A Handheld Gaming Timeline

With the great development from Nintendo DS in the 2000’s, handheld gaming continues to be a major force within the entertainment industry. The successes of today’s handheld platforms pay great tribute to the consoles that once dominated our lives, such as the Game Boy and the Game Gear. Sales on smart phone applications, PSP Go and Nintendo 3DS games continue to play a large role in the overall market for video games. A look back over the years proves that there have been plenty of different styles on the way to the current state of handheld gaming and just how far the sector of the market has come.

Milton Bradley released one of the first handheld gaming devices back in 1979 with the Microvision, a large machine with a black and white LCD screen. The system included ready-to-go versions of paddle games and limited play, which led to relatively poor sales. Even though it didn’t stick around, the system was used as a model for later designers of handheld games.

Throughout the mid 1980’s there were a couple more game machines, but none that really stood out. The Entex Select A Game Machine was released in 1981, but was still rather large. It was designed for two players to participate and was usually played on a table where both could sit down and see. The machine contained a vacuum fluorescent display which led to a number of sight issues and a limited amount of video games ultimately had a major effect on its downfall. In 1984, the Epoch Game Pocket Computer set the track for some future systems. It had a black and white LCD display which used cartridges. It was released in Japan, but failed to truly gain any steam, leaving the market open for others.

Before Nintendo really turned the handheld market in its favor, they developed the Game & Watch in the early 1980’s. These platforms are particularly interesting because of their striking resemblance to today’s current DS line. Individual games were released with their own LCD screen, as well as a clock and alarm. Over 60 game & watch titles were developed, as Nintendo has clearly taken strengths such as the dual screen and flip style formatting to develop their popular line today.

The industry was revolutionized in 1989 when Nintendo released the Game Boy platform. It had a long battery life, as well as a number of games available. With over 100 million units sold after its original release, Nintendo went on to develop Advance, Light and Color versions later in the 1990’s. With the upgrades made to the line, it became one of the longest running video game systems in history.

The Game Boy’s main competitor came about in 1990 when Sega released the Game Gear. Even though Atari ($179.95 Lynx at launch) and NEC ($249.99 TurboExpress at launch) had attempted to build systems to compete with Nintendo, they were largely unsuccessful. The Game Gear came in color and was considerably inexpensive with an initial price tage of $149.99 at launch. Also pushing its popularity was the fact that the Sega Genesis was widely popular at the time.

The mid 90’s saw another release from Sega with the Genesis Nomad in 1995. This came at a rough patch for Sega, when it had a number of other releases on the market. The system was one of a kind in that it actually played the same cartridges as a Genesis did, allowing for multiple platform game usage. The Nomad was widely ignored upon its release, leading to poor sales.

Nintendo developed the Virtual Boy in 1995 as the first video game console with true 3D graphics. While larger than most handheld systems, the Virtual Boy could still be towed around pretty easily. The system used LED pixels for a monochrome display, as well as controller built specifically for 3D game play. Unfortunately the reception from the public was pretty lackluster, as many critics panned that the device was ugly and the graphics were subpar.

Tiger Electronics started to become a force within the handheld gaming industry early with a series of handheld titles in the 1980’s similar to the Game & Watch. They became hugely successful with individual releases for a number of popular movies and character games throughout the 80’s and 90’s.  These individual platforms were relatively inexpensive compared to other major consoles, making them very popular. During the late 1990’s, they began to try and cover other parts of the market by developing the game.com. This was the first handheld console to feature touch display and internet connectivity, but ultimately it fell flat with a lack of titles developed.

The market was saturated with smaller name systems throughout the early stages of the 2000’s including releases from Nokia, Bandai and Game Park which were all rather unsuccessful in the United States market. Nintendo released its first non-Gameboy portable device with the DS in 2004. This had two screens including one that was touch controlled. Although first viewed as a failure, the system has gone on to sell millions and stay one of the company’s major products.

