Handheld game console

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The 1989 Nintendo Game Boy, which established and dominated the handheld market for at least ten years. Game-Boy-Original.jpg
The 1989 Nintendo Game Boy, which established and dominated the handheld market for at least ten years.

A handheld game console, or simply handheld console, is a small, portable self-contained video game console with a built-in screen, game controls and speakers. [1] Handheld game consoles are smaller than home video game consoles and contain the console, screen, speakers, and controls in one unit, allowing people to carry them and play them at any time or place. [2] [3]


In 1976, Mattel introduced the first handheld electronic game with the release of Auto Race . [4] Later, several companies—including Coleco and Milton Bradley—made their own single-game, lightweight table-top or handheld electronic game devices. [5] The first handheld game console with interchangeable cartridges is the Milton Bradley Microvision in 1979. [6] The first commercial successful handheld console was Merlin from 1978 which sold more than 5 million units. [7] The first internet-enabled handheld console and the first with a touchscreen was the Game.com released by Tiger Electronics in 1997. [8]

Nintendo is credited with popularizing the handheld console concept with the release of the Game Boy in 1989 [3] and continues to dominate the handheld console market. [9] [10]



The origins of handheld game consoles are found in handheld and tabletop electronic game devices of the 1970s and early 1980s. These electronic devices are capable of playing only a single game, [3] they fit in the palm of the hand or on a tabletop, and they may make use of a variety of video displays such as LED, VFD, or LCD. [11] In 1978, handheld electronic games were described by Popular Electronics magazine as "nonvideo electronic games" and "non-TV games" as distinct from devices that required use of a television screen. [12] Handheld electronic games, in turn, find their origins in the synthesis[ citation needed ] of previous handheld and tabletop electro-mechanical devices such as Waco's Electronic Tic-Tac-Toe (1972) [11] Cragstan's Periscope-Firing Range (1951), [13] and the emerging optoelectronic-display-driven calculator market of the early 1970s. [14] [15] This synthesis happened in 1976, when "Mattel began work on a line of calculator-sized sports games that became the world's first handheld electronic games. The project began when Michael Katz, Mattel's new product category marketing director, told the engineers in the electronics group to design a game the size of a calculator, using LED (light-emitting diode) technology." [16]

our big success was something that I conceptualized—the first handheld game. I asked the design group to see if they could come up with a game that was electronic that was the same size as a calculator.
—Michael Katz, former marketing director, Mattel Toys. [16]
Game & Watch Ball Game & Watch Ball.jpg
Game & Watch Ball

The result was the 1976 release of Auto Race. [17] Followed by Football later in 1977, [18] [19] the two games were so successful that according to Katz, "these simple electronic handheld games turned into a '$400 million category.'" [11] Mattel would later win the honor of being recognized by the industry for innovation in handheld game device displays. [20] Soon, other manufacturers including Coleco, Parker Brothers, Milton Bradley, Entex, and Bandai [5] began following up with their own tabletop and handheld electronic games.

In 1979 the LCD-based Microvision, designed by Smith Engineering and distributed by Milton-Bradley, [21] became the first handheld game console and the first to use interchangeable game cartridges. [6] The Microvision game Cosmic Hunter (1981) also introduced the concept of a directional pad on handheld gaming devices, [22] and is operated by using the thumb to manipulate the on-screen character in any of four directions. [23]

In 1979, Gunpei Yokoi, traveling on a bullet train, saw a bored businessman playing with an LCD calculator by pressing the buttons. Yokoi then thought of an idea for a watch that doubled as a miniature game machine for killing time. [24] Starting in 1980, Nintendo began to release a series of electronic games designed by Yokoi called the Game & Watch games. [25] Taking advantage of the technology used in the credit-card-sized calculators that had appeared on the market, Yokoi designed the series of LCD-based games to include a digital time display in the corner of the screen. [26] For later, more complicated Game & Watch games, Yokoi invented a cross shaped directional pad or "D-pad" for control of on-screen characters. [27] Yokoi also included his directional pad on the NES controllers, and the cross-shaped thumb controller soon became standard on game console controllers and ubiquitous across the video game industry since. [28] [29] When Yokoi began designing Nintendo's first handheld game console, he came up with a device that married the elements of his Game & Watch devices and the Famicom console, [30] including both items' D-pad controller. The result was the Nintendo Game Boy.

In 1982, the Bandai LCD Solarpower was the first solar-powered gaming device. Some of its games, such as the horror-themed game Terror House, features two LCD panels, one stacked on the other, for an early 3D effect. [31] In 1983, Takara Tomy's Tomytronic 3D simulates 3D by having two LCD panels that were lit by external light through a window on top of the device, making it the first dedicated home video 3D hardware. [32]


The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the beginnings of the modern day handheld game console industry, after the demise of the Microvision. As backlit LCD game consoles with color graphics consume a lot of power, they were not battery-friendly like the non-backlit original Game Boy whose monochrome graphics allowed longer battery life. By this point, rechargeable battery technology had not yet matured and so the more advanced game consoles of the time such as the Sega Game Gear and Atari Lynx did not have nearly as much success as the Game Boy.

Even though third-party rechargeable batteries were available for the battery-hungry alternatives to the Game Boy, these batteries employed a nickel-cadmium process and had to be completely discharged before being recharged to ensure maximum efficiency; lead-acid batteries could be used with automobile circuit limiters (cigarette lighter plug devices); but the batteries had mediocre portability. The later NiMH batteries, which do not share this requirement for maximum efficiency, were not released until the late 1990s, years after the Game Gear, Atari Lynx, and original Game Boy had been discontinued. During the time when technologically superior handhelds had strict technical limitations, batteries had a very low mAh rating since batteries with heavy power density were not yet available.

