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CNN/Money, a collaboration between CNN and Money magazine, is reporting that Nintendo is expected to unveil an enhanced version of the Game Boy Advance on January 7th. The handheld is said to feature an internal backlight and should come to retail for $90 in late March. UBS Warburg analyst Mike Wallace expects the current GBA, which retails for $70, to eventually be phased out by Nintendo.

CNN Money Article:


Enhanced Game Boy Expected
January 6, 2003: 6:44 PM EST

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 gaming market.

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 Microsoft's Xbox.

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 the game.

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.

January 6, 2003

Jim - News Contributor, GameCubicle


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