A handheld game console is a small, portable self-contained video game console with a built-in screen, game controls, and speakers. Handheld game consoles are smaller than home video game consoles and contain the console, screen, speakers, and controls in one unit, allowing people to carry them and play them at any time or place.
In 1976, Mattel introduced the first handheld electronic game with the release of Auto Race. Later, several companies—including Coleco and Milton Bradley—made their own single-game, lightweight table-top or handheld electronic game devices. The oldest true handheld game console with interchangeable cartridges is the Milton Bradley Microvision in 1979.
The origins of handheld game consoles are found in handheld and tabletop electronic game devices of the 1970s and early 1980s. These electronic devices are capable of playing only a single game, they fit in the palm of the hand or on a tabletop, and they may make use of a variety of video displays such as LED, VFD, or LCD. In 1978, handheld electronic games were described by Popular Electronics magazine as "nonvideo electronic games" and "non-TV games" as distinct from devices that required use of a television screen. Handheld electronic games, in turn, find their origins in the synthesis of previous handheld and tabletop electro-mechanical devices such as Waco's Electronic Tic-Tac-Toe (1972) Cragstan's Periscope-Firing Range (1951), and the emerging optoelectronic-display-driven calculator market of the early 1970s. This synthesis happened in 1976, when "Mattel began work on a line of calculator-sized sports games that became the world's first handheld electronic games. The project began when Michael Katz, Mattel's new product category marketing director, told the engineers in the electronics group to design a game the size of a calculator, using LED (light-emitting diode) technology."
The result was the 1976 release of Auto Race. Followed by Football later in 1977, the two games were so successful that according to Katz, "these simple electronic handheld games turned into a '$400 million category.'" Mattel would later win the honor of being recognized by the industry for innovation in handheld game device displays. Soon, other manufacturers including Coleco, Parker Brothers, Milton Bradley, Entex, and Bandai began following up with their own tabletop and handheld electronic games.
In 1979 the LCD-based Microvision, designed by Smith Engineering and distributed by Milton-Bradley, became the first handheld game console and the first to use interchangeable game cartridges. The Microvision game Cosmic Hunter (1981) also introduced the concept of a directional pad on handheld gaming devices, and is operated by using the thumb to manipulate the on-screen character in any of four directions.
In 1979, Gunpei Yokoi, traveling on a bullet train, saw a bored businessman playing with an LCD calculator by pressing the buttons. Yokoi then thought of an idea for a watch that doubled as a miniature game machine for killing time. Starting in 1980, Nintendo began to release a series of electronic games designed by Yokoi called the Game & Watch games. Taking advantage of the technology used in the credit-card-sized calculators that had appeared on the market, Yokoi designed the series of LCD-based games to include a digital time display in the corner of the screen. For later, more complicated Game & Watch games, Yokoi invented a cross shaped directional pad or "D-pad" for control of on-screen characters. Yokoi also included his directional pad on the NES controllers, and the cross-shaped thumb controller soon became standard on game console controllers and ubiquitous across the video game industry since. When Yokoi began designing Nintendo's first handheld game console, he came up with a device that married the elements of his Game & Watch devices and the Famicom console, including both items' D-pad controller. The result was the Nintendo Game Boy.
In 1982, the Bandai LCD Solarpower was the first solar-powered gaming device. Some of its games, such as the horror-themed game Terror House, features two LCD panels, one stacked on the other, for an early 3D effect. In 1983, Takara Tomy's Tomytronic 3D simulates 3D by having two LCD panels that were lit by external light through a window on top of the device, making it the first dedicated home video 3D hardware.
The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the beginnings of the handheld game console industry as we know it, after the demise of the Microvision. As backlit LCD game consoles with color graphics consume a lot of power, they were not battery-friendly like the non-backlit original Game Boy whose monochrome graphics allowed longer battery life. By this point, rechargeable battery technology had not yet matured and so the more advanced game consoles of the time such as the Sega Game Gear and Atari Lynx did not have nearly as much success as the Game Boy.
Even though third-party rechargeable batteries were available for the battery-hungry alternatives to the Game Boy, these batteries employed a nickel-cadmium process and had to be completely discharged before being recharged to ensure maximum efficiency; lead-acid batteries could be used with automobile circuit limiters (cigarette lighter plug devices); but the batteries had mediocre portability. The later NiMH batteries, which do not share this requirement for maximum efficiency, were not released until the late 1990s, years after the Game Gear, Atari Lynx, and original Game Boy had been discontinued. During the time when technologically superior handhelds had strict technical limitations, batteries had a very low mAh rating since batteries with heavy power density were not yet available.
