Pokémon mini (2002)

The Pokémon mini was a handheld game console, and the smallest game system to use cartridges weighing in at just 70g. It was introduced by Nintendo in 2001 (reaching Europe in 2002).

Only 10 cartridges (up to 512 KB in capacity, and a similar size to a Nintendo DS card) were released for the console, each themed around the Pokémon brand, with the last being released in Japan in December 2002 (Pokémon Breeder). It was sold in toy shops, and was seen as a children’s toy rather than a serious game system.

The Pokémon mini offered features such as force feedback, a shock detector and an infrared port for multiplayer gaming but had a small monochrome screen and monophonic sound. It was available in three colours, Wooper Blue, Smoochum Purple and Chikorita Green.

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Nokia N-Gage card (2003 – 2006)

The Nokia N-Gage was a combined phone and handheld game console, launched in 2003.

To compete with Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance, Nokia included a phone in the N-Gage. Unfortunately, this meant the buttons were not suited to gaming, and the phone’s speaker and microphone were built into the side of the device meaning users had to hold the device at right angles to their head, leading to the nickname of the ‘Taco phone’ (due to its shape). Some of its core features were impressive for its time, like Bluetooth connectivity and an on-board MP3 and video player.

Games for the N-Gage were distributed on MultiMediaCards, but to put the card into the device meant removing the back of the N-Gage along with the battery. A re-design in 2004 as the N-Gage QD moved the card slot to the outside of the device, but sales continued to be poor and only around 3 million were sold over its lifetime. Over 50 games were made available for the N-Gage range, but there were no ‘must-have’ titles (there were some big titles such as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Call of Duty, and Pandemonium, but these were also available on other consoles).

Games continued to be released until 2006, but the device had already been withdrawn from Western markets in 2005 by which time the Sony PlayStation Portable and the Nintendo DS were on the market.

The N-Gage name lived on until 2010 as the name of a platform for online distribution of games to later Nokia smartphones.

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Sega Visual Memory Unit (VMU) (1999 – 2001)

The Sega Visual Memory Unit or VMU was used in the Sega Dreamcast. The Dreamcast was the first sixth-generation video game console, preceding the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube, and was initially successful in the US. However, interest declined as hype around the launch of the PlayStation 2 increased, and Sega suffered significant losses, discontinuing the Dreamcast in 2001 and withdrawing from the video game console market.

The Visual Memory Unit was a 128 KB memory card that plugged into the controller. Unlike other memory cards for game consoles, the Visual Memory Unit contained a small LCD screen, speaker and control buttons so it could be used as a minimal handheld console separately from the Dreamcast. It could also convey secret gameplay information to the player via the controller.

The Visual Memory Unit also had file manager capabilities, a clock and calendar. They could be connected to another Visual Memory Unit for multiplayer gaming or transfer of files.

The standard Visual Memory Unit colour was white, but many other colours were released, and some branded Visual Memory Units were released in Japan, such as Sonic Team and Hello Kitty.

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Xbox 360 Memory Unit (2005 – 2010)

The Xbox 360 Memory Unit was a flash-based memory card for the first series of the Xbox 360, a sixth generation game console introduced in 2005.

The memory card was available in three capacities – 64, 256 and 512 MB – and allowed the transfer of saved games, unique gamer profiles, and content downloaded from Xbox Live Marketplace to other Xbox 360 consoles. Some game saves and downloaded content could not be copied to memory cards, and what content could be moved was up to the discretion of the individual video game developer.

The Xbox 360 Memory Card was phased out in 2010 with the release of the Xbox 360 S.

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Sony PlayStation 2 Memory Card (2000 – 2013)

The PlayStation 2 Memory Card was a proprietory flash memory cartridge for the Sony PlayStation 2 game console, released in 2000.

Used for saving game play progress, the capacity of the official Sony Memory Card was 8 MB but some third party manufacturers made unofficial cards with higher capacities.

The PlayStation 2 was backward-compatible with the original PlayStation Memory Card, which had a capacity of 1MB and more rounded corners.

The PlayStation 2 was discontinued in 2013.

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Nintendo GameCube (2002 – 2007)

The Nintendo GameCube was a sixth-generation video game console introduced in 2001 in Japan and the US (it became available in Europe in 2002) and was the successor to the Nintendo 64. It was the first console in Nintendo’s history not to offer a Mario platform title at launch.

The GameCube was Nintendo’s first console to move away from cartridge-based media altogether, although Nintendo had previously experimented with other storage technologies (namely the Famicom Disk System, and the 64DD).

The GameCube discs were designed by Panasonic, and were a proprietary version of the miniDVD format with a different encryption system to prevent copying. As a result of the use of smaller size discs, the standard system couldn’t play DVD-Video or Compact Discs. GameCube discs had a capacity of 1.5 GB which meant some larger games had to be spread over two discs.

Reception of the GameCube was mixed, but it sold approximately 22 million units and more than 600 games were released for the GameCube before it was discontinued in 2007. Its successor, the Wii, was released in 2006.

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Nintendo Game Boy Advance (2001 – 2007)

The Nintendo Game Boy Advance was a handheld game console introduced by Nintendo in 2001 as a successor to the Game Boy Color.

It was compatible with all existing Game Boy and Game Boy Colour cartridges.

In 2003, a redesigned version, the Game Boy Advance SP was introduced with a new folding case and brighter LCD screen. In 2005, a smaller variant, the Game Boy Micro, was introduced. This version was not compatible with Game Boy and Game Boy Colour cartridges.

From 2004 to 2007, it was possible to buy Game Boy Advance Video cartridges containing cartoon episodes or even full-length animated movies.

It was discontinued in Europe in 2007, having been superseded by the Nintendo DS, but by the end of its life it had sold over 81 million units worldwide.

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GD-ROM (1999 – )

GD-ROM (Gigabyte Disc Read-Only Memory) is an optical disc format developed by Yamaha for the Sega Dreamcast game console, as well as some Sega arcade machines.

The Dreamcast was the first sixth-generation video game console, preceding the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube. The Dreamcast  was initially successful in the US, but interest declined as hype around the launch of the PlayStation 2 increased. Sega suffered significant losses, discontinuing the Dreamcast in 2001 and withdrawing from the video game console market.

Although very similar to a CD-ROM, it offers 1.2 GB storage capacity, almost double that of a CD-ROM. It also offered greater protection against piracy, and it avoided having to pay royalties to the DVD Forum.

The decision not to go with DVD technology was cited as one reason for the failure of the Dreamcast console.

There are different areas on a GD-ROM disc. The first is in conventional CD format, and usually contains an audio track with a warning that the disc is for use on a Dreamcast, not an ordinary CD player. This section can also contain data readable in PCs. After a separator track, the final (outer) area of the disc contains the game data itself in a higher density format. This section is 112 minutes long, with a data size of 1.2 GB.

The greater storage capacity is achieved by decreasing the speed of the disc to half and by letting the standard CD-ROM components read the more closely packed pits at the normal rate thus nearly doubling the disc’s data density.

The Dreamcast was discontinued in 2001, but the GD-ROM continued to be used in various Sega arcade machines.

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