A canceled Game Boy Color add-on called Page Boy has been discovered and, had it been released, it would have brought with it messaging, web browsing, and even an early form of Nintendo Directs on the beloved handheld. from Nintendo.
Video game historian Liam Robertson shared the details of this lost Game Boy Color add-on in a new Video on the secrets of the history of the game on DidYouKnowGaming? and revealed the story of how he became and ultimately how he ended up being cast aside in 2002.
Following his work on another lost and unreleased Game Boy add-on known as WorkBoy – which is said to have brought PDA-like functions like an address book, calculator, appointment book and more to the world. Nintendo handheld – Eddie Gill of Source Research and Development started looking for a new idea.
Gill still believed in many features that would have been present in the WorkBoy, and he began to work on building a “spiritual continuation of the WorkBoy, with new ideas of its own” for the Game Boy Color.
Work began in earnest in 1997 and Gill enlisted his brother, Christopher Gill, for technical help.
Gill’s dream for the Page Boy was that he would allow Game Boy Color owners to browse the Internet, get updates, and communicate with each other over long distances by sending messages, photos, and e-mails. mails.
Communication would work using radio waves which would use the same frequency used by most two-way pagers at the time. This technical aspect will lead to the name of Page Boy and then to the formation of a company called Wizard.
From the start, Gill knew he needed Nintendo’s full support to make this dream come true, and he focused on this mission. While Gill didn’t have a “formal breakthrough” with Nintendo at the time, he was still in contact with ex-Nintendo director Frank Ballouz as they had worked together on the WorkBoy.
Ballouz came and was able to get Wizard to meet with Nintendo of America’s “superiors” in 1999, including NOA President Minoru Arakawa, President Howard Lincoln, and CTO Wayne Alan Shirk.
Gill then presented his pitch for the Page Boy, which included a technical breakdown of how it works and conceptual images of the hardware and software. Wizard had also ordered physical models of the device to show what it would look like when connected to the Game Boy Color.
Robertson was able to get his hands on this visual presentation and it shows that the software was heavily Mario-focused and even had “Wizard’s own version of music from Mario games and even some voice acting”.
One of Mario’s appearances would be in the “Ask Mario” feature which would have functioned as a search engine that users could use to search for “various queries, such as items for sale”. Mario reportedly spoke to users throughout the experience, and he even whistled the iconic Super Mario Bros. theme song. while the pages are loading.
Another suggested use for Page Boy would be to allow Game Boy Color owners to read the latest issues of Nintendo Power on their device. Even more ambitious, he dreamed of creating a “Game Boy ‘Live TV’” feature that would allow the Page Boy to receive a “live broadcast from Nintendo that would display exclusive information about upcoming products in real time”.
Yes, Gill and Wizard were attempting to broadcast the Nintendo Directs to the world over a decade before their official introduction, and they would potentially have a segment where high scores submitted by players would be displayed.
In addition to game previews and reviews, the Page Boy would also give users access to global news, sports scores and weather. The weather feature, in particular, was similar to what was found on the Wii’s Weather Channel.
As for messaging, users could have typed a message on their Game Boy Color and chosen “preinstalled animations, music and themes to bring them to life.” In addition, the device would have connected to existing Game Boy accessories, such as the Game Boy camera, to allow users to send photos to each other or to allow the Game Boy printer to print user messages. .
There was even a plan to set up a phone system that would allow users to send emails. This would have been the only extra paid for Page Boy owners, and it would have required users to call a number and compose an email with the help of an operator.
They could choose a style, dictate a message, then give the operator the recipient’s Page Boy address to send it.
Nintendo’s response to this presentation was “one of immediate fascination”. Arakawa believed he had the chance to become commercially successful and gave the green light for an internal investigation at Nintendo that would examine how they might bring him to market.
Nintendo then agreed to work with Wizard to work on this project – which would be codenamed Cheetah – and, after Gill hired as a design consultant for Nintendo in 1999, the “Page Boy was seen as an addition. part one made in-house -on for the Game Boy line of systems. “
As development continued, Nintendo was exploring the idea of allowing the Page Boy to unlock exclusive in-game items, much like Nintendo’s amiibo do now. It also brought in some of the features of the WorkBoy like the clock display and there would have been a belt clip and vibration feature for those who wanted to wear it as a cell phone / pager.
While Nintendo loved the idea of the Page Boy, they really wanted it to have global appeal. That would end up being his downfall, because that “potential was not as strong as it was originally believed.”
Due to the lack of cost-effective duplex wireless data networks covering Japan and Europe, the Page Boy is expected to be limited to the North American market. This led to Nintendo’s management, back at their Japanese headquarters, feeling that it would have run counter to the main appeal of the device.
“Nintendo wanted it to be universally available and functional around the world. This, they believed, was the key to its success,” said Robertson.
After Nintendo came to this conclusion, it made the decision to put the Page Boy aside for good in 2002.
Although the Page Boy never made it to the finish line, many ideas explored for him have been used in future Nintendo products and marketing campaigns.
No actual prototype of the Page Boy was ever made, and besides Nintendo may have kept some of those physical models that were shared during the initial launch, the only record of this device that was ahead of its time are those stories and presentations which are fortunately preserved by those like Liam Robertson.
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