Last year, esteemed video game historian and occasional Nintendo Life contributor Liam Robertson uncovered the story of the Work Boy, an unreleased accessory that had the potential to turn the humble Game Boy into a powerful productivity tool. Now, a year later, Robertson is back with another investigation – this time into a device that could have given us the internet on our Game Boy Colors way back in 1999.
Dubbed the 'Page Boy', the device would have used radio transmission to connect Game Boy Color owners to a wealth of information, such as weather reports, sports headlines and even live television – as well as to each other. It was also mooted that the device could be used in conjunction with the Game Boy Camera so that users could send each other photo messages, years before the concept of a 'selfie' became commonplace. It would be powered by two AA batteries and featured its own cartridge slot, thereby retaining compatibility with all Game Boy games and accessories.
The company behind the device, Wizard, was spun-off from Source, the same UK-based firm which came up with the Work Boy prototype. Wizard pitched the idea to Nintendo of America – even going as far as to produce physical mock-ups and UI samples – and got a positive reaction; Nintendo could see the obvious potential in an add-on that not only encouraged users to spend more time with their Game Boy Color consoles but could also potentially be an avenue through which the company could promote its products more directly; the 'live TV' element could easily be seen as a precursor to the current Nintendo Direct broadcasts. There was also the potential to add extra content to games when used with the Page Boy, or upload high scores to a live database.
Robertson has spoken to the people close to the project and has managed to uncover the mocked-up screens which show how the device would have worked; the proposal was to make Mario the main focus of the interface and even have him speak and sing tunes as content loaded up.
Other innovations – which seem quite ahead of their time for 1999 – included the ability to have the device vibrate when messages arrived, and a clip on the back which would allow the user to fix the Game Boy Color and Page Boy to their belt buckle. While the technology was crude compared to modern standards, it's easy to see where Wizard were going with this product; it's not a million miles away from the modern smartphone.
Sadly, the Page Boy never saw the light of day, with Nintendo's enthusiasm waning when it discovered that the technology involved would only function in North America and could not be rolled out in other key regions, such as Japan and Europe. Ultimately, the project was shelved before any working physical prototypes were produced, or any software was coded. All that remains is a selection of pitch documents and screenshots – it's not known what happened to the non-functioning units that were made to show to Nintendo.
Of course, just over half a decade later, Nintendo would embrace many of these same ideas with the Nintendo DS and Wii – which makes you wonder if the Page Boy was an influence.
Pokemon online Battle 1999
@SuperZeldaFun There is plenty proof of concept material in the video. They had a 3 year investigation into the technical specifications of it, including detailed analysis of radio frequencies and data usage.
@SuperZeldaFun You can't say that because you need to act as if Liam Robertson and DYKG can do no wrong even when Liam Robertson moan about someone using part of a video he was in
I like the story about the guy using a Gameboy to steal cars more.
Great video and article. Enjoyed both. Keep it up.
And some folks still deem Color a midgen upgrade.
Ceefax on the Gameboy?!? Hope Bamboozle was on there...
"... Years before the concept of a selfie became commonplace..."
So... Like the 1300s?
@Azuris Isn't that what actually happened with Japanese Crystal and its region-exclusive mobile phone connectivity?
I'm just not sure how features like having a belt clip and vibrating when a message was received were "quite ahead of their time" when we did have pagers and fully functional cellphones that had beltclips and vibrated when an incoming message was received. That was, like, the entire point of a pager.
Hmm you are right, i just can't remember if it featured online Play
Hmm would be a Door to make a modern Interface to play it online over original Hardware, as they did with the Link Cable, only with the Opportunity to add the other Extras.
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