Enhanced Game Boy Expected
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Faced with declining sales of its strongest
product, Nintendo is expected to unveil an enhanced Game Boy Advance
Tuesday, which it hopes will reinvigorate interest in the portable
The new Game Boy will feature an internal light, allowing users to
play games in dimly lit or dark areas. It's a feature Game Boy
Advance owners have clamored for -- and the company has been
criticized for ignoring -- since the machine's launch in June 2001.
The machine should go on sale sometime around the end of March, with
a retail price of roughly $90.
The current Game Boy Advance (which sells for $70) will continue to
be sold for a while longer, though Mike Wallace of UBS Warburg said
he expects the company will eventually begin to phase those out.
Nintendo did not return calls for comment.
The GBA has been a hot seller for Nintendo, with more than 9 million
systems sold in the U.S. In the past year, those U.S. sales have
stagnated significantly, dropping roughly 20 percent, which is cause
for concern at Nintendo. Its other console system, the GameCube, has
not performed as well as expected against Sony's PlayStation 2 and
The decision to leave a backlight out of the original Game Boy
Advance was an intentional one by Nintendo, which said at the time
that such an enhancement would drive the machine's cost above $100
and would significantly drain battery life. Gamers complained
loudly, however. Many had hoped the company would hear their
complaints about the lack of a backlighting feature on the Game Boy
Color (the machine's previous generation).
Third-party hardware companies quickly offered "worm
lights" and other lighting alternatives that were close cousins
to the Itty Bitty Book Light, but the end result was a glare on the
screen that made it even more difficult to see what was happening in
In mid-2002, technically adept Game Boy Advance owners were offered
a solution with the Afterburner, which let you install your own
internal lighting system to the Game Boy. Though installing the
device voided the GBA warranty and required technical skills beyond
the ability of most gamers, it has been a big hit, according to
TritonLabs, which makes the Afterburner.
"Business has not slowed down one iota," TritonLabs CEO
Adam Curtis said in December. "In fact, we have been having
great trouble keeping up this holiday season, and signs are pointing
to next year being even bigger than this year."
A backlit Game Boy Advance could have ripple effects in the software
industry. Several game publishers, including THQ and Capcom, release
dozens of Game Boy titles per year. A surge of demand for the
hardware could spur software sales – and have a modest effect on
publishers' bottom lines.
At the very least, it will earn Nintendo some goodwill with gamers
– not to mention parents of small children on the road at night.