Modern game systems such as the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable have rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries with proprietary shapes. Other seventh-generation consoles such as the GP2X use standard alkaline batteries. Because the mAh rating of alkaline batteries has increased since the 1990s, the power needed for handhelds like the GP2X may be supplied by relatively few batteries.

Game Boy

The original Game Boy Game-Boy-Original.jpg
The original Game Boy

Nintendo released the Game Boy on April 21, 1989 (September 1990 for the UK). The design team headed by Gunpei Yokoi had also been responsible for the Game & Watch system, as well as the Nintendo Entertainment System games Metroid and Kid Icarus . The Game Boy came under scrutiny by some industry critics, saying that the monochrome screen was too small, and the processing power was inadequate. The design team had felt that low initial cost and battery economy were more important concerns, and when compared to the Microvision, the Game Boy was a huge leap forward.

Yokoi recognized that the Game Boy needed a killer app—at least one game that would define the console, and persuade customers to buy it. In June 1988, Minoru Arakawa, then-CEO of Nintendo of America saw a demonstration of the game Tetris at a trade show. Nintendo purchased the rights for the game, and packaged it with the Game Boy system as a launch title. It was almost an immediate hit. By the end of the year more than a million units were sold in the US. [33] As of March 31, 2005, the Game Boy and Game Boy Color combined to sell over 118 million units worldwide. [34] [35]

Atari Lynx

Atari Lynx I and II

In 1987, Epyx created the Handy Game; a device that would turn into the Atari Lynx in 1989. It is the first color handheld console ever made, as well as the first with a backlit screen. It also features networking support with up to 17 other players, and advanced hardware that allows the zooming and scaling of sprites. The Lynx can also be turned upside down to accommodate left-handed players. However, all these features came at a very high price point, which drove consumers to seek cheaper alternatives. The Lynx is also very unwieldy, consumes batteries very quickly, and lacked the third-party support enjoyed by its competitors. Due to its high price, short battery life, production shortages, a dearth of compelling games, and Nintendo's aggressive marketing campaign, and despite a redesign in 1991, the Lynx became a commercial failure. Despite this, companies like Telegames helped to keep the system alive long past its commercial relevance, and when new owner Hasbro released the rights to develop for the public domain, independent developers like Songbird have managed to release new commercial games for the system every year until 2004's Winter Games.


TurboExpress handheld NEC-TurboExpress-Upright-FL.jpg
TurboExpress handheld

The TurboExpress is a portable version of the TurboGrafx, released in 1990 for $249.99 (the price was briefly raised to $299.99, soon dropped back to $249.99, and by 1992 it was $199.99). Its Japanese equivalent is the PC Engine GT.

It is the most advanced handheld of its time and can play all the TurboGrafx-16's games (which are on a small, credit-card sized media called HuCards). It has a 66 mm (2.6 in.) screen, the same as the original Game Boy, but in a much higher resolution, and can display 64 sprites at once, 16 per scanline, in 512 colors. Although the hardware can only handle 481 simultaneous colors. It has 8 kilobytes of RAM. The Turbo runs the HuC6820 CPU at 1.79 or 7.16  MHz.

The optional "TurboVision" TV tuner includes RCA audio/video input, allowing users to use TurboExpress as a video monitor. The "TurboLink" allowed two-player play. Falcon, a flight simulator, included a "head-to-head" dogfight mode that can only be accessed via TurboLink. However, very few TG-16 games offered co-op play modes especially designed with the TurboExpress in mind.

Bitcorp Gamate

Gamate and game cards Gamate.jpg
Gamate and game cards

The Bitcorp Gamate is the one of the first handheld game systems created in response to the Nintendo Game Boy. It was released in Asia in 1990 and distributed worldwide by 1991.

Like the Sega Game Gear, it was horizontal in orientation and like the Game Boy, required 4 AA batteries. Unlike many later Game Boy clones, its internal components were professionally assembled (no "glop-top" chips). Unfortunately the system's fatal flaw is its screen. Even by the standards of the day, its screen is rather difficult to use, suffering from similar motion blur problems that were common complaints with the first generation Game Boys. Likely because of this fact sales were quite poor, and Bitcorp closed by 1992. However, new games continued to be published for the Asian market, possibly as late as 1994. The total number of games released for the system remains unknown.

Gamate games were designed for stereo sound, but the console is only equipped with a mono speaker.

Sega Game Gear

Sega Game Gear Game-Gear-Handheld.jpg
Sega Game Gear

The Game Gear is the third color handheld console, after the Lynx and the TurboExpress; produced by Sega. Released in Japan in 1990 and in North America and Europe in 1991, it is based on the Master System, which gave Sega the ability to quickly create Game Gear games from its large library of games for the Master System. While never reaching the level of success enjoyed by Nintendo, the Game Gear proved to be a fairly durable competitor, lasting longer than any other Game Boy rivals.

While the Game Gear is most frequently seen in black or navy blue, it was also released in a variety of additional colors: red, light blue, yellow, clear, and violet. All of these variations were released in small quantities and frequently only in the Asian market.

Following Sega's success with the Game Gear, they began development on a successor during the early 1990s, which was intended to feature a touchscreen interface, many years before the Nintendo DS. However, such a technology was very expensive at the time, and the handheld itself was estimated to have cost around $289 were it to be released. Sega eventually chose to shelve the idea and instead release the Genesis Nomad, a handheld version of the Genesis, as the successor. [36]

Watara Supervision

The Watara Supervision with tilting screen. Watara-Supervision-Tilted.jpg
The Watara Supervision with tilting screen.

The Watara Supervision was released in 1992 in an attempt to compete with the Nintendo Game Boy. The first model was designed very much like a Game Boy, but it is grey in color and has a slightly larger screen. The second model was made with a hinge across the center and can be bent slightly to provide greater comfort for the user. While the system did enjoy a modest degree of success, it never impacted the sales of Nintendo or Sega. The Supervision was redesigned a final time as "The Magnum". Released in limited quantities it was roughly equivalent to the Game Boy Pocket. It was available in three colors: yellow, green and grey. Watara designed many of the games themselves, but did receive some third party support, most notably from Sachen.

