Nintendo's Portable Mistakes
Even the king of portable systems made a few errors en route to handheld domination.
Say what you will about Nintendo consoles, but the company is practically untouchable in the handheld market. Aside from Sony and its PSP (which still lost), no company has given the publisher a serious run at the portable crown.
Chalk that up to a series of outstanding systems that not only sport impressive features (the battery life on a Game Boy Advance SP is legendary), but also a plethora of highly regarded video games and franchises, Pokemon included.
Of course, there were still a few missteps along the way, questionable decisions that reminded the world that the powers that be were in fact human.
On that note, behold Nintendo's portable mistakes.
Virtual Boy (1995)
There seems to be a constant debate as to whether the ill-fated Virtual Boy is a portable system. Even we go back and forth on the subject.
In the end, the device takes batteries and doesn't connect to a television, so we chose to place it in the portable category.
That said, the VB was an epic disaster. Nintendo failed to release enough games for the platform and consumers complained of headaches after viewing the black and red 3D graphics. It was discontinued less than a year later.
No backlight for Game Boy Advance (2001)
As soon as Nintendo released the original Game Boy in 1989, fans wanted an internal backlight. Instead, they forked over the cash to buy a series of different peripherals (the Worm Light, for instance) that were more of a band-aid than logical solution.
Fast forward to 2001, and hopes were high that the publisher would finally shoehorn a backlight into its Game Boy Advance, the next evolution of the brand. Nope. You still couldn't play in the dark.
The company finally rectified this in 2003 with Game Boy Advance SP.
[Editor's Note: Nintendo released a Game Boy Light system in 1998, but only in Japan. Clearly another mistake.]
The e-Reader (2002 in the U.S.)
Nintendo's e-Reader is an LED scanner for GBA that lets players swipe cards to unlock content in select video games like Animal Crossing and Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire. Users could even play old school NES hits like Donkey Kong and Excitebike. The fact that Nintendo managed to imprint an 8-bit game onto a card still amazes us nearly ten years later.
Although it was an interesting concept, the company failed to support the device, which eventually transformed it into a paperweight. Cool idea...unrealized potential.
DS thumb strap (2004)
Nintendo was wise to bring Super Mario 64 to its DS. Thing is, that game was built to work using an analog stick, something the new portable system lacked.
The solution? A weird strap that players wrapped around their thumbs and applied to the touch screen to replicate analog control, a silly thing that was quickly scrapped.
Game Boy Advance Wireless Adapter (2004)
Similar to the e-Reader, here's another cool device that never received the right amount of attention. Nintendo kicked things off on a high note, allowing players to use the GBA wireless adapter in Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen, but the peripheral had a limited range (Nintendo recommended staying within ten feet of the other person) and was only compatible with specific games, of which, there are roughly 30.
Game Boy Micro (2005)
OK, so the DS was readily available and the GBA was in its prime. What does Nintendo do? Release another GBA, but significantly smaller.
The result, Game Boy Micro, was incompatible with the e-Reader, did not play Game Boy/Game Boy Color games and featured a sharp backlit screen that was too small too appreciate. Audiences seemed to agree, as the system failed to crack four million units sold.
To be fair, we have some love for the Micro. The screen's clarity trumped the Game Boy Advance SP, and the option of swapping faceplates was a cool idea. On the flip side, the system was unnecessary given the success of GBA SP and the newer DS. Consumer confusion? Oh yes.
No Mario launch game for 3DS (2011)
Shortly following this year's 3DS launch, Nintendo announced lower than expected sales of the new handheld, the exact reasons for which were never identified.
We'll take a wild guess that the launch games had something to do with it. Nintendogs + Cats cracked a million copies sold and Pilotwings Resort is cool for the hardcore crowd, but come on. Mario is Nintendo's biggest cash cow and he was nowhere to be found. You might as well invite the Miami Heat (sans LeBron James and Dwayne Wade) to pitch your latest product. Just give the public what it wants.
[Editor's Note: Game Boy Camera and Printer were nixed after discovering that both Neil Young and Paul McCartney used the camera to take pictures for album covers of Silver & Gold and Driving Rain, respectively. That's pretty sweet.]