Modern game systems such as the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable have rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries with proprietary shapes. Other seventh-generation consoles such as the GP2X use standard alkaline batteries. Because the mAh rating of alkaline batteries has increased since the 1990s, the power needed for handhelds like the GP2X may be supplied by relatively few batteries.
Nintendo released the Game Boy on April 21, 1989 (September 1990 for the UK). The design team headed by Gunpei Yokoi had also been responsible for the Game & Watch system, as well as the Nintendo Entertainment System games Metroid and Kid Icarus. The Game Boy came under scrutiny by some industry critics, saying that the monochrome screen was too small, and the processing power was inadequate. The design team had felt that low initial cost and battery economy were more important concerns, and when compared to the Microvision, the Game Boy was a huge leap forward.
Yokoi recognized that the Game Boy needed a killer app—at least one game that would define the console, and persuade customers to buy it. In June 1988, Minoru Arakawa, then-CEO of Nintendo of America saw a demonstration of the game Tetris at a trade show. Nintendo purchased the rights for the game, and packaged it with the Game Boy system. It was almost an immediate hit. By the end of the year more than a million units were sold in the US. As of March 31, 2005, the Game Boy and Game Boy Color combined to sell over 118 million units worldwide.
In 1987, Epyx created the Handy Game; a device that would turn into the Atari Lynx in 1989. It is the first color handheld console ever made, as well as the first with a backlit screen. It also features networking support with up to 17 other players, and advanced hardware that allows the zooming and scaling of sprites. The Lynx can also be turned upside down to accommodate left-handed players. However, all these features came at a very high price point, which drove consumers to seek cheaper alternatives. The Lynx is also very unwieldy, consumes batteries very quickly, and lacked the third-party support enjoyed by its competitors. Due to its high price, short battery life, production shortages, a dearth of compelling games, and Nintendo's aggressive marketing campaign, and despite a redesign in 1991, the Lynx became a commercial failure. Despite this, companies like Telegames helped to keep the system alive long past its commercial relevance, and when new owner Hasbro released the rights to develop for the public domain, independent developers like Songbird have managed to release new commercial games for the system every year until 2004's Winter Games.
The TurboExpress is a portable version of the TurboGrafx, released in 1990 for $249.99 (the price was briefly raised to $299.99, soon dropped back to $249.99, and by 1992 it was $199.99). Its Japanese equivalent is the PC Engine GT.
It is the most advanced handheld of its time and can play all the TurboGrafx-16's games (which are on a small, credit-card sized media called HuCards). It has a 66 mm (2.6 in.) screen, the same as the original Game Boy, but in a much higher resolution, and can display 64 sprites at once, 16 per scanline, in 512 colors. Although the hardware can only handle 481 simultaneous colors. It has 8 kilobytes of RAM. The Turbo runs the HuC6820 CPU at 1.79 or 7.16 MHz.
The optional "TurboVision" TV tuner includes RCA audio/video input, allowing users to use TurboExpress as a video monitor. The "TurboLink" allowed two-player play. Falcon, a flight simulator, included a "head-to-head" dogfight mode that can only be accessed via TurboLink. However, very few TG-16 games offered co-op play modes especially designed with the TurboExpress in mind.
The Bitcorp Gamate is the one of the first handheld game systems created in response to the Nintendo Game Boy. It was released in Asia in 1990 and distributed worldwide by 1991.
Like the Sega Game Gear, it was horizontal in orientation and like the Game Boy, required 4 AA batteries. Unlike many later Game Boy clones, its internal components were professionally assembled (no "glop-top" chips). Unfortunately the system's fatal flaw is its screen. Even by the standards of the day, its screen is rather difficult to use, suffering from similar motion blur problems that were common complaints with the first generation Game Boys. Likely because of this fact sales were quite poor, and Bitcorp closed by 1992. However, new games continued to be published for the Asian market, possibly as late as 1994. The total number of games released for the system remains unknown.
Interestingly, Gamate games were designed for stereo sound, but the console is only equipped with a mono speaker. To appreciate the full sound palette, a user must plug into the head phone jack. Doing so reveals very sophisticated music.
