Games aiming to be blockbuster hits require much more than they did ten years ago. Larger teams with specific skills, longer development cycles, along with painfully longer testing and debugging all cost much more money. With continually growing development costs, publishers have always been looking for ways to keep costs reasonable while getting a competitive product to market. Enter the Gameboy.
Handhelds have always carried on a tradition of having shorter-than-console development cycles and lower costs. Due to the Gameboy Advance’s limited power compared to all other platforms, games tend to be of a more simplistic nature. Also, because of the low price of the system, many parents are more inclined to buy one for their young ones over any other handheld. This puts the GBA in a perfect spot for low-budget publishers. Any intellectual property (IP) they own can quickly have a game designed around it, and be in stores in a matter of a few months.
While this is great for publishers looking for some quick cash, it also floods the market with a plethora of bad, simple games for the younger audience. Most parents who buy games for their children are generally uneducated when it comes to making a game purchase. Publishers recognize this, and know that only the intellectual property they slap on the game cover – whether it is a movie or a cartoon, etc – is enough to sell the game. So what this equates to is a large quantity of get-rich-quick games sitting on the shelf amongst the few remaining quality titles still in production for the system.
The problem has always existed, but now that the GBA is nearing the end of its lifespan, the number of quality games in development isare few and far between. With no new worthy projects being undertaken by developers, the GBA’s glory days seem to be at an end. Sales are continually dropping as the Nintendo DS shadows its predecessors with backwards compatibility and improvements in every area.
The Gameboy, in any of its forms has had some amazing successes, don’t get me wrong. As far as handhelds go I hold it in the highest regard because of many well designed games. It has carried on the true legacy of Castlevania and Metroid, created its own such as Pokémon and Golden Sun, and has had a countless number of games in every genre worth playing. Some of the best puzzle games I have played have been on the Gameboy systems. But, this is unfortunately the past. While the Nintendo DS is poised to pick up where the GBA glory days left off, it still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
The GBA will keep its grandeur for those who remember it, but its future is bleak, consisting of cookie-cutter cartoon games and movie titles designed to be cash cows. It’s sad to see developers treat a system like this, but it’s not their fault. They only care about money, and as far as this little handheld is concerned, it’s easy to be made.
Editorial by Don Komarechka
Presented by Electric Pickle Online
Originally posted March 22, 2006