Nintendo introduced the Game Boy around the same time as the Atari’s Lynx and Sega’s Game Gear. Its 4-shade display was technically no match for Game Gear’s 4,096-color backlit display. Its processor had a quarter the power of the Atari Lynx. How did Game Boy win?
Nintendo first introduced the cross direction pad in 1982’s Donkey Kong Game and Watch console. The patented design includes a down-facing hemisphere to act as a fulcrum and silicone pads to provide a soft click feeling. This interface became so fundamental to the modern gaming experience that Nintendo was presented an Emmy at CES ’08 for the design.
Here is the LR35902 processor, running at just 4 MHz. Based on the Intel 8080 and Zilog Z80, the technology was already 10+ years old at the time of the Game Boy’s release — this minimized cost and maximized developer familiarity. The processor is similar, if not slower, than those in calculators such as the TI-83.
Fun fact: according to Michael Johas Teener, former chair of the FireWire working group, the connector design of Game Boy’s link cable inspired that of the original FireWire connector.