Saturday, March 18, 2006

Simply the Best

You may recall I wrote an entry, not too long ago, regarding the most notable console flops in game industry history. All failures for various reasons, but what is the most successful games console ever released?

Take a wild guess. The NES perhaps? The Playstation maybe? How about the Atari 2600? These were all successful consoles. But none are THE most successful console ever released.

No, if you must know the answer, that accolade goes to the humble Gameboy. Yes, that's right, the Gameboy is the most successful video games console ever made having shifted an estimated 120 million units world-wide and still going to this day.

You may be surprised by this. For the Gameboy, technically, is one of the least advanced consoles there is. It has only a very limited colour pallet, restricts players to a very small screen and boasts sound that can just about manage reasonable audio.

So, why so successful then? Well it's small, cheap, durable and has a large widely recognized library of games. Most notably Tetris, which is believed to be the greatest video game ever released by some enthusiasts.

As a portable, it held a special appeal. A simple sit down and play anywhere, no need for cables or TV's. This enduring appeal has extended the Gameboy's life longer than any other console. All consoles have a limited life-span, so they say. But the Gameboy seems to defy this rule.

Of course, it had other portable rivals. Like the technically superior Atari Lynx and Sega GameGear. Both of which offered 'colour' displays. However these were a little larger, more bulky, more expensive, more demanding on batteries, a little slower, and lacked the Gameboy's extensive library of games. They came, tried for a short period, but then died away. Unable to make up for their short-comings.

The Gameboy, for all its lack, has dominated its domain like no other console. It is a classic example of the old cliche, "gameplay, not graphics." If ever proof were needed of the validity of that claim, the Gameboy is it.

Technically advanced consoles, aren't always successful. Often, the high price that they demand is off putting. Like, for example, the Neo-Geo when it was released. And, technical superiority counts for nothing if they don't have the quality games that make good use of their capabilities.

The N64 might have had better hardware than the Playstation, but it finished a distant second. The golden rules of value and choice belonged to the Playstation, even if it was slightly technically inferior. In much the same way as the Gameboy.

No doubt, Sony had taken more note of the reasons for the Gameboy's success than its creators, Nintendo. So let's hear it for the Gameboy, the most successful games console ever made - and one which proves that technology isn't everything.

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