- 1 of 4
The concept of “second screen gaming” has gained significant traction over the last few years. It may seem like little more than a bullet point on the spec sheets of the PS4 and Xbox One, but secondary screens actually have a long history in the world of gaming. In fact, we’ve been using multiple screens for over three decades now. To better understand this growing trend, let’s take a look at the history of the second screen and examine its evolution in the marketplace.
Game & Watch
Back in 1982, Nintendo began releasing models of its popular handheld series that featured two separate LCD screens in a clamshell configuration. This novel dual-screen design offered substantially more screen space for these mobile games while keeping the device itself small enough to fit into a pocket. Decades later, Nintendo would return to this core dual-screen design with its line of Nintendo DS handhelds to massive success.
Nintendo 64 Transfer Pak
In the 90s, Nintendo was in the unique position of having a popular home console and a popular handheld on the market at the same time. The Kyoto company had toyed with cross-platform compatibility with the Super Game Boy accessory for the SNES, but it wasn’t until the Nintendo 64 rolled around that second screen gaming seriously entered the picture.
With the Transfer Pak accessory, gamers could transfer data between Game Boy and N64 cartridges. For example, Pokémon Stadium used the Transfer Pak extensively to import specific Pokémon from the Game Boy carts for use on the home console. Only a handful of titles ever supported this peripheral, but its impressive feature set remained unparalleled for years to come.
Dreamcast Visual Memory Unit
The Visual Memory Unit (VMU) for the Sega Dreamcast was a bizarre and clever attempt at introducing second screen functionality to the console market. While the VMU’s primary function was that of a standard memory card, it also worked as a small portable gaming system. Famously, Sonic Adventure included a tamagotchi-like mini-game that allowed you to care for a little creature on your VMU, and then import that creature back into the full Dreamcast title. In addition, the small screen could also be used while plugged into a Dreamcast controller, so a number of titles used the VMU to display stats during standard gameplay.
- 1 of 4