It's easy to forget how hit and miss the console business is. What's going to be the selling point for this particular generation? Good graphics? A cheap price point? A killer launch app? A mix of things? In the case of the Game Boy, it was the combination of lower-end hardware and a competitive price point that saw it trounce the opposition for many, many years.
Over on YouTube, JackTech has produced this great video (which looks like it'll become a series) on the hardware inside the Game Boy. While the first part here covers the CPU, the clip itself starts with a bit of background on the handheld's history:
Despite being incredibly successful, the Game Boy was quite underpowered for its time. The Sega Game Gear was released just a year later sporting a back-lit, full colour LCD and almost direct ports of games for its older sibling, the Master System.
So how did the Game Boy come out on top?
[Nintendo's] decision to use older, simpler components and a monochrome display meant that [its] device launched at a price $US60 lower than [its] eventual competitor. [It also] sported an amazing 30 hours of battery life, compared to the Game Gear's five.
To say Nintendo nailed exactly what the Game Boy had to be — an affordable, portable gaming device that would provide over a day's worth of entertainment on a single charge — is an understatement.
I should note the first video is about a week old; since then, JackTech has posted another clip that addresses some errors in the original.