The Game Boy was Nintendo’s revolutionary handheld gaming system that was first released in 1989. By 1998, the Game Boy had been on the market for almost a decade and was still going strong. In this article, we’ll take a look back at the Game Boy in 1998 – what games were popular, what improvements had been made to the hardware, and how it compared to other handhelds and home consoles of the era.
Game Boy Models in 1998
In 1998, there were several different Game Boy models available:
- Original Game Boy – The original large gray brick-like Game Boy first released in 1989. It had a small black & white screen and basic controls.
- Game Boy Pocket – A smaller, lighter redesign released in 1996. Featured the same tech as original Game Boy.
- Game Boy Light – Released only in Japan in 1997. Similar to Pocket but with an electroluminescent backlit screen.
- Game Boy Color – The first major Game Boy upgrade, released late 1998. Featured a color screen but was still compatible with original Game Boy games.
Of these, the original Game Boy and the newer Game Boy Color were the main models available in 1998. The Color represented a major leap with its color screen, helping the Game Boy stay current against color handheld rivals like the Game Gear.
Popular Game Boy Games in 1998
Here are some of the most popular and notable Game Boy games released in 1998:
|Game||Release Date||Genre||Notable Features|
|Pokémon Red & Blue||September 28, 1998||RPG||The games that launched the Pokémon franchise phenomenon in North America.|
|The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX||December 12, 1998||Action-Adventure||Color remake of 1993 Game Boy classic Zelda game.|
|Game & Watch Gallery 3||March 1, 1998||Mini-Game Collection||Revival of Nintendo’s classic LCD handheld games.|
|Tetris DX||October 21, 1998||Puzzle||Enhanced color version of the legendary Tetris puzzle game.|
|Wario Land II||September 23, 1998||Platformer||Sequel to the 1994 Wario Land Game Boy game.|
Pokémon was clearly the biggest Game Boy title of 1998, spearheading the North American Pokémon craze. Many other popular games were either sequels or remakes taking advantage of the Game Boy Color’s new hardware capabilities. Nintendo also continued its Game & Watch LCD handheld ports on Game Boy with Gallery 3.
Game Boy Hardware Improvements
While the original Game Boy’s hardware remained unchanged in 1998, the Game Boy Color represented a major upgrade. Improvements included:
- Color LCD screen – Could display up to 32,000 colors, a major jump over the original monochrome screen.
- Faster processor – 8MHz Z80 CPU compared to 4.19MHz for original Game Boy.
- More RAM – 32 kilobytes compared to 8 kilobytes on the original.
- Infrared port – Allowed communication between Game Boys for multiplayer gaming.
- Backward compatibility – Could still play all original Game Boy games.
The Game Boy Color was designed to breathe new life into the decade-old Game Boy platform, helping fend off competitors like the Game Gear and allow new color games while retaining compatibility with its enormous library of existing Game Boy titles.
Game Boy Sales & Market Share
Here are some key sales stats for the Game Boy family in 1998:
- 32.47 million – Total worldwide Game Boy sales through 1998.
- Over 40% – Nintendo’s share of the 1998 handheld gaming market.
- 14.74 million – Game Boy Color units sold after launch in late 1998.
- 113.3 million – Total Game Boy unit sales through end of platform life in 2003.
Despite being an aging system, the Game Boy still controlled over 40% of the handheld market in 1998. The Game Boy Color helped continue its momentum. Overall Game Boy sales would eventually surpass even the hugely successful NES console.
Comparison vs. Other Handhelds
How did the Game Boy lineup compare against rival handhelds in 1998?
- Game Gear – Sega’s color handheld had better graphics but higher cost and battery drain issues.
- Game.com – Attempted to bring touch screen & internet connectivity. Very limited game library.
- Neo Geo Pocket – Just released in 1998 in Japan. Monochrome screen. Not released in North America until 1999.
- Wonderswan – Released in 1999 in Japan by Bandai. Would go on to rival Game Boy in Japan.
No other handheld could match the Game Boy’s large library and wide developer support. The Game Boy Color also closed the color screen gap against rivals while retaining excellent battery life. The Game Boy stood strong against competing handhelds in 1998.
Game Boy vs. Home Consoles
The Game Boy lineup also compared favorably to home consoles of 1998:
|Console||CPU Speed||Resolution||Best Selling Game|
|Game Boy Color||8 MHz||160 x 144 pixels||Pokémon Red/Blue – 31+ million units|
|PlayStation (PS1)||33 MHz||320 x 240 pixels||Gran Turismo – 10.85 million units|
|Nintendo 64||93.7 MHz||320 x 240 pixels||Super Mario 64 – 11.62 million units|
While home consoles had advantages in power and visuals, the Game Boy Color’s portability, battery life, and lower cost gave it key strengths. Game Boy game sales could also keep pace and at times surpass home console titles.
In 1998, a decade after its initial release, the Game Boy still dominated the handheld gaming market despite increasing competition. The arrival of the Game Boy Color brought a needed improvement in color graphics while retaining the library and compatibility that made the Game Boy a phenomenon. With hit games like Pokémon Red & Blue propelling it forward, 1998 saw the Game Boy continue its unprecedented portable gaming dominance.
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