A TV adapter was available in both PAL and NTSC formats that could transfer the Supervision's black-and-white palette to 4 colors, similar in some regards to the Super Game Boy from Nintendo.

Hartung Game Master

The Hartung Game Master is an obscure handheld released at an unknown point in the early 1990s. Its graphics were much lower than most of its contemporaries, similar in complexity to the Atari 2600. It was available in black, white, and purple, and was frequently rebranded by its distributors, such as Delplay, Videojet and Systema.

The exact number of games released is not known, but is likely around 20. The system most frequently turns up in Europe and Australia.

Late 1990s

By this time, the lack of significant development in Nintendo's product line began allowing more advanced systems such as the Neo Geo Pocket Color and the WonderSwan Color to be developed.

Sega Nomad

Sega Nomad Sega-Nomad-Front.jpg
Sega Nomad

The Nomad was released in October 1995 in North America only. [37] [38] The release was five years into the market span of the Genesis, with an existing library of more than 500 Genesis games. According to former Sega of America research and development head Joe Miller, the Nomad was not intended to be the Game Gear's replacement and believes that there was little planning from Sega of Japan for the new handheld. [39] Sega was supporting five different consoles: Saturn, Genesis, Game Gear, Pico, and the Master System, as well as the Sega CD and 32X add-ons. In Japan, the Mega Drive had never been successful and the Saturn was more successful than Sony's PlayStation, so Sega Enterprises CEO Hayao Nakayama decided to focus on the Saturn. [40] By 1999, the Nomad was being sold at less than a third of its original price. [41]

Game Boy Pocket

The 1st release Game Boy Pocket Game-Boy-Pocket-FL.jpg
The 1st release Game Boy Pocket

The Game Boy Pocket is a redesigned version of the original Game Boy having the same features. It was released in 1996. Notably, this variation is smaller and lighter. It comes in seven different colors; red, yellow, green, black, clear, silver, blue, and pink. It has space for two AAA batteries, which provide approximately 10 hours of game play. [42] The screen was changed to a true black-and-white display, rather than the "pea soup" monochromatic display of the original Game Boy. [43] Although, like its predecessor, the Game Boy Pocket has no backlight to allow play in a darkened area, it did notably improve visibility and pixel response-time (mostly eliminating ghosting). [44]

Another notable improvement over the original Game Boy is a black-and-white display screen, rather than the green-tinted display of the original Game Boy, that also featured improved response time for less blurring during motion. The first model of the Game Boy Pocket did not have an LED to show battery levels, but the feature was added due to public demand. The Game Boy Pocket was not a new software platform and played the same software as the original Game Boy model. [45]


Game.com Tiger-Game-Com-FL.jpg

The Game.com (pronounced in TV commercials as "game com", not "game dot com", and not capitalized in marketing material) is a handheld game console released by Tiger Electronics in September 1997. It featured many new ideas for handheld consoles and was aimed at an older target audience, sporting PDA-style features and functions such as a touch screen and stylus. However, Tiger hoped it would also challenge Nintendo's Game Boy and gain a following among younger gamers too. Unlike other handheld game consoles, the first game.com consoles included two slots for game cartridges, which would not happen again until the Tapwave Zodiac, the DS and DS Lite, and could be connected to a 14.4 kbit/s modem. Later models had only a single cartridge slot.

Game Boy Color

The Game Boy Color was the first handheld by Nintendo featuring Colors Nintendo-Game-Boy-Color-FL.jpg
The Game Boy Color was the first handheld by Nintendo featuring Colors

The Game Boy Color (also referred to as GBC or CGB) is Nintendo's successor to the Game Boy and was released on October 21, 1998, in Japan and in November of the same year in the United States. It features a color screen, and is slightly bigger than the Game Boy Pocket. The processor is twice as fast as a Game Boy's and has twice as much memory. It also had an infrared communications port for wireless linking which did not appear in later versions of the Game Boy, such as the Game Boy Advance.

The Game Boy Color was a response to pressure from game developers for a new system, as they felt that the Game Boy, even in its latest incarnation, the Game Boy Pocket, was insufficient. The resulting product was backward compatible, a first for a handheld console system, and leveraged the large library of games and great installed base of the predecessor system. This became a major feature of the Game Boy line, since it allowed each new launch to begin with a significantly larger library than any of its competitors. As of March 31, 2005, the Game Boy and Game Boy Color combined to sell 118.69 million units worldwide. [34] [35]

The console is capable of displaying up to 56 different colors simultaneously on screen from its palette of 32,768, and can add basic four-color shading to games that had been developed for the original Game Boy. It can also give the sprites and backgrounds separate colors, for a total of more than four colors.

Neo Geo Pocket Color

Neo Geo Pocket Color Neo-Geo-Pocket-Color-Blue-Left.jpg
Neo Geo Pocket Color

The Neo Geo Pocket Color (or NGPC) was released in 1999 in Japan, and later that year in the United States and Europe. It is a 16-bit color handheld game console designed by SNK, the maker of the Neo Geo home console and arcade machine. [46] It came after SNK's original Neo Geo Pocket monochrome handheld, which debuted in 1998 in Japan.

