After months of chatter online the RETRO VGS, billed as a return to cartridge based games consoles, has finally hit crowdfunding. Initially planned to appear on Kickstarter, potential conflict with that company’s charter of having demo hardware prior to funding start has pushed the team behind it to use Indiegogo instead.
The team is comprised RETRO Magazine founder Mike Kennedy and game industry veterans Steve Woita and John Carlson who both have years of experience in developing games and tools for console platforms. The story of the console’s inception has an interesting beginning thanks to the team being able to get their hands on the molds used for creating the Atari Jaguar consoles and their cartridges. That discovery has allowed them to focus on the rest of the product and save on manufacturing.
To coincide with the launch, Mike Kennedy’s friends over at RetroGaming Roundup this week released a podcast where they delve more deeply into the campaign and where it is heading. The podcast can be found on iTunes or via their site here.
The hardware is ARM based which may evoke memories of the OUYA which was wildly successful but ultimately disappointing, meeting a less than glorious end. However, to make things interesting it also employs a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) that will allow the hardware to customise itself to the developers needs and even emulate other processors if needed. The thought behind it is to give developers flexibility in the kind of hardware they are trying to target.
The design of the cartridges is aimed at capitalising on the flexibility of the platform; they literally program the FPGA the instant it is turned out meaning each game can be design to the hardware configuration that benefits it the most. This aspect of it could make the product very appealing not only to developers but to the hacker community. There has even been mention of selling emulator/adapter cartridges to allow old console games to be plugged directly into the system.
The console will have custom USB game controllers that use the familiar combination of twin sticks, directional pad, buttons and triggers. In additional, for players wanting a more “old school” experience, 9 pin “D” connectors are also there which can support Atari joysticks, Sega Genesis/Megadrive controllers and anything else of the era that supported the standard.
$299US will net you the base model which includes a wired controller, power supply, HDMI and RCA cables and the bundled game The Adventures of Tiny Knight. Games themselves vary in price from $30 to $60 depending on the title.
As part of the campaign, there will also be produced a number of limited edition colours that are definitely going to inspire some nostalgia in gamers. And for those willing to pay a little more and secure more bragging rights, there will be bronze silver and gold finishes too. These sell for a higher premium over the base model starting at $349US.
My main concern at the moment is that the pricing may put many off. Unlike the cheap as chips OUYA this console is in the realm of an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 which means that the attraction may only come from a small part of the enthusiast community who understand exactly what they are getting. At the current price, this may not be attractive to impulse buyers.
Another potential concern is that the specs of the CPU and other chips will be finalised at the conclusion of the campaign. The intent is to ensure the best value for backers and will be based on the total amount funded (and any stretch goals) but it could also worry people who want to know exactly what is powering the machine before they commit… especially if they are comparing it to others.
For gamers looking for a console experience more in line with the gaming era prior to downloadable content, day one patches and online multiplayer, this might be the nostalgia fix you’ll need. With more than 40 days to go to reach their sub two million dollar goal, there is a fair chance that the team will succeed and there will once again be another games console having a go in the market dominated by Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.