Nintendo had planned to launch a Game Boy Colour peripheral, which would have brought web browsing, messaging and email to the handheld Switch forefather.
A cancelled attachment called the Page Boy would have used the radio wave technology used by pagers, rather than Wi-Fi, to allow portable gamers to enjoy online connectivity, including the ability to email selfies taken with the Game Boy Colour Camera.
There was also a concept for an “Ask Mario” search engine that would have included Mario whistling his own theme tune while results were loaded from the web. The official Nintendo magazine Nintendo Power could have also been made available to Page Boy owners.
Live TV broadcast from Nintendo was also pitched for the device, which was basically 1999’s version of a Nintendo Direct stream we enjoy today. Among the ideas for the device was enabling Page Boy owners to unlock exclusive levels in games, which is very much akin to today’s DLC.
The fascinating revelation comes from the DidYouKnowGaming YouTube channel, in a new episode hosted by gaming historian Liam Robertson. In the video below Liam says that in 1999, Nintendo of America was approached by a former executive following the brainwave from a pair of intrepid UK inventors.
The Page Boy wasn’t the only device of its kind considered by Nintendo in the past. It had previously cancelled a keyboard peripheral for the original Game Boy called the Work Boy, which had a calculator, contacts book, world map and translator. That’s an important page in this story too.
The inventor of the Work Boy, Eddie Gill, came up with the Page Boy, described in the video as a spiritual continuation of the cancelled peripheral. He worked with his brother Christopher on getting Nintendo on side for an official partnership. That’s where ex-Nintendo exec Frank Ballouz, who’d worked with Eddie on the Work Boy, came in.
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While Nintendo initially got on board with the idea and greenlit the Page Boy as a first-party add-on, Nintendo dallied and by 2002, the device wasn’t much closer to a consumer launch. Data connectivity outside of the US would have been difficult and, thus, wouldn’t have stood up as the international product Nintendo had eventually envisioned, thus the Page Boy died a death.