In 2000 following SNK's purchase by Japanese Pachinko manufacturer Aruze, the Neo Geo Pocket Color was dropped from both the US and European markets, purportedly due to commercial failure. [47]

The system seemed well on its way to being a success in the U.S. It was more successful than any Game Boy competitor since Sega's Game Gear, but was hurt by several factors, such as SNK's infamous lack of communication with third-party developers, and anticipation of the Game Boy Advance. [48] The decision to ship U.S. games in cardboard boxes in a cost-cutting move rather than hard plastic cases that Japanese and European releases were shipped in may have also hurt US sales. [49]

Wonderswan Color

The Wonderswan Color WonderSwan-Color-Blue-Left.jpg
The Wonderswan Color

The WonderSwan Color is a handheld game console designed by Bandai. It was released on December 9, 2000, in Japan, [50] Although the WonderSwan Color was slightly larger and heavier (7 mm and 2 g) compared to the original WonderSwan, the color version featured 512  kB [51] of RAM and a larger color LCD screen. In addition, the WonderSwan Color is compatible with the original WonderSwan library of games.

Prior to WonderSwan's release, Nintendo had virtually a monopoly in the Japanese video game handheld market. After the release of the WonderSwan Color, Bandai took approximately 8% of the market share in Japan partly due to its low price of 6800 yen (approximately US$65). [51] Another reason for the WonderSwan's success in Japan was the fact that Bandai managed to get a deal with Square to port over the original Famicom Final Fantasy games with improved graphics and controls. [51] However, with the popularity of the Game Boy Advance and the reconciliation between Square and Nintendo, the WonderSwan Color and its successor, the SwanCrystal quickly lost its competitive advantage.

Early 2000s

The 2000s saw a major leap in innovation, particularly in the second half with the release of the DS and PSP.

Game Boy Advance

The Game Boy Advance was a major upgrade to the Game Boy line Nintendo-Game-Boy-Advance-Purple-FL.jpg
The Game Boy Advance was a major upgrade to the Game Boy line

In 2001, Nintendo released the Game Boy Advance (GBA or AGB), which added two shoulder buttons, a larger screen, and more computing power than the Game Boy Color.

The design was revised two years later when the Game Boy Advance SP (GBA SP), a more compact version, was released. The SP features a "clamshell" design (folding open and closed, like a laptop computer), as well as a frontlit color display and rechargeable battery. Despite the smaller form factor, the screen remained the same size as that of the original. In 2005, the Game Boy Micro was released. This revision sacrifices screen size and backwards compatibility with previous Game Boys for a dramatic reduction in total size and a brighter backlit screen. A new SP model with a backlit screen was released in some regions around the same time.

Along with the Nintendo GameCube, the GBA also introduced the concept of "connectivity": using a handheld system as a console controller. A handful of games use this feature, most notably Animal Crossing , Pac-Man Vs. , Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles , The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures , The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker , Metroid Prime , and Sonic Adventure 2: Battle .

As of December 31, 2007, the GBA, GBA SP, and the Game Boy Micro combined have sold 80.72 million units worldwide. [52]

Game Park 32

GP32 Gp32-flu.jpg

The original GP32 was released in 2001 by the South Korean company Game Park a few months after the launch of the Game Boy Advance. It featured a 32-bit CPU, 133 MHz processor, MP3 and Divx player, and e-book reader. SmartMedia cards were used for storage, and could hold up to 128mb of anything downloaded through a USB cable from a PC. The GP32 was redesigned in 2003. A front-lit screen was added and the new version was called GP32 FLU (Front Light Unit). In summer 2004, another redesign, the GP32 BLU, was made, and added a backlit screen. This version of the handheld was planned for release outside South Korea; in Europe, and it was released for example in Spain (VirginPlay was the distributor). While not a commercial success on a level with mainstream handhelds (only 30,000 units were sold), it ended up being used mainly as a platform for user-made applications and emulators of other systems, being popular with developers and more technically adept users. [53]


N-Gage Nokia-NGage-LL.jpg
N-Gage QD Nokia-NGage-QD.jpg
N-Gage QD

Nokia released the N-Gage in 2003. It was designed as a combination MP3 player, cellphone, PDA, radio, and gaming device. The system received much criticism alleging defects in its physical design and layout, including its vertically oriented screen and requirement of removing the battery to change game cartridges. The most well known of these was "sidetalking", or the act of placing the phone speaker and receiver on an edge of the device instead of one of the flat sides, causing the user to appear as if they are speaking into a taco.

The N-Gage QD was later released to address the design flaws of the original. However, certain features available in the original N-Gage, including MP3 playback, FM radio reception, and USB connectivity were removed.

Second generation of N-Gage launched on April 3, 2008 [54] in the form of a service for selected Nokia Smartphones.


Cybiko Classic with extended antenna on the main desktop. Cybiko.jpg
Cybiko Classic with extended antenna on the main desktop.

The Cybiko is a Russian hand-held computer introduced in May 2000 by David Yang's company and designed for teenage audiences, featuring its own two-way radio text messaging system. It has over 430 "official" freeware games and applications. Because of the text messaging system, it features a QWERTY keyboard that was used with a stylus. An MP3 player add-on was made for the unit as well as a SmartMedia card reader. The company stopped manufacturing the units after two product versions and only a few years on the market. Cybikos can communicate with each other up to a maximum range of 300 metres (0.19 miles). Several Cybikos can chat with each other in a wireless chatroom.

Cybiko Classic:

There were two models of the Classic Cybiko. Visually, the only difference was that the original version had a power switch on the side, whilst the updated version used the "escape" key for power management. Internally, the differences between the two models were in the internal memory, and the location of the firmware.

Cybiko Xtreme:

The Cybiko Xtreme was the second-generation Cybiko handheld. It featured various improvements over the original Cybiko, such as a faster processor, more RAM, more ROM, a new operating system, a new keyboard layout and case design, greater wireless range, a microphone, improved audio output, and smaller size.