The Game Gear is the third color handheld console, after the Lynx and the TurboExpress; produced by Sega. Released in Japan in 1990 and in North America and Europe in 1991, it is based on the Master System, which gave Sega the ability to quickly create Game Gear games from its large library of games for the Master System. While never reaching the level of success enjoyed by Nintendo, the Game Gear proved to be a fairly durable competitor, lasting longer than any other Game Boy rivals.
While the Game Gear is most frequently seen in black or navy blue, it was also released in a variety of additional colors: red, light blue, yellow, clear, and violet. All of these variations were released in small quantities and frequently only in the Asian market.
Following Sega's success with the Game Gear, they began development on a successor during the early 1990s, which was intended to feature a touchscreen interface, many years before the Nintendo DS. However, such a technology was very expensive at the time, and the handheld itself was estimated to have cost around $289 were it to be released. Sega eventually chose to shelve the idea and instead release the Genesis Nomad, a handheld version of the Genesis, as the successor.
The Watara Supervision was released in 1992 in an attempt to compete with the Nintendo Game Boy. The first model was designed very much like a Game Boy, but it is grey in color and has a slightly larger screen. The second model was made with a hinge across the center and can be bent slightly to provide greater comfort for the user. While the system did enjoy a modest degree of success, it never impacted the sales of Nintendo or Sega. The Supervision was redesigned a final time as "The Magnum". Released in limited quantities it was roughly equivalent to the Game Boy Pocket. It was available in three colors: yellow, green and grey. Watara designed many of the games themselves, but did receive some third party support, most notably from Sachen.
A TV adapter was available in both PAL and NTSC formats that could transfer the Supervision's black-and-white palette to 4 colors, similar in some regards to the Super Game Boy from Nintendo.
Hartung Game Master
The Hartung Game Master is an obscure handheld released at an unknown point in the early 1990s. Its graphics were much lower than most of its contemporaries, similar in complexity to the Atari 2600. It was available in black, white, and purple, and was frequently rebranded by its distributors, such as Delplay, Videojet and Virella.
The exact number of games released is not known, but is likely around 20. The system most frequently turns up in Europe and Australia.
By this time, the lack of significant development in Nintendo's product line began allowing more advanced systems such as the Neo Geo Pocket Color and the WonderSwan Color to achieve moderate success.
The Game.com (pronounced in TV commercials as "game com", not "game dot com", and not capitalized in marketing material) is a handheld game console released by Tiger Electronics in September 1997. It featured many new ideas for handheld consoles and was aimed at an older target audience, sporting PDA-style features and functions such as a touch screen and stylus. However, Tiger hoped it would also challenge Nintendo's Game Boy and gain a following among younger gamers too. Unlike other handheld game consoles, the first game.com consoles included two slots for game cartridges, which would not happen again until the Tapwave Zodiac, the DS and DS Lite, and could be connected to a 14.4 kbit/s modem. Later models had only a single cartridge slot.
Game Boy Color
The Game Boy Color (also referred to as GBC or CGB) is Nintendo's successor to the Game Boy and was released on October 21, 1998, in Japan and in November of the same year in the United States. It features a color screen, and is slightly bigger than the Game Boy Pocket. The processor is twice as fast as a Game Boy's and has twice as much memory. It also had an infrared communications port for wireless linking which did not appear in later versions of the Game Boy, such as the Game Boy Advance.
The Game Boy Color was a response to pressure from game developers for a new system, as they felt that the Game Boy, even in its latest incarnation, the Game Boy Pocket, was insufficient. The resulting product was backward compatible, a first for a handheld console system, and leveraged the large library of games and great installed base of the predecessor system. This became a major feature of the Game Boy line, since it allowed each new launch to begin with a significantly larger library than any of its competitors. As of March 31, 2005, the Game Boy and Game Boy Color combined to sell 118.69 million units worldwide.
The console is capable of displaying up to 56 different colors simultaneously on screen from its palette of 32,768, and can add basic four-color shading to games that had been developed for the original Game Boy. It can also give the sprites and backgrounds separate colors, for a total of more than four colors.
Neo Geo Pocket Color
The Neo Geo Pocket Color (or NGPC) was released in 1999 in Japan, and later that year in the United States and Europe. It is a 16-bit color handheld game console designed by SNK, the maker of the Neo Geo home console and arcade machine. It came after SNK's original Neo Geo Pocket monochrome handheld, which debuted in 1998 in Japan.
