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The Real Reason The WonderSwan Was A Total Disaster

Creating and marketing a successful handheld console is no easy feat. The first handheld console ever released was the Microvision, and since then, Nintendo has more or less taken over as the leader in the portable gaming revolution. In fact, Nintendo did it so well, its best-selling console of all time is a portable. But what about other video game companies?


Atari took a shot with the Lynx, which was a handheld console that nearly everyone forgot existed. Sega had both the Game Gear and a Genesis handheld, but neither could compete with the Game Boy. Sony made some notable attempts, but it's probably done making PlayStation handhelds now, and consumers never even got an Xbox handheld. What is Nintendo's secret?

Whatever it may be, even Gunpei Yokoi, the inventor of the Game Boy, was seemingly unable to crack the code once he left Nintendo. This is the real reason why the WonderSwan — Yokoi and Bandai's answer to Nintendo's champion portable — never really caught on with gamers.

Was the WonderSwan an ugly duckling?

How is it possible that another handheld device designed by the man who revolutionized portable gaming was not a success? Luke Plunkett of Kotaku called it "a wonderful little thing," so it must have been a decent system. Why didn't it catch on?


Even though Yokoi died two years before the WonderSwan hit the market, it was still very much his product. Despite innovative features like adjustable settings, internal memory, and versatile screen orientation, Nintendo actually beat the WonderSwan market with the release of its new Game Boy Color. This forced Bandai and Koto Laboratory (makers of the WonderSwan) into a race to keep up with Nintendo.

Soon after the WonderSwan Color came out, yet another iteration of the Game Boy launched, once again leaving the underdog system behind. After one last attempt with the SwanCrystal (which wasn't much of a step-up from the previous model), Bandai and Koto threw in the towel. The WonderSwan never even made it outside of Japan.


According to USgamer, the Pokemon franchise also played a role in the WonderSwan's demise. The WonderSwan debuted at the height of the Pokemon craze, which made it hard for gamers to shift focus away from the Game Boy.