R.I.P. GamePark Holdings


I don't know if I ever posted about the GP32GP2X or subsequent handheld devices from the Korean game companies GamePark and GamePark Holdings on here (haven't blogged much in a while).

But anyways if you don't know, these guys were the coolest video game hardware manufacturers of their time.

The GP32 their first handheld came out around the time the GameBoy Advance did (2001) and was literally an open source handheld game console. It was more powerful than the GBA, had a memory card slot (SmartMedia card) a USB port and pretty much was a hackers dream.

Gp32.jpg

I remember people online showing off that they could perfectly emulate GBA, SNES, NES, Genesis, etc games on it, play movies and MP3s and such and I wanted to get one so badly.
And proprietary games had to either be bought online and stored on an SmartMedia Card or bought in retail (on a read only SMC).

After that GamePark started talking about making their next handheld and it began to sound very much like they wanted to compete with the PSP, they even planned to abandon the open source community behind the GP32 and go proprietary all the way.

Then many of their employees left (I remember people stating that only two guys were left in the company after that), and they started GamePark Holdings (apparently Korean copyright isn't as strong as it should be) and they came out with the GP2X.

Now the GP2X was cool, it was more powerful than the DS and slightly more powerful than the PSP, ran Linux as it's firmware, had an SD Card slot, TV output, but the standout feature it was missing for me was Wi-Fi.
GP2X_01.JPG

And many potential buyers pointed that issue out too, only to hear from GamePark that an adapter will come out to enable Wi-Fi on the device.

Then we got many slight iterations of the GP2X, "Normal Edition", "MK2" and "F200" which brought SDHC support, removed the joystick and added a touch screen. Still no Wi-Fi.

GP2X-F200.jpg

Then we got the GP2X Wiz which brought on more power, a smaller form factor, a lefty friendly design, OpenGL support a built in mic and an OLED screen. Still no Wi-Fi.
Gp2xwiz.jpg

Then last year August they released the GP2X Caanoo which aside from a bad name and an ugly design came with an accelerometer, vibration motor, a USB host port, and still no built in Wi-Fi.


Now the thing they did differently was the Linux Kernel they had as the firmware in this one supported USB Wi-Fi adapters with the USB host port they [unnecessarily] put on the thing and they even sold their own Wi-Fi adapter to guarantee compatibility.

But seriously, WTF?! 6 Years after the DS comes out, you finally put Wi-Fi on your flagship handheld game console and it's only via adapter?
(Congrats you've just caught up to the GameBoy Advance)

Well, long story short. GamePark Holdings has shut down operations citing that the Caanoo is too expensive and Apple/Android smartphones took over the market.

Sad part here is they failed to cite the huge hacker community behind the popular game consoles (DS, PSP) that took all of their potential developers away. I mean c'mon, I considered buying their product and instead went for a PSP just because people hacked the crap out of it to the point where it's a better choice for homebrew than a handheld game console running Linux out of the box.

Especially because it has Wi-Fi which allowed for things like multiplayer games and internet connectivity.
A lot of what made PSP hacking great wasn't even games, it was things like online chat clients, internet radio access and web browsers.

The GP2X failed to offer any of that. It could've stood great as a handheld game console/PDA (especially being that it came out before the smartphone craze).

And the Caanoo release was definitely a failed opportunity entirely.

[a] They could've just used the design from the first GP2X.
[b] Instead of working hard on making their own Linux distro for the device, they could've just tossed Android on it.
I mean the Caanoo was incapable of running apps and games from the older GP2X devices so it required an emulator anyways, and Android would've attracted a larger developer community plus Android 2.3 supports game controls so the Caanoo would've been right at home.
[c] Wi-Fi alone would've opened the doors to a great development community, another Linux powered handheld game console, the Pandora got ports of FirefoxChromeSpotifyXBMC, and more just because of that alone (not to mention it just has a thriving development community in general, people have ported Gimp to it and even made a GP2X emulator for the thing). 
[d] With the fact that they aimed to run an online store to purchase games, you'd think they'd be smart enough to release an emulator for their own console to buy and run these games on PC to increase their overall reach.

They had the potential to be a great outlet for indie developers early on. Now indie gaming has taken to Steam, the Android Market, the iOS and Mac App Store, Windows Phone 7, and so on (the Xperia Play fuels the fire even further).

I don't know, let me stop ranting.