Tapwave Zodiac

In 2003, Tapwave released the Zodiac. It was designed to be a PDA-handheld game console hybrid. It supported photos, movies, music, Internet, and documents. The Zodiac used a special version Palm OS 5, 5.2T, that supported the special gaming buttons and graphics chip. Two versions were available, Zodiac 1 and 2, differing in memory and looks. The Zodiac line ended in July 2005 when Tapwave declared bankruptcy.

Mid 2000s

Nintendo DS

The Nintendo DS has two screens (the lower of which is a touchscreen), a microphone and Wi-Fi connectivity. Nintendo-DS-Fat-Blue.jpg
The Nintendo DS has two screens (the lower of which is a touchscreen), a microphone and Wi-Fi connectivity.

The Nintendo DS was released in November 2004. Among its new features were the incorporation of two screens, a touchscreen, wireless connectivity, and a microphone port. As with the Game Boy Advance SP, the DS features a clamshell design, with the two screens aligned vertically on either side of the hinge.

The DS's lower screen is touch sensitive, designed to be pressed with a stylus, a user's finger or a special "thumb pad" (a small plastic pad attached to the console's wrist strap, which can be affixed to the thumb to simulate an analog stick). More traditional controls include four face buttons, two shoulder buttons, a D-pad, and "Start" and "Select" buttons. The console also features online capabilities via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection and ad-hoc wireless networking for multiplayer games with up to sixteen players. It is backwards-compatible with all Game Boy Advance games, but not games designed for the Game Boy or Game Boy Color.

On January 2006, Nintendo revealed an updated version of the DS: the Nintendo DS Lite (released on March 2, 2006, in Japan) with an updated, smaller form factor (42% smaller and 21% lighter than the original Nintendo DS), a cleaner design, longer battery life, and brighter, higher-quality displays, with adjustable brightness. It is also able to connect wirelessly with Nintendo's Wii console.

On October 2, 2008, Nintendo announced the Nintendo DSi, with larger, 3.25-inch screens and two integrated cameras. It has an SD card storage slot in place of the Game Boy Advance slot, plus internal flash memory for storing downloaded games. It was released on November 1, 2008, in Japan, and was released in Australia on April 2, 2009, April 3, 2009 in Europe, and April 5, 2009 in North America. On October 29, 2009, Nintendo announced a larger version of the DSi, called the DSi XL, which was released on November 21, 2009.

As of December 31, 2009, the Nintendo DS, Nintendo DS Lite, and Nintendo DSi combined have sold 125.13 million units worldwide. [55]

Game King

The GameKing 2. GameKing2.jpg
The GameKing 2.

The GameKing is a handheld game console released by the Chinese company TimeTop in 2004. The first model while original in design owes a large debt to Nintendo's Game Boy Advance. The second model, the GameKing 2, is believed to be inspired by Sony's PSP. [56] This model also was upgraded with a backlit screen, with a distracting background transparency (which can be removed by opening up the console). A color model, the GameKing 3 apparently exists, but was only made for a brief time and was difficult to purchase outside of Asia. Whether intentionally or not, the GameKing has the most primitive graphics of any handheld released since the Game Boy of 1989. [ citation needed ]

As many of the games have an "old school" simplicity, the device has developed a small cult following. The Gameking's speaker is quite loud and the cartridges' sophisticated looping soundtracks (sampled from other sources) are seemingly at odds with its primitive graphics.

TimeTop made at least one additional device sometimes labeled as "GameKing", but while it seems to possess more advanced graphics, is essentially an emulator that plays a handful of multi-carts (like the GB Station Light II). Outside of Asia (especially China) however the Gameking remains relatively unheard of due to the enduring popularity of Japanese handhelds such as those manufactured by Nintendo and Sony.

PlayStation Portable

PlayStation Portable PSP-2000.jpg
PlayStation Portable

The PlayStation Portable (officially abbreviated PSP) [57] is a handheld game console manufactured and marketed by Sony Computer Entertainment. [58] Development of the console was first announced during E3 2003, [59] and it was unveiled on May 11, 2004, at a Sony press conference before E3 2004. [60] The system was released in Japan on December 12, 2004, [61] in North America on March 24, 2005, [62] and in the PAL region on September 1, 2005. [63]

The PlayStation Portable is the first handheld video game console to use an optical disc format, Universal Media Disc (UMD), for distribution of its games. UMD Video discs with movies and television shows were also released. The PSP utilized the Sony/SanDisk Memory Stick Pro Duo format as its primary storage medium. [64] [65] Other distinguishing features of the console include its large viewing screen, [66] multi-media capabilities, [67] and connectivity with the PlayStation 3, other PSPs, and the Internet. [68] [69]


The Gizmondo Gizmondo.jpg
The Gizmondo

Tiger's Gizmondo came out in the UK during March 2005 and it was released in the U.S. during October 2005. It is designed to play music, movies, and games, have a camera for taking and storing photos, and have GPS functions. It also has Internet capabilities. It has a phone for sending text and multimedia messages. Email was promised at launch, but was never released before Gizmondo, and ultimately Tiger Telematics', downfall in early 2006. Users obtained a second service pack, unreleased, hoping to find such functionality. However, Service Pack B did not activate the e-mail functionality.

GP2X Series

The Game Park Holdings GP2X F-100 GP2X 01.JPG
The Game Park Holdings GP2X F-100

The GP2X is an open-source, Linux-based handheld video game console and media player created by GamePark Holdings of South Korea, designed for homebrew developers as well as commercial developers. It is commonly used to run emulators for game consoles such as Neo-Geo, Genesis, Master System, Game Gear, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Nintendo Entertainment System, TurboGrafx-16, MAME and others.

A new version called the "F200" was released October 30, 2007, and features a touchscreen, among other changes. Followed by GP2X Wiz (2009) and GP2X Caanoo (2010).