PlayStation finally got into the act in 2004 as well with the release of its own Portable device. The PSP was originally viewed as a better product than the DS, but long term sales went against the grain. Even being viewed as somewhat of a competitor, the PSP has still done well sales wise because it still offers some different aspects, especially with updates throughout the last decade.

Today, much of the handheld gaming industry is focused in smart phones and portable music devices such as the iPod Touch. The application marketplace provided by smartphone developers like Apple and Android have allowed for easy access to games that are more than affordable. The availability to games has never been easier than it is now with today’s phones.

Nintendo and PlayStation have been forced to really improve their game play with the widespread availability in the smart phone sector. Nintendo continues to try and spike the initially poor reception of the 3DS by developing more games with online availability into the future. The DS itself went on to success after a slow start, but Nintendo seemed to really miss on the initial price and first party support of the 3DS, hurting its reception.  If they would like to achieve the success of the DS over the long haul, Nintendo will likely have to allow for better virtual sales, as well as firmware updates to help  convince gamers that there is value in not just playing games on their smartphones.

Article Author: Justin Taylor


Rare Game Showcase: Atari Jaguar Developer’s Cart, 3 SNES M.A.C.S., and a Mario Pipe Phone

There are some real gems on eBay right now.  Check out the life size Halo 2 statue and Atari Jaguar developers cart.  My personal favorites: Patapon promo magnets and the Mario pipe phone…


MACS~ The Multi-Purpose Arcade Combat Simulator ~SNES~ (label damage) Currently a live auction on eBay with 0 bids given its near total label damage and starting bid of $39.95 USD.

M.A.C.S. Multi-Purpose Arcade Combat Simulator Version 1.1e 1993 SNES Game (label damage) Sold Sept. 30, 2010 for $71.01.

MACS Multi-Purpose Arcade Combat Simulator Version 1994.0 SNES Game Sold Sept. 30, 2010 for $71.01.

This is the “Basic Rifle Marksmanship Program” game used by the US Army to train soldiers using a low cost virtual shooting range before bringing them to a real shooting range.  It’s interesting to see two of the version variations appear on eBay.  I’d be curious to know how they differ.

Vectrex Homebrew Game V-Hockey

Atari Jaguar: Official Developer’s Flash Card Cart Currently at $245.03 GBP (Approx. $389.35 USD) with 4 days remaining on auction.

This is an auction for a screamingly rare Atari Jaguar Flash Cart. These were originally developed for a trial program Atari ran in Florida that was to allow gamers to ‘download’ games broadcast over the cable TV network. The games would then be downloaded to one of these cartridges, plugged into the Jaguar and played. Unfortunately this never amounted to anything due to the stupidly expensive hardware required (on top of the Jaguar, cart, TV and cable box!) – however the official developers realised how useful a reprogrammable cartridge could be and started using them internally. They were often used to take demo and beta games to trade shows, or to send to gaming magazines as review copies. When Atari folded at the end of the Tramiel era all remaining flash carts and development kits were recalled to Atari for destruction – only very few survived, and this is one of them!

For those of you interested in more recent gaming history, this is the flash cart on which I discovered the finished beta of Total Carnage – this game has now seen a widespread commercial release through Carl Forhan of Songbird Productions.

In use the flash carts are plugged into a computer with a parallel port cable and programmed with a game image using a program called FLASH.COM (which I will provide on request to the winning bidder). The cart contains 4MB of Flash memory (very, very expensive at 1994 prices!) – as there are no games larger than this, it allows any ROM to be loaded onto it. They are fantastic tools for testing out prototype, beta and unreleased games.


Super Metroid 1994 Promo Standee 6′ Samus Display Currently at $320.00 USD with 3 hours remaining on auction.

1990 NINTENDO SUPER MARIO BROTHERS Phone TELEPHONE Currently at $14.99 USD with 9 hours remaining on auction.

Vintage 1980’s Nintendo Service Sign

Nintendo NES 1983 Punch Out Winter Gloves These are pretty rad, but I keep on wondering why they’re gloves rather than red boxing glove shaped mittens.  Perhaps that was a safety call by Nintendo…

Patapon Promo Magnet Set Sold Oct. 2, 2010 for $4.99 USD.  Being a huge Patapon fan, I love seeing stuff like this!  And what could be cooler than setting up a Patapon battle scene on your fridge?!

