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Portable Systems

If you were born before the 1990’s, then you have probably encountered a Gameboy at some point in your life. Who doesn’t remember playing Tetris all night long against your friends or on a long road trip? Nintendo is credited with bringing handheld gaming to the mass market back in 1989 with the original Gameboy video game system. As you may recall, the system came packaged with Tetris, an addicting Russian puzzle game. What did this all mean for Nintendo? How about 1 million units sold in the first year, 25 million by 1992, and 145 million (including later variants) to date?

Handheld game systems are a great way to pass time when you’re on the go. Many a commuter or carpooler has spent those boring hours happily plugging away at a puzzle or adventure game. Though many SUVs now come with TV screens that can accommodate one of the 128-bit consoles (provided you have a power adapter), nothing beats the ease of carrying a small Gameboy that you can fit in your pocket!

Since its inception in 1989, Gameboy has undergone some revisions. In 1998, Gameboy Color was released. It featured a slimmer, lighter case and had a few hues of color that were barely visible. In 2001, Gameboy Advance was the new generation of handheld systems and featured more buttons, a backlit full-color screen, and awesome sound. It was effectively a Super Nintendo (SNES) crunched down into a handheld device! Between the three variants of Gameboy, Nintendo has enjoyed a lucrative monopoly on handheld gaming that has lasted over a decade.

There are two next-generation handheld systems coming out that promise to rejuvenate competition in the handheld market. Sony is bringing in the first legitimate handheld contender to Nintendo for early 2005. It is called the PSP and will feature a revolutionary set of new features. Included in the PSP are no less than the following: 802.11b wireless networking support, USB 2.0 port for add-ons, a memory stick expansion slot, a 16:9 wide screen color LCD screen, support for music and video, a unique 60 mm (6 cm, 2 inch) Universal Media Disc with a whopping 1.8 GB of storage!

Not content to sit idly while Sony repeats its trumping (with the triumph of the Playstation 2 in the console market), Nintendo is preparing to launch its Nintendo DS handheld with an even wackier set of features. It is slated to have TWO 3-inch LCD screens, with the bottom one being touch sensitive. Conceivably this will allow a player to multitask within a game without navigating a slew of overlapping menus. Other details have not been released, though it’s known that the DS will also feature 802.11b wireless support for multiplayer gaming. The DS is expected to arrive shortly before the PSP.