Handheld Gaming Consoles
For a comprehensive version of the evolution of the more notable handheld gaming consoles visually, visit our gallery. Do note that while we try to be comprehensive, the list is non-exhaustive.
The origins of handheld gaming consoles came in the late 1970s and gained momentum in the industry from the 1980s through the early 1990s when the many celebrated names of the "video game console" world jumped onto the bandwagon deeming it a lucrative business. There were names like Nintendo, Sega, Atari and NeoGeo, offering a different spectrum of games to consumers. Although some did not last as long as others (Nintendo), they did provide countless amounts of joy in their time.
I spoke to my dad on this and what he said was that even though they did not have as many choices of games as we do now, they were already spoilt for choices and had invested vast amount of times on these games. Once, he even got his confiscated by the teacher because he repeatedly brought his to class! Many of us probably can relate to such occasions, despite the differences in then's devices and now's.
So how did today's handheld gaming come about?
Our big success was something that I conceptualized the first handheld game. I asked the design group to see if they could come up with a game that was electronic that was the same size as a calculator.
- Michael Katz, former marketing director, Mattel Toys
Mattel started off based on the concept of Waco's Electronic Tic-Tac-ToeFirst plastic electronic game ever manufactured. which kick started the electronic gaming industry in 1972. The success of Harold Matson and Elliot Handler of toy company Mattel motivated them in the creation of LED-based handhelds (1977-78) which contained one game only, mostly based on arcade games.
1979: The first console which featured interchangeable cartridges was founded with Milton Bradley's Microvision.
1980s: Nintendo followed and introduced the "D-padFlat directional arrows on game controls you press with your thumb." for movement of on-screen characters which is still used even in today's modern consoles. Nintendo's involvement in the industry saw much more progress with the Nintendo Game Boy - undoubtedly the most successful game console ever.
1989-2000: Atari Lynx pioneered the use of coloured interfaces in 1989. Sega, Neo-Geo, GameBoy and WonderSwan soon followed, launching their own colored versions of previous models.
2004: This should be a time more familiar to us, the Generation Y with modern gaming consoles such as the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable.
2006-2007: As we shift towards a time where "smaller is better", Nintendo releases a smaller version of the DS; The DS Lite. Sony, too, soon responds in the 2007 with their PlayStation Portable Sim & Lite.
2008: Faced with competition from phones like the iPhone which are also able to play games, Nintendo DSi joins the Nintendo franchise. It is even thinner than the DS Lite and is inclusive of a camera which allows users to take pictures with.
In recent years, handheld video games have also become well-received in calculators, cellphones, personal digital assistants and even MP3 players.
1. Donald Melanson's brief history of handheld video games. (7th March 2009)
2. Wikipedia's list of comparison of game consoles. (7th March 2009)
3. Mega Games for a history lesson on Nintnedo handhelds. (7th March 2009)