HALO MASTER CHIEF LIFE SIZE STATUE, ULTRA RARE 6+ FEET Sold Oct. 1, 2010 for $850.01 USD (+freight shipping).



NOS Nintendo Super Mario Bros.2 Rare Wind Up Toy MOC Mouser Sold Sept. 27, 2010 for $22.70 USD.

VTG Nintendo Super Mario Bros. Ice Capades 50th Flag Sold Sept. 29, 2010 for $12.50 USD.

from the 1989 Ice Capades 50th anniversary.

Spotted on eBay: Atari Service Manuals, Pirate Gear & More

Here’s a healthy list of video game rarities to get the blood flowing through your geeky little-retro-video-game-loving heart.  (Atari collectors take note of the service manuals and pirating gear!)

Rare Games

Super Contra III Demo for Super Nintendo SNES System Has a BIN/OBO of $99.99 USD.

Wacky Races Pre-Release Test Game NES – Extremely Rare (Sold May 25, 2010 for $171.06 USD)

Nintendo World Championships NWC Cart – Holy Grail Rare Currently with a BIN of $5199.00 USD and including a few bonus items.

Collectibles & Promo Items

World of Nintendo Fiber Optic Sign NICE!! (Sold on May 26, 2010 for $295.00 USD)

1989 Eureka Nintendo Easter Cling Decoration 4 Pc New

Patapon – super rare Sony PSP press promo pack (Sold on May 28, 2010 for GBP 28.99 …approximately $44.12 USD)

PACMAN UNCUT STICKER SHEET BY FLEER, MIDWAY 1980, RARE! (Sold on May 29, 2010 for $32.00 USD)

Modnation Racers for PS3 – Rare Press Kit (Sold on May 31, 2010 for GBP 80.00 …approximately $121.75 USD)

Atari Field Service Manuals

Atari 2600 Field Service Repair Manual

Atari 5200 Field Service Repair Manual

Original Atari Home Computer Retail Sales Manual binder

Atari 400 800 Field Service Repair Manual

Atari 410 and 810 800 Field Service Repair Manuals

Atari Service Repair Center Policies/Prodecures Manual

Atari Field Service Manuals – Huge Lot inc 800 1200 XL

Atari CPS Supersalt Manual for repair service

Atari Service Repair Diagnostic Controller Jumper Board

Atari 2600 Game Pirating Copy Devices

Ok, I think we all know that coping video games is naughty.  However, having the ability to copy 30 year old games somehow seems to fall into a different moral category.

Yoko Game copier for Atari 2600 – super rare

Unimex Duplikator SP280 + 6 Copy Carts – ATARI VCS 2600

Ended Auctions (This have all ended, but are none the less quite interesting)

NEW SEALED Super Mario Bros. 2 action figure: Mouser (Sold for $36.99 USD)

NEW SEALED Legend of Zelda action figure: Link 1989 (Sold for $69.99 USD)

BUBBLE BATH BABES NES NINTENDO Adult Game~ULTRA RARE (Sold for an even $500.00 USD)

Halo Reach Helmet This is a fan made helmet.  Pretty impressive actually.  (Sold for $217.50 USD)

Treamcast portable Sega Dreamcast with carry case, game (Sold for 147.00 GBP / ~$212.25 USD)

NEW IN BOX Nintendo Super Mario 3 Playchoice Cartridge! (Sold for $60.00 USD)

NEW IN BOX Nintendo Ninja Gaiden Playchoice Cartridge! (Sold for $54.01 USD)

NEW IN BOX Nintendo Punch Out Playchoice Cartridge WOW! (Sold for $62.09 USD)


Uncharted 2 Fortune Hunter Edition Collectors Rare (Sold for $1925.00 USD)

GBP 80.00
Approximately US $121.75