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Neo Geo is a series of game consoles and handhelds developed by SNK. The consoles were notable in the 90's for being unusually powerful for their time, while their handhelds are special in that they are the only notable recurring competitors of Nintendo's Game Boy series.
SNK fist released Neo Geo-branded hardware in 1990, as a couple of arcade cabinets. A home console based on the hardware, simply called the Neo Geo, was released on January 31 of that year, and in 1991 in America. Although only initially available for rentals, due to the system's cost, it soon became clear that a niche market was available for a highly priced console. In America, the Neo Geo launched at $599, including two game controllers and one of a few select games.
Compared to other consoles of the era, particularly the ancient NES, the Neo Geo boasted far more impressive graphics and sound. From a technical viewpoint, the system was powerful enough to remain relevant into the mid 90's, and was only discontinued in 1997. Even then, however, Neo Geo games continued to be made into the 2000's. Although it never became a mainstream system, the Neo Geo grew a legion of devoted fans. One of these fans, Tom Fulp of The Behemoth, would eventually create a website named "Newgrounds" in honor of the Neo Geo.
Neo Geo CD
The Neo Geo CD, released in September 1994, was the direct successor of the original Neo Geo. Rather than being a full replacement, however, the console was designed to simply lower costs. The games in particular were usually marketed at $50, compared to the hundreds of dollars that the Neo Geo's cartridges cost.
The Neo Geo CD is largely overlooked by history due to most of its games being Neo Geo ports. The console's infamously slow loading times also prevented it from being a success, as did competition from more mainstream consoles like the Sega Saturn.
Neo Geo Pocket
The Neo Geo Pocket was the first handheld in the Neo Geo family. It was released in 1998, and was only released in Japan and several other Asian markets. Sales for the system were lower than expected, due in large part to the continued success of the Game Boy line, including the Game Boy Color, which also was released in 1998. The system was quickly discontinued.
Neo Geo Pocket Color
Unlike its immediate successor, the Neo Geo Pocket Color was a moderate success. Released on March 16, 1999 in Japan, on August 6 in America, and on October 1 in Europe, the Neo Geo Pocket Color created a niche despite competition from the highly successful Game Boy series.
Releasing at a price point of about $70 worldwide, the Neo Geo Pocket Color was similar in specifications to the Game Boy Color, with nearly identical resolution, slightly less power, and an increased battery life using the same 2 standard AA batteries. It was also backwards compatible with the original Neo Geo Pocket, and like the Game Boy, could use link cables to connect systems.
Although most of the Neo Geo Pocket Color's games were published by SNK themselves, Sega released their own Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure for the system in 1999 and 2000 worldwide. Along with games such as Bust-a-Move, King of Fighters, Fatal Fury, Metal Slug, and Samurai Shodown, the console eventually developed a respectable library, albeit one a fraction of the size of the Game Boy Color's.
The Neo Geo Pocket Color would be receive its last game in 2002, the same year it was discontinued. The handheld sold 3 million units in Japan alone over its life.
Neo Geo Portable
In 2001, Nintendo released the Game Boy Advance, a system that could emulate Super Nintendo classics as well as playing brand new games. This led to a dramatic cut in Neo Geo Pocket Color sales, even after the price for a Pocket Color was cut. Responding to these low numbers, and eager to port their own classic library to the handheld market, SNK released the Neo Geo Portable on December 9, 2001, with a Western release coming the next year.
Unlike prior Neo Geo handhelds, the Neo Geo Portable was actually more powerful than the original Neo Geo. This meant that it could play closely emulated versions of Neo Geo games, with few limitations.
The Neo Geo Portable was bulkier than the Game Boy Advance, but still easily portable. It had the remarkably high resolution of 320 by 224, the same as the original Neo Geo, and 256 KB of RAM. Due in particular to the screen's high resolution, the Neo Geo Portable debuted at about $150 worldwide, slightly more than the Game Boy Advance. However, its price was soon dropped.
The Neo Geo Portable was SNK's most successful platform yet in some ways. Through its years of life, it sold 8.2 million units of hardware. Although this was only a small fraction of what the Game Boy Advance sold, it was enough for SNK to remain a player in an industry dominated by Nintendo. In addition, about 40 million units of software were sold for the platform.
One of the Neo Geo Portable's saving graces was the presence of the Sonic Portable series from Sega. The original Sonic Portable was a launch title for the Portable, and two more successful sequels followed. Furthermore, Sega would release several other games for the system, including ChuChu Rocket! and Columns. This support from the console-oriented Sega provided the Neo Geo Portable with enough games to keep it a viable platform.
List of Best Selling Games
- Sonic Portable - 2.1 million
- Namco Museum - 2.0 million
- ChuChu Rocket - 1.8 million
- Sonic Portable 2 - 1.7 million
- Sonic Portable 3 - 1.4 million
- Shining Soul - 0.8 million
- Sonic Battle - 0.6 million
- Samurai Shodown - 0.5 million
Neo Geo Gold
The Neo Geo Gold was SNK's fourth handheld, and was an ambitious project for the company. Released in late 2005, ahead of the much anticipated Game Boy Nitro, the Neo Geo Gold was meant to seize a portion of the market from the Game Boy brand.
The Neo Geo Gold, which kept the resolution of its predecessor but had 4 MB of RAM, launched at $150. Launch titles included Metal Slug 5 and Sonic Gold from Sega. Furthermore, the system was fully backwards compatible with the Neo Geo Portable, giving it an instant library of quality games.
However, despite significant support from SNK, including both arcade ports and original titles, the Neo Geo Gold is widely considered a failure. The system barely moved 4 million units during its life, or about 2% of what the Game Boy Nitro sold. Furthermore, a large portion of these units were sold before the release of the Game Boy Nitro, as sales dropped dramatically upon its release. This was due to a number of factors, including the Nitro's greater power, its similar price point, the mass of quality titles from first and third parties on the Nitro, and less support from Sega than for the Neo Geo Portable.
The Neo Geo Gold was quietly discontinued in 2008, during the pinnacle of the Game Boy Nitro's life. It only had one million-seller game, the already mentioned Sonic Gold.
Neo Geo X
In January 2010, SNK announced that they were launching a successor to the Neo Geo family, the Neo Geo X. This new system was released December 14, 2010, at a price of $300, with games costing anywhere from $1 to $40.
The Neo Geo X was a revolutionary system in many ways. For one thing, it was notably more powerful than the Game Boy Nitro, being comparable to the then unannounced Game Boy 3DS. For another, the system was completely incompatible with game cards of any sort. Instead, the system was fully download-based, with games being saved to SD cards. The system came with a 2 GB SD card, but cards with up to 32 GB capacity could be used.
Due to its inability to play retail games, many electronics and game stores do not shelf the Neo Geo X. Therefore, SNK themselves ships many of the systems they sell to customers.
The Neo Geo X's sales are speculated notably lower than its predecessors, with under two million units sold as of mid-2013. Nevertheless, the system is still supported as of that time.