The Game Boy Color was released in 1998, a few years before the earliest and crudest smartphones had hit the market. Back then, the internet was still fairly new and the idea of carrying around a single device that could email people, search the web, send photos and stream live videos was years and years away. But if a canceled Game Boy Color accessory, the PageBoy, had seen the light of day, you might have been doing all that alongside Mario via a single add-on.
The Page Boy was uncovered by video game historian, researcher, and journalist Liam Robertson. In a video out today, Roberston revealed a whole bunch of details and images of the proposed device for the first time.
This odd device was planned to use radio transmission technology to let Game Boy Color owners search for information and read international news, game magazines, weather reports, sports scores, and even, most ambitiously, watch live television. This tech would also allow users to contact and message other PageBoy owners. This radio transmission technology at the time was heavily used by pagers, which is actually where the PageBoy name came from.
Roberston spoke to some folks who worked on the PageBoy project with Nintendo about the device and how it came to be and what ultimately killed it before it saw the light of day. According to those involved, after a meeting with Nintendo of America in 1999, the company was excited about the potential for the PageBoy, and for the next three years, Nintendo worked with Wizard—a group created to help manage the device—to see if this add-on could actually be created and if it would end up being profitable.
While Nintendo was impressed by many of PageBoy’s features, including the ability to send images using the Game Boy camera and even the potential for Nintendo to send live videos to PageBoy owners via the radio transmission tech, it ran into a major roadblock. The device relied on radio networks that only existed in a select few parts of the world, like the United States, greatly limiting the device’s customer base. According to Robertson, he was told that Nintendo believed the key to Game Boy’s success was how universal the hardware was, allowing users around the world to play the same games with the same features.
So, because of this, Nintendo reportedly canceled the project in July 2002. However, as pointed out by Roberston, many of the ideas proposed by Wizard for the PageBoy would end up becoming a reality in the years that followed. The idea of using live video to announce games to its fanbase is basically what Nintendo Directs are and the idea of sending messages and cute pictures to folks would be a feature in the Wii U and 3DS consoles. In a way, the PageBoy was ahead of its time, leading to it never seeing the light of day.