In 2000 following SNK's purchase by Japanese Pachinko manufacturer Aruze, the Neo Geo Pocket Color was dropped from both the US and European markets, purportedly due to commercial failure.
The system seemed well on its way to being a success in the U.S. It was more successful than any Game Boy competitor since Sega's Game Gear, but was hurt by several factors, such as SNK's infamous lack of communication with third-party developers, and anticipation of the Game Boy Advance. The decision to ship U.S. games in cardboard boxes in a cost-cutting move rather than hard plastic cases that Japanese and European releases were shipped in may have also hurt US sales.
The WonderSwan Color is a handheld game console designed by Bandai. It was released on December 9, 2000, in Japan, and was a moderate success.
The original WonderSwan had only a black and white screen. Although the WonderSwan Color was slightly larger and heavier (7 mm and 2 g) compared to the original WonderSwan, the color version featured 512 kB of RAM and a larger color LCD screen. In addition, the WonderSwan Color is compatible with the original WonderSwan library of games.
Prior to WonderSwan's release, Nintendo had virtually a monopoly in the Japanese video game handheld market. After the release of the WonderSwan Color, Bandai took approximately 8% of the market share in Japan partly due to its low price of 6800 yen (approximately US$65).
Another reason for the WonderSwan's success in Japan was the fact that Bandai managed to get a deal with Square to port over the original Famicom Final Fantasy games with improved graphics and controls. However, with the popularity of the Game Boy Advance and the reconciliation between Square and Nintendo, the WonderSwan Color and its successor, the SwanCrystal quickly lost its competitive advantage.
The 2000s saw a major leap in innovation, particularly in the second half with the release of the DS and PSP.
Game Boy Advance
In 2001, Nintendo released the Game Boy Advance (GBA or AGB), which added two shoulder buttons, a larger screen, and more computing power than the Game Boy Color.
The design was revised two years later when the Game Boy Advance SP (GBA SP), a more compact version, was released. The SP features a "clamshell" design (folding open and closed, like a laptop computer), as well as a frontlit color display and rechargeable battery. Despite the smaller form factor, the screen remained the same size as that of the original. In 2005, the Game Boy Micro was released. This revision sacrifices screen size and backwards compatibility with previous Game Boys for a dramatic reduction in total size and a brighter backlit screen. A new SP model with a backlit screen was released in some regions around the same time.
Along with the Nintendo GameCube, the GBA also introduced the concept of "connectivity": using a handheld system as a console controller. A handful of games use this feature, most notably Animal Crossing, Pac-Man Vs., Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Metroid Prime, and Sonic Adventure 2: Battle.
As of December 31, 2007, the GBA, GBA SP, and the Game Boy Micro combined have sold 80.72 million units worldwide.
Game Park 32
The original GP32 was released in 2001 by the South Korean company Game Park a few months after the launch of the Game Boy Advance. It featured a 32-bit CPU, 133 MHz processor, MP3 and Divx player, and e-book reader. SmartMedia cards were used for storage, and could hold up to 128mb of anything downloaded through a USB cable from a PC. The GP32 was redesigned in 2003. A front-lit screen was added and the new version was called GP32 FLU (Front Light Unit). In summer 2004, another redesign, the GP32 BLU, was made, and added a backlit screen. This version of the handheld was planned for release outside South Korea; in Europe, and it was released for example in Spain (VirginPlay was the distributor). While not a commercial success on a level with mainstream handhelds (only 30,000 units were sold), it ended up being used mainly as a platform for user-made applications and emulators of other systems, being popular with developers and more technically adept users.
Nokia released the N-Gage in 2003. It was designed as a combination MP3 player, cellphone, PDA, radio, and gaming device. The system received much criticism alleging defects in its physical design and layout, including its vertically oriented screen and requirement of removing the battery to change game cartridges. The most well known of these was "sidetalking", or the act of placing the phone speaker and receiver on an edge of the device instead of one of the flat sides, causing the user to appear as if they are speaking into a taco.
The N-Gage QD was later released to address the design flaws of the original. However, certain features available in the original N-Gage, including MP3 playback, FM radio reception, and USB connectivity were removed.
The Cybiko is a Russian hand-held computer introduced in May 2000 by David Yang's company and designed for teenage audiences, featuring its own two-way radio text messaging system. It has over 430 "official" freeware games and applications. Because of the text messaging system, it features a QWERTY keyboard that was used with a stylus. An MP3 player add-on was made for the unit as well as a SmartMedia card reader. The company stopped manufacturing the units after two product versions and only a few years on the market. Cybikos can communicate with each other up to a maximum range of 300 metres (0.19 miles). Several Cybikos can chat with each other in a wireless chatroom.
