It was in 1976 when Mattel first introduced a handheld gaming console with Auto Race. However, it was in 1989 that this device reached mainstream popularity with Nintendo’s release of the Game Boy. Since then, manufacturers have released a wide variety of handheld game consoles which have captured the attention of gamers and the interest of non-gamers.
Twenty Five years ago, Tetris was finished by Alexey Pajitnov. A widely-respected and adored game that is also credited to have had catapulted the popularity of handheld game consoles. With this celebration, let us take a comprehensive look at handheld game consoles since they were first release.
- Mattel Auto Race, Football
Mattel Electronics released the Auto Race in 1976. It is credited as the first handheld game manufactured and made available to the public. The console used about 512 bytes in memory. A smaller version for this console was also manufactured later. This was followed by Mattel Football, which was a huge success in the market and thus thought of by the public as the first Mattel game. Mattel Auto Race and Football are now sought after by gaming enthusiasts and are considered as collectors’ items.
- Epoch Game Pocket Computer
This handheld game console was released in Japan by Epoch in 1984. Epoch has released a total of 5 games for its Game Pocket Computer: Astro Bomber, Block Maze, Mahjong, Reversi and Store Keepers. It also has a puzzle game and a paint program built into the system. It had a 75 x 64 resolution for its LCD screen and powered by 4 AA batteries. The screen’s brightness could be dimmed and adjusted accordingly by the user. But Epoch Game Pocket Computer was not a success in Japan and due to this failure, it was never released for the North America market. Also, no other successors were release afterwards.
- Milton Bradley Microvision
Introduced in 1979 by Milton Bradley Company, Microvision included cartridge interchangeability into handheld game consoles. It was designed by Jay Smith who later will design the Vectrex gaming console. It has enjoyed moderate success in its first year, with sales grossing $8 million in the first year of release. However, poor support for the handheld console by the manufacturer has rendered this a not so successful game as no more successors were manufactured. Microvison met its demise in 1981.
- Atari Lynx, Lynx II
The world’s first handheld game console to have color LCD! Atari Lynx was originally design by engineers at Epyx in 1987 with the name Handy. But Epyx had some financial trouble at that time and had to find a manufacturing partner. Nintendo did not accept the invitation (they were busy with the manufacturing of another handheld console….) from Epyx while Atari hopped on into the wagon. In 1989, at the Summer CES, Portable Color Entertainment System, or what would later be called Atari Lynx.
Sold for $199, Lynx also enjoyed some moderate success in its release, with Atari manufacturing it in limited quantities. Later, Atari Lynx was relaunched with an aggressive marketing campaign, redesigned console, and improved packaging. This release is referred to as Lynx II. Atari also dropped the price for the new package, without accessories, to $99.