Late 2000s


The Dingoo A320 Dingoo A320 White.jpg
The Dingoo A320

The Dingoo A-320 is a micro-sized gaming handheld that resembles the Game Boy Micro and is open to game development. It also supports music, radio, emulators (8 bit and 16 bit) and video playing capabilities with its own interface much like the PSP. There is also an onboard radio and recording program. It is currently available in two colors — white and black. Other similar products from the same manufacturer are the Dingoo A-330 (also known as Geimi), Dingoo A-360, Dingoo A-380 (available in pink, white and black) and the recently released Dingoo A-320E.


PSP Go PSP-Go-FL-Open.jpg

The PSP Go is a version of the PlayStation Portable handheld game console manufactured by Sony. It was released on October 1, 2009, in American and European territories, and on November 1 in Japan. It was revealed prior to E3 2009 through Sony's Qore VOD service. Although its design is significantly different from other PSPs, it is not intended to replace the PSP 3000, which Sony continued to manufacture, sell, and support. On April 20, 2011, the manufacturer announced that the PSP Go would be discontinued so that they may concentrate on the PlayStation Vita. Sony later said that only the European and Japanese versions were being cut, and that the console would still be available in the US. Unlike previous PSP models, the PSP Go does not feature a UMD drive, but instead has 16 GB of internal flash memory to store games, video, pictures, and other media. This can be extended by up to 32 GB with the use of a Memory Stick Micro (M2) flash card. Also unlike previous PSP models, the PSP Go's rechargeable battery is not removable or replaceable by the user. The unit is 43% lighter and 56% smaller than the original PSP-1000, and 16% lighter and 35% smaller than the PSP-3000. It has a 3.8" 480 × 272 LCD (compared to the larger 4.3" 480 × 272 pixel LCD on previous PSP models). The screen slides up to reveal the main controls. The overall shape and sliding mechanism are similar to that of Sony's mylo COM-2 internet device.


Pandora PandoraFront.JPG

The Pandora is a handheld game console/UMPC/PDA hybrid designed to take advantage of existing open source software and to be a target for home-brew development. It runs a full distribution of Linux, and in functionality is like a small PC with gaming controls. It is developed by OpenPandora, which is made up of former distributors and community members of the GP32 and GP2X handhelds.

OpenPandora began taking pre-orders for one batch of 4000 devices in November 2008 and after manufacturing delays, began shipping to customers on May 21, 2010. [70] [71]

FC-16 Go

The FC-16 Go is a portable Super NES hardware clone manufactured by Yobo Gameware in 2009. It features a 3.5-inch display, two wireless controllers, and CRT cables that allow cartridges to be played on a television screen. Unlike other Super NES clone consoles, it has region tabs that only allow NTSC North American cartridges to be played. Later revisions feature stereo sound output, larger shoulder buttons, and a slightly re-arranged button, power, and A/V output layout.


Nintendo 3DS

The original light blue Nintendo 3DS Nintendo-3DS-AquaOpen.jpg
The original light blue Nintendo 3DS

The Nintendo 3DS is the successor to Nintendo's DS handheld. The autostereoscopic device is able to project stereoscopic three-dimensional effects without requirement of active shutter or passive polarized glasses, which are required by most current 3D televisions to display the 3D effect. The 3DS was released in Japan on February 26, 2011; in Europe on March 25, 2011; in North America on March 27, 2011, and in Australia on March 31, 2011. The system features backward compatibility with Nintendo DS series software, including Nintendo DSi software. It also features an online service called the Nintendo eShop, launched on June 6, 2011, in North America and June 7, 2011, in Europe and Japan, which allows owners to download games, demos, applications and information on upcoming film and game releases. On November 24, 2011, a limited edition Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary 3DS was released that contained a unique Cosmo Black unit decorated with gold Legend of Zelda related imagery, along with a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D.

There are also other models including the Nintendo 2DS and the New Nintendo 3DS, the latter with a larger (XL/LL) variant, like the original Nintendo 3DS. The 2DS also has a successor, called the New Nintendo 2DS XL.

Xperia Play

Xperia PLAY Sony-Xperia-Play-Open-FL.jpg
Xperia PLAY

The Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY is a handheld game console smartphone produced by Sony Ericsson under the Xperia smartphone brand. The device runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, and is the first to be part of the PlayStation Certified program which means that it can play PlayStation Suite games. The device is a horizontally sliding phone with its original form resembling the Xperia X10 while the slider below resembles the slider of the PSP Go. The slider features a D-pad on the left side, a set of standard PlayStation buttons ( PlayStationTriangle.svg , PlayStationCircle.svg , PlayStationX.svg and PlayStationSquare.svg ) on the right, a long rectangular touchpad in the middle, start and select buttons on the bottom right corner, a menu button on the bottom left corner, and two shoulder buttons (L and R) on the back of the device. It is powered by a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, a Qualcomm Adreno 205 GPU, and features a display measuring 4.0 inches (100 mm) (854 × 480), an 8-megapixel camera, 512 MB RAM, 8 GB internal storage, and a micro-USB connector. It supports microSD cards, versus the Memory Stick variants used in PSP consoles. The device was revealed officially for the first time in a Super Bowl ad on Sunday, February 6, 2011. On February 13, 2011, at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2011, it was announced that the device would be shipping globally in March 2011, with a launch lineup of around 50 software titles.

PlayStation Vita

PlayStation Vita PlayStation-Vita-1101-FL.jpg
PlayStation Vita

The PlayStation Vita is the successor to Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP) Handheld series. It was released in Japan on December 17, 2011 and in Europe, Australia, North and South America on February 22, 2012.

The handheld includes two analog sticks, a 5-inch (130 mm) OLED/LCD multi-touch capacitive touchscreen, and supports Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and optional 3G. Internally, the PS Vita features a 4 core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor and a 4 core SGX543MP4+ graphics processing unit, as well as LiveArea software as its main user interface, which succeeds the XrossMediaBar.