There were two models of the Classic Cybiko. Visually, the only difference was that the original version had a power switch on the side, whilst the updated version used the "escape" key for power management. Internally, the differences between the two models were in the internal memory, and the location of the firmware.
The Cybiko Xtreme was the second-generation Cybiko handheld. It featured various improvements over the original Cybiko, such as a faster processor, more RAM, more ROM, a new operating system, a new keyboard layout and case design, greater wireless range, a microphone, improved audio output, and smaller size.
In 2003, Tapwave released the Zodiac. It was designed to be a PDA-handheld game console hybrid. It supported photos, movies, music, Internet, and documents. The Zodiac used a special version Palm OS 5, 5.2T, that supported the special gaming buttons and graphics chip. Two versions were available, Zodiac 1 and 2, differing in memory and looks. The Zodiac line ended in July 2005 when Tapwave declared bankruptcy.
The Nintendo DS was released in November 2004. Among its new features were the incorporation of two screens, a touchscreen, wireless connectivity, and a microphone port. As with the Game Boy Advance SP, the DS features a clamshell design, with the two screens aligned vertically on either side of the hinge.
The DS's lower screen is touch sensitive, designed to be pressed with a stylus, a user's finger or a special "thumb pad" (a small plastic pad attached to the console's wrist strap, which can be affixed to the thumb to simulate an analog stick). More traditional controls include four face buttons, two shoulder buttons, a D-pad, and "Start" and "Select" buttons. The console also features online capabilities via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection and ad-hoc wireless networking for multiplayer games with up to sixteen players. It is backwards-compatible with all Game Boy Advance games, but not games designed for the Game Boy or Game Boy Color.
In January 2006, Nintendo revealed an updated version of the DS: the Nintendo DS Lite (released on March 2, 2006, in Japan) with an updated, smaller form factor (42% smaller and 21% lighter than the original Nintendo DS), a cleaner design, longer battery life, and brighter, higher-quality displays, with adjustable brightness. It is also able to connect wirelessly with Nintendo's Wii console.
In October 2008, Nintendo announced the Nintendo DSi, with larger, 3.25-inch screens and two integrated cameras. It has an SD card storage slot in place of the Game Boy Advance slot, plus internal flash memory for storing downloaded games. It was released on November 1, 2008, in Japan, and was released in North America April 5, 2009, and April 3, 2009, in Europe.
As of December 31, 2009, the Nintendo DS, Nintendo DS Lite and Nintendo DSi combined have sold 125.13 million units worldwide. In 2010 Nintendo released a larger version of the DSi, called the DSi XL.
The GameKing is a handheld game console released by the Chinese company TimeTop in 2004. The first model while original in design owes a large debt to Nintendo's Game Boy Advance. The second model, the GameKing 2, is believed to be inspired by Sony's PSP. This model also was upgraded with a backlit screen, with a distracting background transparency (which can be removed by opening up the console). A color model, the GameKing 3 apparently exists, but was only made for a brief time and was difficult to purchase outside of Asia. Whether intentionally or not, the GameKing has the most primitive graphics of any handheld released since the Game Boy of 1989.
As many of the games have an "old school" simplicity, the device has developed a small cult following. The Gameking's speaker is quite loud and the cartridges' sophisticated looping soundtracks (sampled from other sources) are seemingly at odds with its primitive graphics.
TimeTop made at least one additional device sometimes labeled as "GameKing", but while it seems to possess more advanced graphics, is essentially an emulator that plays a handful of multi-carts (like the GB Station Light II). Outside of Asia (especially China) however the Gameking remains relatively unheard of due to the enduring popularity of Japanese handhelds such as those manufactured by Nintendo and Sony.
The PlayStation Portable (officially abbreviated PSP) is a handheld game console manufactured and marketed by Sony Computer Entertainment. Development of the console was first announced during E3 2003, and it was unveiled on May 11, 2004, at a Sony press conference before E3 2004. The system was released in Japan on December 12, 2004, in North America on March 24, 2005, and in the PAL region on September 1, 2005.
