Monday, August 22, 2005
One of the coolest gadgets coming this fall is Nintendo’s 3rd iteration of the Game Boy Advance line, the Game Boy Advance Micro, Nintendo’s iPod Mini inspired Game Boy design. The company revealed recently the new device, which looks more like a stick of gum or an MP3 player than a gaming machine is scheduled for a September 17th release in North America and will be available in two colors, black and silver for a MSRP of $99.99 or $120 monopoly money for those of us living in Canada. What I really like about this device is the size and utility. This isn’t a PSP but it’s small enough to be dropped into a shirt pocket, and it’s got a ton of games released for the Game Boy Advance that it can already play. The screen is backlit (unlike the GBA SP's front lighting) and of much higher resolution than the SP or GBA (vanilla) screens, which means the physical size of the screen is smaller than the two previous GBAs. It all adds up to a very stylish and functional product.
After its successful line of GBA SP Famicom editions in Japan and GBA SP NES edition in North America, Nintendo is getting the retro ball rolling with the Famicom Micro, just in time to celebrate Mario’s 20th birthday. In stark contrast to the North American retro gaming scene, which is often delegated to ‘TV Game’ units in cheap looking toy-like plastic casings and the occasional breakthrough compilation release, Nintendo’s retro campaign in Japan is unashamed of celebrating the old. After all, the generation of kids who grew up with Mario are now in their twenties, with potentially lots more cash to spend. The new ads (ad #3 and ad #4) looks very well produced and has the chic quality of an iPod spot. The only downside? This limited edition Famicom retro unit costs about ¥ 12,000 or $110 USD.
There is one big negative in all of this. That is the North American foot dragging by Nintendo of America with the Play-Yan media player for the Game Boy Advance / GBA SP / GBA Micro and Nintendo DS. This is a cartridge-sized unit that takes SD memory cards and turns the aforementioned Nintendo handhelds into media players. The Play-Yan Micro is an update on the original Play-Yan, and will be released on September 13 (the same day as the GBA Micro in Japan). The Play-Yan micro has a new firmware update which allows it to play MPEG-4, ASF video formats and MP3s. According to IGN, with the GBA Micro’s, the Play-Yan Micro can play 3 hours of movie files and 10 hours of MP3s, the numbers are higher for the Nintendo DS where its higher capacity batteries allow up to 20 hours of MP3 playback and 5 hours of video playback. Nintendo of America did in fact apply for Pocket Video trademark a while ago that many suspect is the North American name of Play-Yan. Unfortunately, nothing seems to have come of it. Barring any surprise product announcements between now and November, the latest we could see Play-Yan released this side of the Pacific is sometime next year.