The video game industry is gadget-mad by nature. After all, home video games started out as nothing more than electronic toys for the wealthy. Myself, I'm a utilitarian gamer who rarely has more than the standard console with the standard settings at any given time...
Mostly because I still haven't forgiven the Virtual Boy from sucking so hard a secret cabal of vacuum cleaner manufacturers set out to destroy it.
That said, I remain fascinated by the sort of things people will tack onto a system to try to hit upon the next big thing. Here we go again searching for those magic pieces of plastic, this time in the handheld systems.
Game Boy Pocket Sonar: Japan loves fishing. Seriously, have you ever stopped to consider how many fishing mini-games there are in unrelated titles? Damn near every Final Fantasy has one, Zelda has them, fishing mini-games are more common than almost any other. Your uncle who goes fishing every weekend? He's a lake-hugging hippie compared to most video games made in Japan.
So it makes perfect sense than in Japan you could buy a peripheral that would turn your Game Boy into a fish finder that used and displayed actual sonar. Retailing for almost 15,000 yen and made by Bandai, it used sonar just like any other fish finder. Think about the awesomeness of the concept for a moment... you can play your Game Boy on the ride to the fishing hole to keep from getting bored. Once there, you can hook up the peripheral to fish, and if the fish aren't biting that's fine because there's a fishing mini-game included in the device that let's you fish in real life!
Did anyone else just realize that that scene in the first American Godzilla where the monster is reeled in by a hapless fisherman is one of the greatest cultural satires ever written?
Nintendo DS Digital TV Tuner: if anything, the DS and the 3DS have actually ramped up the number of bizarre accessories. Here's another one that's unfortunately a Japan exclusive; a TV tuner that turns your DS into a portable TV screen! And yes, it has rabbit ears because unlike us, Japan knows if you're going to do something like this it's worth doing right.
Debuting in 2007 the device is designed to pick up Japanese digital television signals. There are no plans to convert it to American or European use since we use different digital TV formats. Besides that, the all-in-one entertainment aspect of the Wii U sort of renders the idea a little pointless, at least in your own home. On the other hand, can you put a price on something that looks like it came right out of Doc Brown's workshop?
Barcode Boy: One weird thing you discover in researching the history of Nintendo handhelds is how often truly cutting-edge technology wound up being used on them. The Game Boy Camera was the smallest digital camera ever made when it was released, and the Pokewalker for the DS was determined by a study at Iowa State to be one of the most accurate pedometers ever invented. It's like having tiny electronic X-Men that no one ever notices.
For example, you know how these days you can scan every barcode and QR code with your iPhone for deals, offers, information, and the like? Nintendo was doing that as far back as 1992 with the Barcode Boy accessory. It was unwieldy as all get out since this was before Wi-Fi and every interaction required a link cable, but there's no doubt it was the same concept. You could scan special codes included in merchandise for extras, and at least one game. Monster Maker: Barcode Saga was developed.
GlucoBoy: If you clicked on that Game Boy link earlier you would have see that at one time a doctor was trying to use a Game Boy to administer anesthesia via high scores. Honestly, if you read that in a William Gibson novel you'd think it was outlandish, but it was totally true, and he wasn't the only one trying to integrate Nintendo handhelds into the health industry.
Paul Wessel debuted his GlucoBoy in Australia on World Diabetes Day. The idea was to enable a rewards system for constantly checking your blood sugar levels, resulting in new mini-games and other rewards. As of 2007 Wells was still seeking approval from Nintendo to make it an official peripheral for the Game Boy Advance, though it was also usable for the DS via the GBA slot.
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Work Boy: Yet another place that the Game Boy was light years ahead of its time was the idea that you could use it as a word processor. Granted, I'm not sure what good that would do, unless you combined it somehow with the Game Boy Printer or sent messages to another player via a link cable, but still, think about the sheer number of standard smartphone apps were already in the works for the freakin' Game Boy!
Seriously, someone was trying to invent the smartphone in 1992 in the same piece of unwieldy plastic you played Tetris on. In addition to the keyboard, the software that came with the Work Boy had a calendar, clock, contact list, and apps that a measurement conversion one year before the IBM Simon was shown off. I'm starting to think Samsung and Apple need to cut Nintendo a check.