Nintendo was planning to release an accessory for the Game Boy Color known as the Page Boy that would have allowed players to send email, browse websites, take pictures, and more. While details about the device have never been made public, a video game researcher and historian, Liam Robertson, has rediscovered the peripheral.
“By the late nineties, Nintendo was enjoying a comfortable lead over the handheld video game market,” Robertson explains. “It was in light of these high sales that Nintendo had been exploring a number of ways to expand upon the Game Boy line through peripherals and addons and in 1999, the company hit upon an opportunity.”
The accessory was created by a company called Wizard that approached Nintendo about a partnership in 1999. The two companies would collaborate on the peripheral over the course of the following three years.
This device would have allowed the Game Boy Color to send messages, pictures, and emails. Players could read video game magazines, weather reports, and leaderboards. They could even watch television. This would have all been accomplished by radio. Since pagers used the same technology, Wizard decided to call this accessory the Page Boy.
Page Boy was going to be an “addon for the Game Boy Color that would allow users to communicate with one another over long distances,” Robertson says. “They could send each other messages, photos, or emails. They could view the internet or get news updates and all of this would be accomplished completely wirelessly from almost anywhere in the world.” He goes on to say that it "didn’t require a personal Wi-Fi connection in order to work, either. The communication worked via radio waves, using the same frequency employed by most two-way pagers at the time.”
The accessory would have embraced Nintendo as a brand. Robertson points out that “one suggested part of its software imagined making a version of the officially licensed magazine Nintendo Power available for users to read. Page Boy owners would have been able to read up on the latest game news and reviews all on the handheld.” Robertson also notes the “highly ambitious feature named Game Boy TV. This was intended to be a part of the software that could receive a live broadcast from Nintendo that would display exclusive information on upcoming products in real time. It was envisioned as a potential avenue for the company to announce new games directly to consumers any time they wanted.” In other words, the peripheral would have introduced the Nintendo Direct.
The design of the Page Boy was elegant. The device would have “fitted into the Game Boy’s cartridge slot and then would have had its own additional cartridge slot on top of it,” Robertson explains. “This would allow users to have the addon attached to their Game Boy and still be able to play games or for the Page Boy to interface directly with other peripherals.”
Nintendo was interested in the Page Boy, but after several years of development, the project suffered a significant setback. While the company wanted players to connect with each other no matter their location, the Page Boy would only have allowed communication within a handful of countries.
“What had initially sold Nintendo on the Page Boy in general was its potential as a product for international audiences,” Robertson says. “Nintendo liked Page Boy on paper by all accounts, but from a technological perspective, it would have only been feasible in a limited number of markets.” He goes on to say that Nintendo found there were "no cost effective duplex wireless data networks covering Japan or Europe at the time.” This means that if development had continued, the Page Boy would have been limited to North America. “It was deemed by Nintendo’s management back at its Japanese headquarters that this would have gone against the core appeal of the device. Nintendo wanted it to be universally available and functional around the world. This they believed was key to its success.”
Nintendo canceled the project at some point in 2002. But the dream of the Page Boy was never completely forgotten. Some of the proposed features have turned up in the Wii, 3DS, and Switch.
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