The device is fully backwards-compatible with PlayStation Portable games digitally released on the PlayStation Network via the PlayStation Store. However, PSone Classics and PS2 titles were not compatible at the time of the primary public release in Japan. The Vita's dual analog sticks will be supported on selected PSP games. The graphics for PSP releases will be up-scaled, with a smoothing filter to reduce pixelation.

On September 20, 2018, Sony announced at Tokyo Game Show 2018 that the Vita would be discontinued in 2019, ending its hardware production. [72] Production of Vita hardware officially ended on March 1, 2019. [73]

Razer Switchblade

The Razer Switchblade was a prototype pocket-sized like a Nintendo DSi XL designed to run Windows 7, featured a multi-touch LCD screen and an adaptive keyboard that changed keys depending on the game the user would play. It also was to feature a full mouse.

It was first unveiled on January 5, 2011, on the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The Switchblade won The Best of CES 2011 People's Voice award. It has since been in development and the release date is still unknown. The device has likely been suspended indefinitely.

Nvidia Shield

Nvidia Shield Portable NvidiaShieldPortable.jpg
Nvidia Shield Portable

Project Shield is a handheld system developed by Nvidia announced at CES 2013. It runs on Android 4.2 and uses Nvidia Tegra 4 SoC. The hardware includes a 5-inches multitouch screen with support for HD graphics (720p). The console allows for the streaming of games running on a compatible desktop PC, or laptop.

Nvidia Shield Portable has received mixed reception from critics. Generally, reviewers praised the performance of the device, but criticized the cost and lack of worthwhile games. Engadget's review noted the system's "extremely impressive PC gaming", but also that due to its high price, the device was "a hard sell as a portable game console", especially when compared to similar handhelds on the market. [74] CNET's Eric Franklin states in his review of the device that "The Nvidia Shield is an extremely well made device, with performance that pretty much obliterates any mobile product before it; but like most new console launches, there is currently a lack of available games worth your time." [75] Eurogamer's comprehensive review of the device provides a detailed account of the device and its features; concluded by saying: "In the here and now, the first-gen Shield Portable is a gloriously niche, luxury product - the most powerful Android system on the market by a clear stretch and possessing a unique link to PC gaming that's seriously impressive in beta form, and can only get better." [76]

Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch in portable mode Nintendo-Switch-wJoyCons-BlRd-Standing-FL.jpg
The Nintendo Switch in portable mode

The Nintendo Switch is a hybrid console that can either be used in a handheld form, or inserted into a docking station attached to a television to play on a bigger screen. The Switch features two detachable wireless controllers, called Joy-Con, which can be used individually or attached to a grip to provide a traditional gamepad form. A handheld-only revision named Nintendo Switch Lite was released on September 20, 2019.

The Switch Lite had sold about 1.95 million units worldwide by September 30, 2019, only 10 days after its launch. [77] Nintendo also announced a brand new color, coral, which came to the market on March 20, 2020. [78]

Timeline of handheld consoles

Notable handheld consoles from before the 90s

Notable handheld consoles of the early 90s

Notable handheld consoles of the late 90s

Notable handheld consoles of the early 2000s

Notable handheld consoles of the mid-2000s

Notable handheld consoles of the late 2000s

Notable handheld consoles of the early 2010s

Notable handheld consoles of the late 2010s

See also

Related Research Articles

The Game Boy family is a line of handheld game consoles developed, manufactured, released and marketed by Nintendo, consisting of the Game Boy and its revisions, the Game Boy Color and the Game Boy Advance family. The product line has sold over 200 million units worldwide.

Game Boy Advance Handheld video game console by Nintendo

The Game Boy Advance (GBA) is a 32-bit handheld game console developed, manufactured and marketed by Nintendo as the successor to the Game Boy Color. It was released in Japan on March 21, 2001, in North America on June 11, 2001, in Australia and Europe on June 22, 2001, and in mainland China on June 8, 2004 as iQue Game Boy Advance. The GBA is part of the sixth generation of video game consoles. The original model does not have an illuminated screen; Nintendo addressed that with the release of a redesigned model with a frontlit screen, the Game Boy Advance SP, in 2003. A newer revision of the redesign was released in 2005, with a backlit screen. The final redesign, the Game Boy Micro, was released in 2005.

Game.com handheld video game console

The Game.com is a fifth-generation handheld game console released by Tiger Electronics in August 1997. A smaller version, the Game.com Pocket Pro, was released in mid-1999. The first version of the Game.com can be connected to a 14.4 kbit/s modem for Internet connectivity, hence its name referencing the top level domain .com. It was the first video game console to include a touchscreen and the first handheld console to include Internet connectivity. The Game.com sold less than 300,000 units and was discontinued in 2000 because of poor sales.

Virtual Boy Video game console developed by Nintendo

The Virtual Boy is a 32-bit tabletop portable video game console developed and manufactured by Nintendo. Released in 1995, it was marketed as the first console capable of displaying stereoscopic "3D" graphics. The player uses the console like a head-mounted display, placing the head against the eyepiece to see a red monochrome display. The games use a parallax effect to create the illusion of depth. Sales failed to meet targets, and Nintendo ceased distribution and game development in 1996, having released only 22 games for the system.

Game Gear handheld game console developed by Sega

The Game Gear is an 8-bit fourth generation handheld game console released by Sega on October 6, 1990 in Japan, in April 1991 throughout North America and Europe, and during 1992 in Australia. The Game Gear primarily competed with Nintendo's Game Boy, the Atari Lynx, and NEC's TurboExpress. It shares much of its hardware with the Master System, and can play Master System games by the use of an adapter. Sega positioned the Game Gear, which had a full-color backlit screen with a landscape format, as a technologically superior handheld to the Game Boy.

