Rare Nearly Took On The Nintendo Game Boy With Its Own "Playboy" Handheld
Posted by Damien McFerran
Before they were bedfellows, Rare and Nintendo could have been rivals
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Rare's first game, Jetpac. OK, technically speaking Jetpac was created by Ultimate Play the Game — the company founded by the Stamper Brothers which eventually spawned Rare — but most fans consider the two studios to be one and same.
Machacek — who started at the studio 25 years ago and is still there — explains that Rare has historically been a very hardware-focused firm, and at one point was even contemplating a move into portable gaming with a system based on its unreleased RAZZ arcade board:
The RAZZ board was Chris Stampers’ project. It was entirely home grown, but he and Tim had an arcade hardware background so it wasn’t completely out of the blue. I don’t remember whose idea it was to try and turn it into a handheld device running on a few small batteries, but we did it anyway, undaunted by the short running time or bulky form-factor produced.
It was a loose collection of chips suspended in thin air, squashed together carefully so that it fit inside the casing without shorting out anything. Tim was responsible for the exterior styling and I did the software demo. It ran on some AA batteries and used a colour LCD screen ripped from a little portable TV that Tim had brought back from Japan. Then, just to ensure that we’d never be able to actually release it, we called it the Playboy.
It was taken to a trade show to pitch as a possible product, only to find out that at the same show Nintendo was pragmatically - and wildly successfully - launching the Game Boy.
Rare would go on to develop numerous games for the Game Boy, and would eventually become part of Nintendo's development stable before being sold to Microsoft some time later. Where would the company have ended up had it become a hardware manufacturer as well as a software developer? We can only guess.