Game Boy Micro wouldn't have happened if this former Nintendo exec had his way

Former NOA president Reggie Fils-Aime
(Image credit: Nintendo)

The Game Boy Micro was the final iteration of the popular Nintendo handheld, but not everyone was won over by its impressively tiny form factor. One such person was former Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé, who reserved a passage in his new book for his thought on the Game Boy Micro.

In the book (transcribed by VGC), Disrupting the Game: From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo, Fils-Aimé writes that he thought the Game Boy Micro was a "nonstarter."

"“The hardware was exceptionally small," writes Fils-Aimé. "Not only were the control buttons difficult for any reasonably sized adult to manipulate, but also the screen was tiny. This ran counter to current consumer electronics trends of making screens larger.

“But development of this hardware had continued, and now we were forced to launch the system. ‘We should have talked about this long ago’, I told [fellow NOA executives] Don James and Mike Fukuda. ‘We should have all agreed that this product would be a distraction for us in our market and either not introduce it here or have it terminated as a project globally. By working together we could have had a different outcome."

Fils-Aimé isn't exactly wrong about the limited appeal of the Game Boy Micro. The pocket-sized handheld performed comparatively meekly on a commercial level, especially compared to the models that came before it.

Fils-Aimé writes in the book that he considered the Game Boy Micro's estimated two million units sold to be "lacklustre results," and admitted he used the handheld as a "teachable moment" for Nintendo as a whole.

Sometimes it's not about sales

Obviously we can see where Fils-Aimé is coming from in his book. The Game Boy line-up of handhelds were always extremely commercially successful. That the Micro broke that trend could be seen as a blemish on the brand's overall high rate of success. 

That's especially so considering that the Game Boy Micro was little more than a smaller Game Boy Advance, and lacked the GBA's backwards compatibility with Game Boy and Game Boy Color cartridges. From the moment of its conception, it was almost guaranteed to be a niche product for Nintendo.

But we'd argue that sometimes, that's okay. The Micro's tiny size and razor-sharp, backlit screen were gorgeous to behold. It's arguably the only Game Boy that can genuinely fit in your pocket, as even the compact clamshell design of the GBA SP was still a little on the bulky side when closed.

Plus, the Micro stood out from the crowd with officially supported changeable faceplates. Quite a lot of these faceplates were manufactured and ranged from alternate colors to ones based on popular Nintendo IP. That touch of customizability shouldn't be understated, as to this day players love adding personal flourishes to their consoles and accessories. See PS5 faceplates or the Xbox Design Lab (which allows gamers to create their very own Xbox Series X controller) for proof of that.

In more recent time, Nintendo has thankfully embraced its penchant for portability. The Nintendo Switch can be played as a fully portable console without the need of a TV, and the console's in-built 720p screen works wonderfully with Nintendo's simple yet colorful aesthetics, especially if you've upgraded to the Nintendo Switch OLED for extra picture clarity.

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.