Subscribe to Nintendo Life on YouTube
Last year, famous video game historian and occasional contributor to Nintendo Life, Liam Robertson, revealed the story of The Work Boy, a never-before-seen accessory that had the power to turn the humble Game Boy into a powerful productivity tool. Now, a year later, Robertson is back with another investigation—this time about a device that might have given us the Internet on Game Boy Colors in 1999.
Dubbed the Big Boy, the device is said to have used wireless transmission to connect Game Boy Color owners to a wide range of information, such as weather reports, sports titles, and even live TV broadcasts — as well as between them. He also suggested that the device could be used with a Game Boy camera so that users could send picture messages to each other, years before the concept of “selfie” became popular. It will be powered by two AA batteries and will have its own cartridge slot, while maintaining compatibility with all Game Boy games and accessories.
The company behind the device, Wizard, is derived from Source, the same UK-based company that introduced the Work Boy prototype. The magician pitched the idea to Nintendo of America—it even went so far as to produce physical mockups and user interface samples—and got a positive reaction; Nintendo could see the obvious potential of an add-on that not only encourages users to spend more time with their Game Boy Color consoles, but could also be a way the company can promote its products more directly; The Live TV component can easily be considered an introduction to current Nintendo Direct broadcasts. It was also possible to add additional content to games when used with the Page Boy, or upload high scores to a live database.
Photos: Liam Robertson/Magician
Robertson spoke to people familiar with the project and was able to find simulated screens showing how the device worked; The suggestion was to make Mario the main focus of the interface and even have him speak and sing melodies while the content loads.
Other innovations — seemingly way ahead of 1999 — included the ability to vibrate the device when messages arrived, and a clip on the back that allowed the user to attach a Game Boy Color and Page Boy to their belt buckle. While the technology was primitive by modern standards, it’s easy to see where Wizard has been with this product; It’s not a million kilometers from a modern smartphone.
Sadly, Page Boy never saw the light of day, with Nintendo’s enthusiasm waning when he discovered that the technology in question would only work in North America and could not be deployed in other major regions, such as Japan and Europe. Ultimately, the project was scrapped before functional physical models were produced or any software coded. All that remains are a selection of overview materials and screenshots – it’s unclear what happened to the non-functional units that were designed to be shown on Nintendo.
Of course, a little over half a decade later, Nintendo will adopt many of these same ideas with the Nintendo DS and Wii — making you wonder if Page Boy is having an impact.
“Hipster-friendly tv trailblazer. Problem solver. Infuriatingly humble introvert. Reader. Student. Subtly charming bacon maven.”