WonderSwan handheld video game console by Bandai

The WonderSwan is a handheld game console released in Japan by Bandai. It was developed by Gunpei Yokoi's company Koto Laboratory and Bandai, and was the last piece of hardware Yokoi developed before his death in 1997. Released in 1999 in the fifth generation of video game consoles, the WonderSwan and its two later models, the WonderSwan Color and SwanCrystal were officially supported until being discontinued by Bandai in 2003. During its lifespan, no variation of the WonderSwan was released outside of Japan.

Nintendo DS Nintendo handheld game console

The Nintendo DS, or simply DS, is a dual-screen handheld game console developed and released by Nintendo. The device released globally across 2004 and 2005. The DS, an initialism for "Developers' System" or "Dual Screen", introduced distinctive new features to handheld gaming: two LCD screens working in tandem, a built-in microphone and support for wireless connectivity. Both screens are encompassed within a clamshell design similar to the Game Boy Advance SP. The Nintendo DS also features the ability for multiple DS consoles to directly interact with each other over Wi-Fi within a short range without the need to connect to an existing wireless network. Alternatively, they could interact online using the now-defunct Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service. Its main competitor was Sony's PlayStation Portable during the seventh generation of video game consoles.

PlayStation Portable handheld game console made by Sony

The PlayStation Portable (PSP) is a handheld game console developed and marketed by Sony Computer Entertainment. It was first released in Japan on December 12, 2004, in North America on March 24, 2005, and in PAL regions on September 1, 2005, and is the first handheld installment in the PlayStation line of consoles. As a seventh generation console, the PSP primarily competed with the Nintendo DS.

TurboExpress handheld game console

The TurboExpress is a handheld video game console by NEC Home Electronics, released in late 1990 in Japan and the United States as the TurboExpress Handheld Entertainment System. It is essentially a portable version of the TurboGrafx-16 home console that came two to three years earlier, and was released as the PC Engine GT in Japan. Its launch price in Japan was ¥44,800 and $249.99 in the U.S.

The history of video game consoles, both home and handheld, had their origins in the 1970s. The concept of home consoles used to play games on a television set was founded by the 1972 Magnavox Odyssey, first conceived by Ralph H. Baer in 1966. Handheld consoles bore out from electro-mechanical games that had used mechanical controls and light-emitting diodes (LED) as visual indicators. Handheld electronic games had replaced the mechanical controls with electronic and digital components, and with the introduction of Liquid-crystal display (LCD) to create video-like screens with programmable pixels, systems like the Microvision and the Game & Watch became the first handheld video game consoles, and fully realized by the Game Boy system.

D-pad flat, usually thumb-operated directional control on most modern video game controllers and remote controllers

A D-pad is a flat, usually thumb-operated, often digital, four-way directional control with one button on each point, found on nearly all modern video game console gamepads, game controllers, on the remote control units of some television and DVD players, and smart phones. Like early video game joysticks, the vast majority of D-pads are digital; in other words, only the directions provided on the D-pad buttons can be used, with no intermediate values. However, combinations of two directions do provide diagonals and many modern D-pads can be used to provide eight-directional input if appropriate.

Handheld electronic game very small, portable device for playing electronic games

Handheld electronic games are very small, portable devices for playing interactive electronic games, often miniaturized versions of video games. The controls, display and speakers are all part of a single unit. Rather than a general-purpose screen made up of a grid of small pixels, they usually have custom displays designed to play one game. This simplicity means they can be made as small as a smartwatch, and sometimes are. The visual output of these games can range from a few small light bulbs or LED lights to calculator-like alphanumerical screens; later these were mostly displaced by liquid crystal and vacuum fluorescent display screens with detailed images and in the case of VFD games, color. Handhelds were at their most popular from the late 1970s into the early 1990s. They are the precursors to the handheld game console.

Nintendo Research & Development 1 former Japanese video game development team

Nintendo Research & Development No. 1 Department, commonly abbreviated as Nintendo R&D1, was Nintendo's oldest video game development team. It was known as Nintendo Research & Development Department before splitting in 1978. Its creation coincided with Nintendo's entry into the video game industry, and the original R&D1 was headed by Gunpei Yokoi. The developer has created several notable Nintendo series such as Metroid, Mario Bros., and Donkey Kong.

GP2X Handheld game console

The GP2X is a Linux-based handheld video game console and portable media player developed by South Korean company GamePark Holdings. It was released on November 10, 2005, in South Korea only.

Import gamers are a subset of the video game player community that take part in the practice of playing video games from another region, usually from Japan where the majority of games for certain systems originate.

Game Boy 1989 portable video game console

The Game Boy (GB) is an 8-bit handheld game console developed and manufactured by Nintendo. The first handheld in the Game Boy family, it was first released in Japan on April 21, 1989, then North America, three months later, and lastly in Europe, over a year later. It was designed by the same team that developed the Game & Watch series of handheld electronic games and several Nintendo Entertainment System games: Satoru Okada, Gunpei Yokoi, and Nintendo Research & Development 1.

Nintendo video game consoles Wikimedia list article

The Japanese multinational consumer electronics company Nintendo has developed seven home video game consoles and multiple portable consoles for use with external media, as well as dedicated consoles and other hardware for their consoles. As of September 30, 2015, Nintendo has sold over 722.22 million hardware units.

PlayStation Vita game console developed by Sony Computer Entertainment

The PlayStation Vita is a handheld video game console developed and marketed by Sony Computer Entertainment. It was first released in Japan on December 17, 2011, and in North America, Europe, and other international territories beginning on February 22, 2012. The console is the successor to the PlayStation Portable, and a part of the PlayStation brand of gaming devices; as part of the eighth generation of video game consoles, it primarily competed with the Nintendo 3DS.

The Nintendo DS family is a family of handheld game consoles developed, manufactured, released and marketed by Nintendo.


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