By:Ravi Hiranand October 10, 2002 11:52 AM PDT
After yesterday's news of a Game Boy Advance 2 from British website CVG, the new issue of British magazine Edge has the full story on the new handheld, with details from "industry insiders" and even a sketch of what it will look like.
According to Edge's sources, the new GBA will be backlit, answering the prayers of gamers everywhere. They go on to suggest that Nintendo are considering allowing consumers to upgrade their original GBA for around $16 to include a light, but say that the new GBA is supposedly much more than that.
Noting that Nintendo's last backlit Game Boy, the Japan-only Game Boy Pocket Light (with an indiglo screen -- yuck!), failed because of extra bulk and extra batteries, they claim that the new GBA will have a new flip-top shape and use a slimline battery (like a cellphone) that lasts for the standard ten hours before needing a recharge. The new GBA, with lid closed, will have virtually the same shape as the original. When you open the lid, the bottom half houses the directional pad and four face buttons (with select and start moved to the middle with the speaker, where the screen used to be) while the top has a much larger screen. It's apparently a new TFT model from Sharp with variable contrast.
And yes, I said four face buttons (the two shoulder buttons are still there, too). Because they claim Nintendo aren't stopping with just throwing in a backlight, better screen, new shape and new battery. They're throwing in more buttons. But again, that's not all. The new GBA will also have a newer, more powerful processor. And more onboard RAM. It'll be compatible with all existing GBA games, but no mention is made of new games for this GBA 2 or of backwards compatibility with older Game Boy games.
The kicker? It's due out as soon as November (November 2002, as in next month) in Japan, December in the United States, and February or March 2003 in Europe.
If you're feeling a bit skeptical... well, we can't blame you, because we are too. On the one hand, Edge is a highly reputable source. But on the other, there seem to be some holes that just can't be ignored. A new, backlit GBA, possibly with a new screen or new battery (and thus a new shape to accommodate it) is perfectly reasonable, and something insiders have even suggested to us. GBA's screen is a problem, and gamers want a backlit screen (see the Afterburner, aka Portable Monopoly), so it's not hard to see Nintendo moving to correct it -- the multiple versions of Game Boys in the past shows they're not afraid to mix things up.
But when you throw in a new processor, more RAM, and more buttons, you're suddenly splitting the market with multiple systems (and therefore, multiple games for each system) -- something that Sega did many times, to their ultimate peril. The fact is -- as Edge acknowledges -- the GBA is one of the fastest selling systems ever. But would you buy a GBA when GBA2 is only months away? Of course not. Nintendo aren't dumb -- so why would they kill the sales of something which still has so much life left in it?
One telling part of Edge's report is that they acknowledge at the end that Nintendo are testing both a normal, two-button backlit GBA and another four-button backlit GBA, keeping the door open for the new GBA to simply be a backlit version of the current model -- which we'd argue is the likeliest option. More telling is the fact that, for a console set to be released within a month, there is no mention of any new software for the new system.
Again, Edge is a reputable source, so we can't really dismiss anything. But there are some rather unbelievable claims here that make the report somewhat hard to swallow.