The PlayStation Portable is the first handheld video game console to use an optical disc format, Universal Media Disc (UMD), for distribution of its games. UMD Video discs with movies and television shows were also released. The PSP utilized the Sony/SanDisk Memory Stick Pro Duo format as its primary storage medium. Other distinguishing features of the console include its large viewing screen, multi-media capabilities, and connectivity with the PlayStation 3, other PSPs, and the Internet.
Tiger's Gizmondo came out in the UK during March 2005 and it was released in the U.S. during October 2005. It is designed to play music, movies, and games, have a camera for taking and storing photos, and have GPS functions. It also has Internet capabilities. It has a phone for sending text and multimedia messages. Email was promised at launch, but was never released before Gizmondo, and ultimately Tiger Telematics', downfall in early 2006. Users obtained a second service pack, unreleased, hoping to find such functionality. However, Service Pack B did not activate the e-mail functionality.
The GP2X is an open-source, Linux-based handheld video game console and media player created by GamePark Holdings of South Korea, designed for homebrew developers as well as commercial developers. It is commonly used to run emulators for game consoles such as Neo-Geo, Genesis, Master System, Game Gear, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Nintendo Entertainment System, TurboGrafx-16, MAME and others.
The Dingoo A-320 is a micro-sized gaming handheld that resembles the Game Boy Micro and is open to game development. It also supports music, radio, emulators (8 bit and 16 bit) and video playing capabilities with its own interface much like the PSP. There is also an onboard radio and recording program. It is currently available in two colors — white and black. Other similar products from the same manufacturer are the Dingoo A-330 (also known as Geimi), Dingoo A-360, Dingoo A-380 (available in pink, white and black) and the recently released Dingoo A-320E.
The PSP Go is a version of the PlayStation Portable handheld game console manufactured by Sony. It was released on October 1, 2009, in American and European territories, and on November 1 in Japan. It was revealed prior to E3 2009 through Sony's Qore VOD service. Although its design is significantly different from other PSPs, it is not intended to replace the PSP 3000, which Sony continued to manufacture, sell, and support. On April 20, 2011, the manufacturer announced that the PSP Go would be discontinued so that they may concentrate on the PlayStation Vita. Sony later said that only the European and Japanese versions were being cut, and that the console would still be available in the US. Unlike previous PSP models, the PSP Go does not feature a UMD drive, but instead has 16 GB of internal flash memory to store games, video, pictures, and other media. This can be extended by up to 32 GB with the use of a Memory Stick Micro (M2) flash card. Also unlike previous PSP models, the PSP Go's rechargeable battery is not removable or replaceable by the user. The unit is 43% lighter and 56% smaller than the original PSP-1000, and 16% lighter and 35% smaller than the PSP-3000. It has a 3.8" 480 × 272 LCD (compared to the larger 4.3" 480 × 272 pixel LCD on previous PSP models). The screen slides up to reveal the main controls. The overall shape and sliding mechanism are similar to that of Sony's mylo COM-2 internet device.
The Pandora is a handheld game console/UMPC/PDA hybrid designed to take advantage of existing open source software and to be a target for home-brew development. It runs a full distribution of Linux, and in functionality is like a small PC with gaming controls. It is developed by OpenPandora, which is made up of former distributors and community members of the GP32 and GP2X handhelds.
OpenPandora began taking pre-orders for one batch of 4000 devices in November 2008 and after manufacturing delays, began shipping to customers on May 21, 2010.
The FC-16 Go is a portable Super NES hardware clone manufactured by Yobo Gameware in 2009. It features a 3.5-inch display, two wireless controllers, and CRT cables that allow cartridges to be played on a television screen. Unlike other Super NES clone consoles, it has region tabs that only allow NTSC North American cartridges to be played. Later revisions feature stereo sound output, larger shoulder buttons, and a slightly re-arranged button, power, and A/V output layout.
The Nintendo 3DS is the successor to Nintendo's DS handheld. The autostereoscopic device is able to project stereoscopic three-dimensional effects without requirement of active shutter or passive polarized glasses, which are required by most current 3D televisions to display the 3D effect. The 3DS was released in Japan on February 26, 2011; in Europe on March 25, 2011; in North America on March 27, 2011, and in Australia on March 31, 2011. The system features backward compatibility with Nintendo DS series software, including Nintendo DSi software. It also features an online service called the Nintendo eShop, launched on June 6, 2011, in North America and June 7, 2011, in Europe and Japan, which allows owners to download games, demos, applications and information on upcoming film and game releases. On November 24, 2011, a limited edition Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary 3DS was released that contained a unique Cosmo Black unit decorated with gold Legend of Zelda related imagery, along with a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D.
