WonderSwan is a 16-bit console released solely in Japan by Bandai in 1999. It launched with a monochrome (8 shades of gray) screen five months after Nintendo Game Boy Color. However, Bandai hoped that the launch will be successful since the monochromatic Game Boy (4 shades of gray) still had more sales than Game Boy Color. But there were other reasons too that Bandai had hopes for the WonderSwan. The initial price was ¥4,800, quite cheap, cheaper than its competitors and needs only 1 AA battery for a 40 hours battery life. Also, some of the games are anime themed games that had started to be licensed at that time.
The "Swan" part of the name is a reference to the swan animal, likely because it is considered a beautiful and elegant animal. The console could be played both vertically and horizontally. Also, it has the ability to store personal info about the player like his/her name, birth date, blood type and use them in the games. The casing colors where decided after a poll in the Bandai Website, something that was repeated for the WonderSwan Color that came after, adding a colored screen to the console and with backwards compatibility. A redesign of the WonderSwan Color console also released by the name SwanCrystal.
WonderSwan along with WonderSwan Color and SwanCrystal had a decent presence in the Japanese market. At some point they had the 8% of the handheld market in a period that Nintendo was
triumphed. A total of 3.5 million units were sold of the WonderSwan family with the original WonderSwan to have 1.55 million units sold. Also, around 10 million game cartridges of the WonderSwan family had been sold. However, the sales were significantly declined when Nintendo launched Game Boy Advance with a much superior hardware. The console was eventually distributed solely in Japan, even if a contract was signed with Mattel in order to expand the distribution to N. America. However, this never happened, likely because of the saturation of the handheld market in N. America. The console discontinued eventually in 2003.
Some of the many accessories of the WonderSwan are:
WonderWitch - an official software development kit aimed at amateur programmers by Qute Corporation that allowed gaming development in the C programming language at a price of ¥11,800.
An adapter for headphone connection - WonderSwan didn't have a headphone jack, so an adapter was created in order to connect headphones to the console.
WonderBorg - A robot that can be remotely controlled by WonderSwan.
WonderWave - a device that allowed the connection to a PocketStation, a memory card peripheral for the PlayStation console.