Why do we still have Game Boy games in 2022?

Source: Greenboy Games

Nintendo’s handheld Game Boy system is such an iconic piece of pop and geek culture that it’s become the default name for every handheld video game console, Nintendo-made or not. Since its debut in 1989, it has completely changed the attitude of the general public towards portable games. While not the first handheld game console or even the first to use cartridges, the Game Boy stands out from other consoles for its affordability and up to 40 hours of battery life.

While other handheld systems and their games, like the Neo Geo, remain a topic that only excites a small group of niche fans, the Game Boy seems to have a bigger hold on Nintendo fans. From publishers like Limited Run Games republishing the original Game Boy Color version of Shantae, to new indie developers creating entirely new Game Boy games from the ground up, it looks like the Game Boy is here to stay.

The hot new toy on the block

Gameboy Super Mario World ManualSource: Nadine Dornieden / iMore

The Game Boy is perhaps the most ingenious thing Nintendo has ever come up with. He released the iconic gray brick alongside the addictive puzzle game Tetris, which was an instant recipe for success. It appealed to all ages, was more affordable than other handheld consoles that came before it, and was simple enough for anyone to pick up and enjoy, regardless of their gaming experience.

Nintendo’s first foray into handheld cartridge gaming continues to live on in the collective consciousness, even being hailed as the favorite toy of the 1990s in countries like Nicaragua, Bulgaria, France, Algeria, Senegal and India. Egypt, according to a study by The Toy Zone. While it couldn’t topple the behemoth that was Beanie Babies in the United States, it’s clear the Game Boy was a staple piece of the 1990s that people won’t forget.

Bring dead pixels back to life

Nes Mario classic controllerSource: Nadine Dornieden / iMore

Gaming in general has grown exponentially more popular in recent years, and the pandemic has played a huge role. A CNBC report looked at the possible causes of this surge at a time when so many other industries were seeing declines in sales. Analysts have suggested the rise in spending could be attributed to closures, layoffs and people spending more time at home in an attempt to feel safe, needing something to occupy their time.

However, the surge in popularity of video games is not limited to new consoles like the Nintendo Switch. Prices for retro games are skyrocketing, with reports of over 70% price increases for GameCube games and 36% for Game Boy Color titles.

Operators of retro video game stores have never seen this level of interest, attributing the sudden surge in interest to more people losing their jobs and looking for a way to “flip” their current assets, as well as people working from home and having more time for leisure. Fans may feel nostalgic for their childhood and embark on the online shopping that many of us have fallen victim to since the pandemic began.

It’s clear that video games of all generations are on the rise, with their growing popularity bolstered by the pandemic. As more people try to find ways to interact with others while isolating themselves, and others find solace in familiar pixelated and polygonal characters, the popularity of modern and retro games will continue to grow. ‘increase.

How did we come here?

Greenboy Shapeshifter 2 GamesSource: Greenboy Games

But why Game Boy games, of all games? With advanced technology and game development engines, why do some developers choose to continue developing for the Game Boy? I spoke with Dana from Greenboy Games, otherwise known as @Greenboy_Games on Twitter. Dana is a Barcelona-based solo developer whose career developing the iconic gray handheld spans seven years. They’ve created both physical and digital versions of their original Game Boy games, with their latest game, The Shapeshifter 2, currently making the rounds on Indiegogo.

“Initially, my creations were intended for the PC and Android due to the current trend”, they confess. “Although for some reason I never felt satisfied with these platforms.” Their “professional” career, however, only really started in 2015, when they were finally able to start making a living from it.

Greenboy Games TavernSource: Greenboy Games

When asked what prompted her decision to develop for the retro console, Dana replied, “Just love and passion. Love for the console and passion for creating video games. In 2015, there was no other reason to develop games for these retro systems.” They were enamored with the Game Boy as a system from the age of nine, saying, “I still remember the sacrifices to save and buy the console.” The console’s limitations were also appealing to this developer, encouraging creative solutions when things started to get too big.

The pandemic seemed to contribute to Dana’s career in a positive way. “In the decade from 2010 to 2020, very few people were interested in buying games for older systems, and I also remember there were very few developers for classic systems who were still making games by passion, so it was very difficult to do The trend changed in 2020, when we noticed a significant increase in interest in this type of game”, they recall, “I remember that in the decade 2010 -2020, we could barely sell 50 titles per year. Now we have already confirmed 3,000 titles (still physical, with its box, its manual, its extras, its pocket guide, its encoder wheel, etc.), and it still a lot of 2022 left.”

The Shapeshifter 2 title screenSource: Greenboy Games

This trend might even be here to stay, at least for a little while, according to Dana. Easier-to-use developer tools for retro consoles like the Game Boy mean would-be developers have an easier time executing their passions. The retro collection is on the rise and consumers are more likely to buy newer games for older systems, especially with the internet making things more accessible.

Game Boy development comes with its own unique challenges, especially since parts are no longer produced by official Nintendo manufacturers. “In 2015, finding the materials to do the physical launches was quite a challenge. With the current growing trend, specialized companies have come to the service of the creator so that he can do his own physical releases, just as there are more of factories creating vinyl records and cassettes,” Dana says. Luckily, other companies and publishers have reached out to source and supply the hardware needed to physically release Game Boy games, acting as a beacon in darkness.

Where do we go from here?

Gameboy colorSource: Rebecca Spear / iMore

Video games – and by extension, retro games like those released during the Game Boy era – are more popular than ever. The sheer success of projects like the Analog Pocket is a clear indicator that people are ready to play their older games on newer hardware. And if they are willing to play older games developed at the beginning of the game industry, who can say that they would not want to play new games that take full advantage of modern knowledge in game development and Game Boy hardware itself?

With publishers like Limited Run Games assisting in the production of physical titles and new companies specializing in producing the components needed to make physical titles a reality, it’s safe to say that the production of Game Boy, and retro game production in general, will get easier over time.

Greenboy play cartSource: Greenboy Games

On the software side, developing the games themselves has also become more accessible. In 2004, Dana discovered the GBDK, a development kit for the Game Boy and other systems based on the sm83 and z80 architecture, such as the Analog Pocket. While the GBDK wasn’t as robust as it is today, the fact that it continues to be updated means that more people have the opportunity to try their hand at Game Boy development.

Coding and game development are becoming more mainstream in general, with many workshops being created for children and adults to develop their tech skills. It’s a future that sees more and more people open to making games, becoming more inclusive as tools and materials become more streamlined and accessible.

I’m a big (Game) Boy now

It looks like the Game Boy is here to stay, even after more than 30 years. As the Nintendo Switch continues its life, some of us are still wondering if we’ll be able to experience the original Game Boy titles on the console. If Nintendo can bring these titles to the Nintendo 3DS, there’s no doubt that it’s also possible for the Switch. After all, an entire generation has missed out on the iconic system that people like Dana are so passionate about. Who knows, if Nintendo brings a dedicated Game Boy emulator to Nintendo Switch Online, maybe they could work with modern retro developers like Greenboy Games to bring new content to the service.


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