gbsidekick Wii U

Nintendo worked on gaming phone with Sidekick creator in 2004


Danger is best known for being the company that designed the Sidekick mobile phone. The Sidekick dominated the premium phone market for a long time before Apple/Google took everything over.

One lesser known detail about their history is that they were working with Nintendo in 2004 to make a Sidekick-Game Boy Advance hybrid that had an app store where you could download classic Game Boy games and more. It sounds like the origins of the Virtual Console and more.

Former Danger employee Chris Salvo revealed:

This let us do the following demo: start a Gameboy game and be watching regular Gameboy video. Then you’d receive a phone call and the Gameboy game would magically pause, and a hiptop alert window would display over top of the Gameboy video asking if you wanted to answer the call. As soon as the call was over the game would resume.

Not only that but this GBA/Phone device sounds like it would have explored digital distribution years before Nintendo’s Wii Shop Channel hit:

Since we had our network, and an app store, that seemed like a great way to distribute Gameboy ROMs. We got all of that working too. You could browse Gameboy games in the app store, pick one, buy it, download it, and be playing it in seconds with no need to haul cartridges around with you.

Danger even started working on making this product a real thing and Nintendo loved it. Sadly the project fizzled out as Salvo says:

The executives at Nintendo were blown away. They absolutely loved it. Unfortunately…Nintendo’s license for all of the games in their catalog didn’t include rights for electronic distribution. That, coupled with the need to take new screenshots, and write new catalog copy in electronic format, determine pricing, etc. meant that there was just no way we could have gotten a big enough catalog of titles built up in time for Christmas that year. The next window would have been graduation season the following year. The whole project fizzled out and died, but damn it was cool.

Can you imagine how different the whole “Nintendo should go mobile” debate would be now if Danger had successfully made this device for Nintendo? The idea of it alone gives me a giant mindfuck at the potential.

Nintendo is often known for not wanting to work with outside companies but in this case Danger must have really blown their socks off to get them on board for this.

We’ll never know how this could have worked, joining the Nintendo Playstation as a big what-if in gaming history.