There are also other models including the Nintendo 2DS and the New Nintendo 3DS, the latter with a larger (XL/LL) variant, like the original Nintendo 3DS. The 2DS also has a successor, the New Nintendo 2DS XL.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY is a handheld game console smartphone produced by Sony Ericsson under the Xperia smartphone brand. The device runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, and is the first to be part of the PlayStation Certified program which means that it can play PlayStation Suite games. The device is a horizontally sliding phone with its original form resembling the Xperia X10 while the slider below resembles the slider of the PSP Go. The slider features a D-pad on the left side, a set of standard PlayStation buttons (, , and ) on the right, a long rectangular touchpad in the middle, start and select buttons on the bottom right corner, a menu button on the bottom left corner, and two shoulder buttons (L and R) on the back of the device. It is powered by a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, a Qualcomm Adreno 205 GPU, and features a display measuring 4.0 inches (100 mm) (854 × 480), an 8-megapixel camera, 512 MB RAM, 8 GB internal storage, and a micro-USB connector. It supports microSD cards, versus the Memory Stick variants used in PSP consoles. The device was revealed officially for the first time in a Super Bowl ad on Sunday, February 6, 2011. On February 13, 2011, at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2011, it was announced that the device would be shipping globally in March 2011, with a launch lineup of around 50 software titles.
The PlayStation Vita is the successor to Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP) Handheld series. It was released in Japan on December 17, 2011 and in Europe, Australia, North and South America on February 22, 2012.
The handheld includes two analog sticks, a 5-inch (130 mm) OLED/LCD multi-touch capacitive touchscreen, and supports Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and optional 3G. Internally, the PS Vita features a 4 core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor and a 4 core SGX543MP4+ graphics processing unit, as well as LiveArea software as its main user interface, which succeeds the XrossMediaBar.
The device is fully backwards-compatible with PlayStation Portable games digitally released on the PlayStation Network via the PlayStation Store. However, PSone Classics and PS2 titles were not compatible at the time of the primary public release in Japan. The Vita's dual analog sticks will be supported on selected PSP games. The graphics for PSP releases will be up-scaled, with a smoothing filter to reduce pixelation.
The Razer Switchblade was a prototype pocket-sized like a Nintendo DSi XL designed to run Windows 7, featured a multi-touch LCD screen and an adaptive keyboard that changed keys depending on the game you play. It also was to feature a full mouse.
It was first unveiled on January 5, 2011, on the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The Switchblade won The Best of CES 2011 People's Voice award. It has since been in development and the release date is still unknown. The device has likely been suspended indefinitely.
Project Shield is a handheld system developed by Nvidia announced at CES 2013. It runs on Android 4.2 and uses Nvidia Tegra 4 SoC. The hardware includes a 5-inches multitouch screen with support for HD graphics (720p). The console allows for the streaming of games running on a compatible desktop PC, or laptop.
The Nintendo Switch is a hybrid console that can either be used in a handheld form, or inserted into a docking station attached to a television to play on a bigger screen. The Switch features two detachable wireless controllers, called Joy-Cons, which can be used individually or attached to a grip to provide a traditional gamepad form.
Timeline of handheld consoles
Notable handheld consoles from before the 90s
- Mattel Auto Race (1976)
- Mattel Football (1977)
- Mattel Armor Battle (1978)
- Coleco Electronic Quarterback (1978)
- Milton Bradley Microvision (1979)
- Epoch Game Pocket Computer - (1984) - Japanese only; not a success
Notable handheld consoles of the early 90s
- Nintendo Game Boy (1989) - First internationally successful handheld game console
- Atari Lynx (1989) - First backlit/color screen, first hardware capable of accelerated 3d drawing
- TurboExpress (1990, Japan; 1991, North America) - Played huCard (TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine) games, first console/handheld intercompatibility
- Sega Game Gear (1991) - Architecturally similar to Sega Master System, notable accessory firsts include a TV tuner
- Watara Supervision (1992) - first handheld with TV-OUT support: the Super Game Boy was only a compatibility layer for the preceding Game Boy.
