Thursday, February 22, 2018
Features and More

25 years after Game Boy, portable consoles flounder

Nintendo's Game Boy turned 25 this week, celebrating its original 1989 Japanese release on April 21 — America will have its own milestone July 31. To mark the occasion, the dedicated handheld game console market showed sputtering signs of almost total collapse.

It's been a long, hard fall since the heyday of portable gaming. The Game Boy and its various iterations sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 million units and ruled the segment with an iron fist.

With a combination of affordability, durability and a spectacular library of software, it bested the likes of superior technological wonders like the Sega Game Gear, Atari Lynx and NEC TurboExpress, which was essentially a TurboGrafx-16 in a handheld unit (well, and cost $250, much more than the Game Boy's $90 retail price). Packing in a copy of Tetris didn't hurt.

Generations of home consoles came and went, but Game Boy remained atop the leaderboard for a decade. Nintendo managed to extend the console's life for years, most notably with a color version, before it was discontinued in 2003, two years after Game Boy Advance was introduced.

Today, there's no successor worthy of the name.

The many forms of Nintendo's DS have sold well, some 30 million or so more than Game Boy, but recent versions of the hardware have floundered. Sony's first PlayStation Plus sold about 76 million units. Their Vita followup had a user base so low in January 2013 — about 4 million — that Sony has basically quit reporting sales numbers since.

What's coming next? If it's not attached to your phone, you're in trouble. Nvidia is creating a successor to its SHIELD handheld, which has been a middling offering based on the Android operating system. Sony is updating the Vita with a slimmer, redesigned version. Otherwise there's … not much at all.

The sea change in portable gaming to rely on smartphones is a wonderful bit of convergence that simultaneously makes software more accessible and alienates the companies previously best at distributing it. Whether you're for or against this democratization of gaming seems to come down to whether or not you identify as a casual gamer.

And guess what? Plenty of people do.

I, however, do not. That means I lament the loss of the segment, although I haven't been a fan of portable gaming since I moved from the mid-Atlantic corridor and no longer could take the train to work each day.

But like 8-tracks and in-home telephone jacks, handheld game consoles have lost their foothold in our everyday lives as gamers. Toting a dedicated machine with proprietary physical media is a throwback to another era, a time when juggling tiny game cartridges was a thrill and not an annoyance.

Then again, I also have a soft spot for radio and manual transmissions. And both of those are still around, right? I'd like a reminder of the time when we all could be entertained by addictive puzzle games with tiny, monochromatic graphics.

Come to think of it, maybe smartphone games aren't that different, after all.

Comments
Clearwater police chief forms special unit for repeat offenders

Clearwater police chief forms special unit for repeat offenders

CLEARWATER — Police Chief Dan Slaughter started this month a new unit to target repeat offenders and nuisance properties.The Special Enforcement Unit consists of six police officers and a sergeant from within the department to focus on the small grou...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Jolley Trolley offers free rides to Clearwater Beach

Jolley Trolley offers free rides to Clearwater Beach

CLEARWATER — Spring break kicked off this week with a program offering free rides on the Jolley Trolley between downtown and Clearwater Beach until April 29.The Park N Ride service will pick up riders at two lots downtown every 15 minutes and drop th...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Ruth Eckerd Hall asks Clearwater for $3 million toward renovations

Ruth Eckerd Hall asks Clearwater for $3 million toward renovations

CLEARWATER — Ruth Eckerd Hall is requesting a $3 million grant from the city to help complete the $21 million renovation of its facility on McMullen Booth Road.The Expanding the Experience project began in 2015 with a renovation of the Murray Theatre...
Updated: 3 hours ago
This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

FIELD OF GREEN: COLLARD FESTOn Saturday you can devote your whole day to the beauty of collard greens. Well, that’s the jumping off point. Collards are the "central ingredient" at the Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival at St. Petersburg’s Historic Deuc...
Updated: 8 hours ago
As spring approaches, parties, food festivals bloom at Florida’s theme parks

As spring approaches, parties, food festivals bloom at Florida’s theme parks

Can you feel it? The air is gradually thickening with humidity and the layers of clothes are getting thinner. Spring has almost sprung and with it brings a bumper crop of festivals in Florida’s theme parks full of food, wine, concerts and parades. Th...
Published: 02/21/18
An original clarinet and bassoon composition highlights Tampa Bay Symphony concert

An original clarinet and bassoon composition highlights Tampa Bay Symphony concert

ST. PETERSBURG — After the National Anthem and some introductory remarks by the maestro, a teacher from Chattanooga, Tenn., addressed a crowd at the Palladium Tuesday about the short work they were about to hear from the Tampa Bay Symphony."This piec...
Published: 02/21/18
Clearwater Beach named No. 1 in U.S. by TripAdvisor

Clearwater Beach named No. 1 in U.S. by TripAdvisor

A reigning champion for sand and sunshine, Tampa Bay is once again home to what’s been deemed the best beach in the country. Clearwater Beach was named the best beach in the U.S. for 2018 by the popular travel site TripAdvisor reclaiming the crown tw...
Published: 02/21/18
Evangelist Billy Graham, preacher to presidents, dies at age 99

Evangelist Billy Graham, preacher to presidents, dies at age 99

MONTREAT, N.C. — The Rev. Billy Graham, who transformed American religious life through his preaching and activism, becoming a counselor to presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, died Wednesday. He was 99. Graham, who l...
Published: 02/21/18
Orchestra debuts commissioned work, slam poet Neil Hilborn performs in Ybor

Orchestra debuts commissioned work, slam poet Neil Hilborn performs in Ybor

FLORIDA ORCHESTRA: NEW BLOODOne of the more significant Florida Orchestra events of the season, the world premiere of a commissioned piece, is this weekend. The orchestra, with personal financial backing from music director Michael Francis and his wi...
Published: 02/21/18
Explore mayo's upscale friend: aioli

Explore mayo's upscale friend: aioli

Mayonnaise does not have to be pedestrian. Mayonnaise, like life, is what you make of it. The link below is devoted to America’s love-hate relationship with the white stuff in the jar. Yours truly provides a defense for using it as a cooking a...
Published: 02/21/18