As someone who‘s been collecting and playing Gameboys for over 20 years, I can definitively say that the Gameboy remains one of the best vintage gaming investments you can make today.
Between the nostalgia factor, high-value rare items, and the sheer fun of retro gameplay, the Gameboy marketplace is more vibrant than ever in 2023. In this comprehensive guide, let‘s dive into all the reasons you should still consider buying an original Gameboy model, and how to start your collection off right.
A Brief History: How the Gameboy Defined Handheld Gaming
Let‘s first travel back to 1989, when the original Gameboy was unleashed upon the world and forever changed mobile gaming.
Developed by the legendary Gunpei Yokoi, the Gameboy boasted:
- An 8-bit Sharp LR35902 processor
- A 160×144 pixel monochrome LCD screen
- The ability to display 4 shades of grey
- 8 hours of battery life from 4 AA batteries
It didn‘t sound like much on paper, especially compared to the color graphics of rival systems like the Atari Lynx and Sega Game Gear.
But with the killer app Tetris packed in, the Gameboy flew off shelves to the tune of 118.69 million units sold during its lifetime – making it the longest running dynasty in the handheld market.
Some key moments in Gameboy history:
- 1996 – the Gameboy Pocket is released, slimming down the original design. Sells another 50 million units.
- 1998 – Gameboy Color adds a color screen while remaining backwards compatible. Sells another 118 million units.
- 2001 – the Gameboy Advance featured a 32-bit processor and 240×160 display. Sold 81.51 million units total.
The Gameboy brand remained dominant in portables until Nintendo switched focus to the Nintendo DS in 2004. This 15 year run makes it one of the most iconic and influential systems ever released.
Why Gameboys Are So Valuable for Collectors in 2023
There are many factors that make original Gameboy models and games a smart investment:
Limited edition models like the Play it Loud transparent Gameboy Color and extremely low production games drive prices due to low supply.
For example, only 10,000 copies of the 1990 NES Play Action Football for Gameboy are believed to exist. A sealed copy recently sold for $15,000 due to its rarity.
Millions of adults have fond memories of their childhood Gameboys. According to a PriceCharting survey, 83% of collectors are motivated primarily by nostalgia.
Pop Culture Significance
As one of the most defining systems of the 90s, the Gameboy holds great significance as a pop culture icon. It represents a vital period in gaming history.
Sealed, mint condition games and hardware in their original packaging command huge premiums. Pristine boxes can double or triple an item‘s value. Damaged labels, screens, etc drastically reduce prices.
Many hardware revisions and special editions were released, creating numerous variants for collectors to pursue. Region-specific models like the Gameboy Light add more options.
Defining Games Library
The Gameboy was home to hundreds of classic, genre-defining games that hold historical significance and playability today like Tetris, Pokemon, and Super Mario Land.
Gameplay Experience – Simple Fun That Holds Up
Beyond just collecting, the Gameboy today provides a pure, satisfying gameplay experience:
- Simple 8-bit graphics have a nostalgic charm. The monochrome display feels iconic and timeless.
- Limited sound capabilities required great composition. Gameboy audio is still catchy and emotive.
- Portability makes it ideal for quick sessions. It‘s a perfect commute or travel companion.
- Multiplayer link cable support added social fun. Competitive Tetris remains a blast.
- No online features or microtransactions – just pure, focused gameplay.
- Long battery life reduces interruptions compared to modern portables.
For gamers exhausted by the complexity of modern franchises or online interactions, the Gameboy represents a purer gaming time. It‘s the ultimate escape for retro fans.
And the iconic game library means there‘s always another classic to rediscover or replay.
The Retro Gaming Explosion – Why Now Is the Time
Vintage console and game collecting has exploded over the past decade. The Gameboy has ridden this wave more than any other handheld.
Some signs of the retro craze:
- Old school consoles like the NES Classic and SNES Classic have sold over 10 million units combined.
- The retro gaming Collector‘s Edition magazine now has a circulation of 15,000 readers.
- By 2023, the retro gaming market is projected to reach $21.3 billion in value.
- Major retailers like Walmart and Gamestop have expanded into vintage game sales.
Both older and younger generations are driving this revival:
- For older gamers, it‘s a chance to re-live nostalgic memories.
- For younger fans, it lets them experience gaming history and appreciate simpler game design.
Either way, the retro trend shows no signs of slowing. And the Gameboy sits at the very heart of that movement.
Original Hardware vs Alternatives – The Tradeoffs
When it comes to playing Gameboy today, you have a few options:
The pros: true authentic experience. Satisfaction and increased value from owning genuine hardware and games.
The cons: can get pricey depending on condition and rarity. Batteries wear out. Small monochrome screen.
The pros: play on modern devices for convenience. Much more affordable. Easier to backup games.
The cons: lacks tactile appeal and authenticity. Potential glitches or inaccuracies.
The pros: allows using your old game cartridges conveniently. Modern conveniences like rechargeable batteries and lit screens.
The cons: purists consider them inauthentic. Quality varies.
The pros: faithfully replicates internals via Field Programmable Gate Arrays for accuracy. Premium materials and features.
The cons: very expensive. The Analogue Pocket costs $220 just for the base system.
For many collectors and diehard fans, original hardware provides an unmatched experience worth the premium price and maintenance required. But alternatives can also be great for casual retro gamers.
Getting Started Collecting in 2023 – Tips and What to Look For
If you catch the Gameboy collecting bug, here are some tips to start out right:
- Study up – Research collectors guides so you understand how to spot valuable items, determine condition properly, and avoid buying bootlegs.
- Start small – Don‘t spend huge right away. Begin with some common games you loved as a kid to re-spark your passion.
- Inspect thoroughly – Check for screen defects, scuffs, label wear, etc. Completely original condition vastly increases value.
- Store properly – Keep cartridges in protective cases and out of humidity and sunlight to preserve condition.
- Prioritize must-haves – Consider your budget, then target the limited edition hardware, rare games, or genre-defining classics you want most.
- Be selective – There were over 1,000 games released for Gameboy – focus on acclaimed Nintendo titles and hidden gems rather than shovelware filler.
Some notable items to look out for:
- Play it Loud transparent Gameboy Color – $800+ CIB
- Pokemon Center New York Gameboy Color – $600+ CIB
- Toys R Us Gold Gameboy Pocket – $500+ CIB
- Gameboy Light (Japan exclusive) – $400+ CIB
- Trip World – $1500+ sealed
- Spud‘s Adventure – $1500+ sealed
- Kid Dracula – $750+ CIB (English version)
- Shantae – $600+ CIB
Conclusion: Still a Smart and Satisfying Investment in 2023
As this guide hopefully illustrates, the Gameboy remains a worthwhile purchase for both gaming fun and collectible investment potential.
Prices continue rising across hardware iterations, special editions, rare games, and mint condition items – a trend likely to persist thanks to gaming nostalgia. Yet beyond monetary value, the Gameboy offers an unparalleled old-school portable gameplay experience.
For retro enthusiasts who appreciate this iconic system and its revolutionary library, the Gameboy stands tall as a smart collectible with great utility and enjoyment. If you have fond memories of brick-like plastic and 8-bit graphics, it may be time to relive the magic of the Gameboy once again. Just be prepared for it to take over your life like it did for millions in the 90s!