- Sega Mega Jet (1992) - no screen, made for Japan Airlines (first handheld without a screen)
- Mega Duck/Cougar Boy (1993) - 4 level grayscale 2,7" LCD - stereo sound - rare, sold in Europe and Brazil
Notable handheld consoles of the late 90s
- Genesis Nomad (1995) - Played normal Genesis cartridges, albeit at lower resolution
- Neo Geo Pocket (1996) - Unrelated to Neo Geo consoles or arcade systems save for name
- Game Boy Pocket (1996) - Slimmer redesign of Game Boy
- Game Boy Pocket Light (1997) - Japanese only backlit version of the Game Boy Pocket
- Tiger game.com (1997) - First Internet support (with use of sold-separately modem)
- Game Boy Color (1998)
- Cybiko (around 1998)
- Sony PocketStation (1998) - Japanese only PS1 memory card/portable mini console in one.
- Sega Visual Memory Unit (1998) - Dreamcast memory card/portable mini console in one.
- SNK Neo Geo Pocket Color (1999)
- Bandai WonderSwan (1999) - Developed by Gumpei Yokoi after leaving Nintendo
Notable handheld consoles of the early 2000s
- Bandai WonderSwan Color (2000)
- Game Park GP32 (2001) - first with full homebrew support
- Game Boy Advance (2001) - First 32-bit handheld
- Pokémon mini (2001) - The smallest cartridge-based system that includes a black-and-white LCD screen, and the smallest integrated gamepad ever created.
- Bandai SwanCrystal (2002) - Minor redesign of WonderSwan Color
- Pogo Technology Pogo (2002) - First integrated PDA/games/cellphone device
- Nokia N-Gage (2003) - Game system and GSM cell phone (first combination of the two); first included MP3 player and FM radio; used Bluetooth (first wireless multiplayer); first use of GPRS for online play
- Game Boy Advance SP (2003) - Redesign of GBA: slimmer, clamshell form factor; frontlit screen; first handheld with a rechargeable battery
- GameKing (2003) - first handheld developed by a Chinese company.
- Tapwave Zodiac (2004) - First PDA/game handheld hybrid; Palm OS PDA with game-focused form factor and features
- Nokia N-Gage QD (2004) - Redesign of N-Gage, removed MP3 playback and radio
- GPANG (2004) compitable devices - LG KV3600 (2005), Samsung SPH-G1000 (2005), Samsung SPH-B3200 (2006) Samsung SCH-B450 (2006), Samsung SCH-B550 (2006), Samsung SPH-B5200 (2006) and others.
Notable handheld consoles of the mid-2000s
- Nintendo DS (2004) - First inclusion of dual screens, built-in microphone, and Wi-Fi for wireless multiplayer; touchscreen
- PlayStation Portable (2004/2005) - First use of optical media; uses Memory Sticks for saved data; plays movies and music and views JPEG pictures.
- Gizmondo (2005) - Uses GPRS network; first inclusion of GPS for location-based games, first built-in camera
- Game Boy Micro (2005) - Redesign of GBA; smallest Game Boy form factor to date, first transflective LCD screen in a handheld.
- Game Boy Advance SP (Backlit) - A low key re-release of the GBA SP with a backlit screen.
- XGP (2005) and Game Park Holdings GP2X (2005) - Successor units to the GP32 handheld, each being developed by the two companies that split off from Game Park.
Notable handheld consoles of the late 2000s
- Nintendo DS Lite (2006) - Redesign of DS, including smaller size, brighter screen levels, and other subtle changes.
- PlayStation Portable Slim & Lite (2007) - Redesign of PlayStation Portable (PSP), including smaller size, lighter weight, video out capability, USB charge, and other changes.
- PlayStation Portable-3000 (2008) - Minor redesign of the current PSP Slim & Lite, including brighter screen, built in mic, and a PS button replacing the Home Button
- Nintendo DSi (2008) - Small redesign of the Nintendo DS Lite. Some changes include built in internet, camera, use of SD card, this model however does not have backward compatibility with Game Boy Advance games
- PSP Go (2009) - A brand new PSP including no UMD, Internal Memory, Bluetooth, and a sliding screen
- Nintendo DSi LL/XL (2009) - The fourth iteration of the Nintendo DS handheld game console technically identical to the DSi with its distinguishing feature being its large form factor which will be almost an inch larger than the DSi and slightly thicker. It will boast two 4.25" LCD screens 93% larger than the current DS Lite.
- Mi2 (2009) - The Mi2 is a small handheld game device created by Planet Interactive in cooperation with the Chinese manufacturer Conny, it contains 100 built in games.
Notable handheld consoles of the 2010s
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