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Nintendo switches on brighter Game Boy

The Japanese games giant unveils a new Game Boy Advance player with an illuminated screen, likely to please fans who complained about the previous player's dim design.

Japanese video game giant Nintendo on Tuesday unveiled a sleek new version of the Game Boy Advance, its market-leading portable games player.

The Game Boy Advance SP sports a two-piece design with an illuminated screen that flips up from the main body. The standard Game Boy Advance has a one-piece design with a built-in screen that uses no additional lighting.

The dimly lit screen has been the most common complaint about the Game Boy Advance, inspiring legions of hardware hackers to concoct work-arounds.

The new model also has built-in rechargeable batteries that provide 10 hours of use with the screen fully illuminated. The standard Game Boy Advance uses replaceable AA batteries.

Schelley Olhava, an analyst for research firm IDC, said the new device should help promote goodwill among Nintendo's customers. "I can understand why they didn't backlight the screen when they launched it--they were concerned about keeping the price down and the battery life up," she said. "But so many people complained about squinting at the screen, and it's very encouraging to see they listened."

While Nintendo is engaged in a fierce three-way battle


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in the market for full-sized video game consoles, the company has virtually owned the portable gaming market for more than a decade. The three main iterations of the Game Boy have sold more than 120 million units since the line was introduced in 1989, with the year-old Game Boy Advance having worldwide sales approaching 12 million.

The Game Boy line has faced growing competition, however, from games designed for multipurpose portable devices--including those in the booming market for cell phone games.

The Game Boy Advance SP is set to go on sale March 23 price at $100, while the standard version of the Game Boy Advance will continue to sell for $70.