nintendo and Everyone else by surprise. Now Nintendo has to grow the DS line therefore releasing a new entry into the Gameboy line in 2007 would halt the Ds's growth and segment Nintendo's fan base. Furthermore Nintendo has already patented touch screen technology that will allow for two inputs instead of one. This shows that Nintendo is committed to growing the DS line of consoles. This does not mean that the Gameboy line is dead. In an article by one of your fellow journalist here at cubed3 or maybe it was a journalist at N-sider.com, any way, the article stated that America is not ready for an advanced handheld. The article quoted sales figures for the GBA for the month, I can't remember the month but I'm thinking it was March, which showed that the DS sold 90,000 units and the PSP sold 70,000 units but the GBA sold 250,000 units. The GBA software is also stilling selling extremely well with more titles being released in the fall. What is hurting the GBA Sp right now is its price. Both the Ds and PSP have had price drops but in the US the GBA Sp is still 79.99. If the price were to Drop down to 59.99 the GBA Sp would begin flying off the shelves. The GBA is still popular but the Ds's software is selling so well developers and publishers want some of the action. Yet a Gameboy with the graphics and processing power of the Gamecube would sell extremely well. However, Nintendo has to decide whether or not to continue with the three pillar approach.

From a personal standpoint, I would argue that the Game Boy Advance has turned into nothing more than a SNES emulator with the occasional new title worth my interest. Admittedly, I've never been a massive fan of handheld consoles, but the GBA in particular has never gone out of its way to persuade me to buy anything for it.


Pffffft The GBA was the return of the fucking messiah bitch! It was the return of the SNES, with SuperFXchip preinstalled and with new games to boot aswell as the old.

( Edited on 30.05.2006 01:24 by Blade2t3 )

XBL Gamertag: James2t3

I couldn't be stuffed if it did die. The Nintendo DS is what most people want. Not a gameboy...BESIDES the DS can play GBA gamesSmilie.

patjuan32 said:
In your article, youve missed a couple of points. First the GBA has a strong library of quality games. This prompted an IGN journalist to question whether the DS and PSP games will reach the quality of the GBA's games. This question is still unanswered.

You raise a good point. But if these games are so good, why can't abuy them in game shops? Have u been in any store that sells GBA games recently? No one stocks them and i'm forevere attempting to ebay or amazon market place big titles like DK vs Mario, LOZ-Minish Cap or AavanceWars2. While the PS2, still has games like X squad, Fifa2001 and Tekken Tag up on the shelves! GBA games, in store, consists of Kiddy brands and the odd good game on budget (like Astro boy). Maybe a couple of double packs thrown in, but no mention of the Mario Advance series, F - Zero series or (unless your lucky) Metroid series. I actually wrote into ONM about this situation to see how they felt about it! Hopefully i'll see that soon.

The DS and PSP might not reach the GBA's sales, but bare in mind the GBA had the monopoly as well as good games. Maybe both consoles sale and market share added together would be more realistic.

I always thought it was odd that the DS was launched as a totally different option to the Game Boy. Why didn't Nintendo call it the Game Boy DS?

I'm really pleased they didn't call it GB-DS. I think Nintendo have suffered with there 'Kiddy image' due to the fact that names like Gameboy remind people of there youth. Breaking away from that on this particular product was essential to maintain its a new product, for everyone by an experienced company. Plus, with the GBA SP and Micro still selling, why add a 3rd gameboy into the mix? Its too confusing for the casual buyer.

I hope that Nintendo don't give up the GB brand. It still has a lot to offer. But Nintendo need to focus on a new wave of products away from the 'kiddy image' but keeping there History intact. Having a new generation refer to Nintendo as a company with 'Innovation' instead of a company with 'Super Mario and Pikachu' is a great start.

( Edited on 30.05.2006 11:46 by Robbo )

The GB brand will not die. I think this whole speculation came out of nothing.I mean Nintendo announced that there will be no more GBA iterations and thank fuck for that as there quite a few already. To be honest with you, Nintendo NEVER expected this worldwide sucess with the DS. Nintendo called it the third pillar meaning that they were intent to keeping the home console market, the game boy market and the new touch screen device going. What i must say that Nintendo's business plan has been shaped by the DS. If the DS wasnt this popular then the Wii wouldnt be what it is now.

On the contrary Nintendo is moving forward and trying to rid themselves as a unstylish,unpopular kiddys company. Nintendo are trying to change with the times and going for the new "style" hence items such as the GBM and DSlite. The Wii is looking pretty slick aswell. If i were running Nintendo then personally i would keep the Game Boy Brand and not get rid of it. Sure there isnt need for it right now, but 3-5 years down the line i think a new Game Boy isnt too far off the books.


(My post lacks structure and really poor grammer...fuck it...)

Nintendo is moving forward and trying to rid themselves as a unstylish,unpopular kiddys company. Nintendo are trying to change with the times and going for the new "style" hence items such as the GBM and DSlite. The Wii is looking pretty slick aswell. If i were running Nintendo then personally i would keep the Game Boy Brand and not get rid of it. Sure there isnt need for it right now, but 3-5 years down the line i think a new Game Boy isnt too far off the books.

I agree - they do seem to be injectin a bit of style in the naming and presentation of their products now. The GameBoy brand is a classic, and I too wouldn't want to see it go however I do think that Nintendo will probably not name it along the lines of "GameBoy2", but more like the DS.

However, with the GameBoy brand being a big sucess - like the iPod of handhelds - it'll be difficult to walk away from it, they've done a spectacular job with the DS, so it's one step in a new direction I feel.

Good stuff Mr. Hound!

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

patjuan32, I was going to shove in something about the three pillar approach, but in all honesty that is old hat now. It seemed a tad strange at the time when Nintendo started saying it and now it just seems even more ludicrous. When they started waffling on about having 'three pillars' the GameCube was still an active project and the DS was only just coming onto the market/being announced, the Revolution/Wii was nowhere to be seen and since all the developments with the DS, DS Lite, Wii and even the micro they haven't once mentioned having 'three pillars', so it a somewhat pointless thing to focus on. The other point you make about good sales of GBA software, I'm not disputing that (I'm not mad on sales figures, hence I didn't go and include them in the article) but in terms of hardware, image and direction the system is not what Nintendo are about anymore. I just wonder how long people will carry on buying titles for it.

Maybe Nintendo can keep it going much like Sony kept the PlayStation/PSOne going for so bloody long. I'm sure the hardware and software would still sell fantastically well and then when the time was right, they could slow down production and let it die peacefully in its sleep...

Good points guys, keep them coming Smilie

Trying to think of a witty signature after 'Hacker-gate'...

Well I don't usually both reading... Well... Anything, but I read all that, and I must say I agree... Currently Nintendo can't release another Gameboy with just better graphics as it would just go against everything they've been trying to build these past few years. Then again they didn't name the DS just the DS for a reason. They said it was a third pillar, and so I expect them to stick to that.

Maybe they'll release a hugely powerful Gameboy in a year or so to completely kick the PSP in the face? Who knows

Still a proud member of the 'omfg amazing water in games' society

Robbo,

Just because you can not find the popular GBA titles does not mean that the games do not sale. Actually they sell very well and that is the problem. Nintendo has not released a GBA player's choice list therefore there are no re-releases as budget titles. This makes finding popular titles harder to find and has led to gamers selling classic GBA titles on Ebay and Amazon.com for high prices. Also retailers do not pay well for pre-paid games which has resulted in retailers having slim stocks of old, classic, GBA games.

( Edited on 30.05.2006 19:54 by patjuan32 )

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