On the DidYouKnowGaming? YouTube channel, independent games journalist Liam Robertson has released a new episode of Game History Secrets that exclusively reveals a lost Game Boy Color add-on called Nintendo Page Boy, which would have introduced a “world of wireless communication to Game Boy Color users: including email, web browsing, photo messaging,” world news, sports results, weather forecasts, and more. There was even a hope that users would take pictures with Game Boy Camera and send them to each other in messages — selfies, in other words.
The device was proposed and developed more than 20 years ago by Eddie Gill, architect of the WorkBoy, and his brother, Christopher Gill. The technology used radio waves in the same way that two-way pagers did back then, which led to the Game Boy Color add-on device being called Page Boy. In order to get the device in front of Nintendo, whose first-party support would be required to get such ambitious wireless communication technology off the ground, the Gills reached out to Frank Ballouz, a former Nintendo executive whom they had also collaborated with for WorkBoy. Ballouz liked Nintendo Page Boy, so he set up a meeting with Nintendo of America (NOA) that included NOA president Minoru Arakawa, chairman Howard Lincoln, and engineering head Wayne Alan Shirk.
Their demonstration included concept images and even physical models of how it would look. Robertson was able to recover a demo of the Nintendo Page Boy software demo, which had a Mario theme and surprisingly robust features, including a proposed “Ask Mario” search engine of sorts. There was even a proposal to make a digital version of the magazine Nintendo Power available through the software. The features go even deeper than that, (You really ought to watch the full video.) and it was planning to offer nearly all of it for free, except for the purchase of Nintendo Page Boy itself, which would have been around $50. (The device also would have run on two AA batteries.)
NOA liked Page Boy and agreed to explore its release as a first-party Game Boy peripheral, giving it the codename “Cheetah.” Further proposals considered enabling Page Boy to unlock additional content in assorted Game Boy games via radio wave authentication. Development spanned from 1999 to around July 2002, but what ultimately killed the development of Page Boy was that its technology just wasn’t practical enough for the international audience Nintendo had been hoping to target; it only would have been technologically feasible in the United States. Apparently no physical prototype was ever completed, and basically all materials related to the device are included in the Game History Secrets video.
As Robertson neatly explains, Nintendo Page Boy proved to be just too ahead of its time, as so many of its features soon became mainstream in one way or another.
It was a year ago today that Liam Robertson published his groundbreaking research video unearthing the other aforementioned lost Game Boy add-on, WorkBoy.