[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Playing With Portable Power

Monday, December 8th, 2014

Nintendo Game Boy Now You're Playing With Portable Power flier flyer - 1989With great portable power comes great portable responsibility.

The box art for Game Boy’s launch titles was brilliant. So distinctive, playful, and irresistible. Even though the games themselves were blurry messes on the original Game Boy screen, the art makes me want to go back and buy those games all over again.

[ From Game Boy pack-in flyer, ca. 1989]

Discussion Topic of the Week: How many items on this flyer do you own?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Nintendo Smartwatch

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Nelsonic Nintendo Game Watches Zelda Watch Super Mario Bros. Watch Service Merchandise catalog advertisement - 1989Why not put LZDN1WBF and LSMN1WBF on your Xmas wishlist?

As you probably know, Apple recently introduced the Apple Watch. That got me thinking about other nerdy watches of yore, and I remembered something I recently found in my mom’s attic.

Last month, my mother and I searched through boxes and boxes of my grandmother’s old dishes to see what might be of use to me now. The dishes had been sitting in my parents’ attic untouched for two decades. Many of them were padded with old newspaper from eastern Tennessee, which is where my grandmother lived until she died in 1992.

Among the usual black-ink-on-yellowing-paper fare, I found a handful of gloriously full-color advertisement circulars. A December 1989 mini-catalog for Service Merchandise caught my attention immediately because it featured a pair of Nelsonic Game Watches licensed by Nintendo. (That segment of the circular is what you see scanned above.)

Each of these two watches, which sold for ($19.97 a piece — or $38.37 today when adjusted for inflation) played a simplified prefab-LCD interpretation of its console namesake. If you remember Tiger’s LCD handheld games, you’re on the right track. In the Zelda watch game, you were forever trapped in a dungeon, and in Super Mario Bros. you forever hopped between platforms.

While these watch games were limited at the time, it was amazing to think you could fit a portable, battery-powered “video game” on your wrist and play it wherever you liked. I personally recall seeing more than one of these watches getting confiscated by teachers during my elementary school days.

That desire to carry functional video games with us has never abated. Heck, I bet that within days of the Apple Watch’s release next year, someone will hack it to play emulated versions of Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda — allowing us to finally have the full NES experience on our wrists. It may be 25 years too late, but it will be amusing to see how things have come full circle.

[ From Service Merchandise Circular (IE499J), Dec 1989, p.11]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever owned a watch that played a game? Tell us about it.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Game Boy is Twenty

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Game Boy Newspaper Ad - 1989“Just pop it in your pocket and pull it out any time.”

[ From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 23rd, 1989 ]

Twenty years ago tomorrow, the Game Boy went on sale for the first time in Japan. It retailed for Â¥12,500 (about $94 US at 1989 rates), and Nintendo offered four games at Game Boy’s initial launch: Super Mario Land, Baseball, Alleyway, and Yakuman (a Mahjong game). Four months later, Game Boy reached American shores with a retail price of $89.99 and a powerful pack-in game — Tetris.

Nintendo’s inclusion of Tetris as the US pack-in was a stroke of absolute genius. The handheld version of Alexey Pajitnov’s addictive puzzler made such waves in US that its release will long be remembered not just as a defining moment in video game history, but as a major cultural event for an entire generation.

As we now know, Game Boy’s long and successful run created an immense legacy, far beyond just Tetris. Overall, publishers released 1246 licensed games for the Game Boy in Japan and 952 in the US. To date, Nintendo has sold 118.69 million units of the original Game Boy line (including Game Boy Color) worldwide.

Above, we see an original Toys ‘R’ Us newspaper advertisement announcing the arrival of the Game Boy and its launch games in the United States. (Gotta love that line art.) It really brings back memories of my excitement regarding Nintendo’s first handheld system.

Discussion Topic of the Week:

In your opinion, what factors made the Game Boy so successful?

On the other hand, what mistakes, if any, did Nintendo make with the Game Boy over its twenty year run?

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More Game Boy Scans & Coverage:

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