Gaming

RETRO VGS now crowdfunding on Indiegogo

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.

Will this console make cartridges popular again?

Will this console make cartridges popular again?

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.

The rear of the console is packed with enough ports to support most user's needs.

The rear of the console is packed with enough ports to support most user’s needs.

$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.

It's a me! A very Nintendo flavoured exclusive colour scheme.

It’s a me! A very Nintendo flavoured exclusive colour scheme.

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.

Delivery of the completed hardware to backers is scheduled to be November 2016. For those interested in funding the console, visit their Indiegogo page. For additional details, visit their site.

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8 replies »

  1. This is very interesting and I’ll definitely keep my eye on it (didn’t know about it previously). I hope they get enough quality games on it to make it worthwhile. Also, I couldn’t determine whether this will have online functionality?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love the idea of the RETRO VGS. I think it will rock! But at $300 USD plus shipping I cannot afford to buy it. I think the campaign will fail to launch because of the cost of the console. That’s a lot of money to put down on something so unknown. I wish they would have reconsidered and tried to sell the system for under $200 USD and make their money by drawing in a lot more people.
    I’m worried for the RETRO VGS.
    I contributed $25 USD for the USB controller. I really do hope the project takes off!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just as you thought, they ran into some issues – https://thelatenightsession.com/2015/10/01/retro-vgs-campaign-shuts-down-returning-in-the-near-future/

      Personally, I was a little shocked at the price (with postage to .au it’d be close to a XB1/PS4, perhaps more!) but I also think that the OUYA tainted peoples expectations for consoles and pricing on Kickstarter (I think it was around $100US?) even if it eventually turned out to be a dud. If you want people to commit to something comparably more expensive than earlier efforts, you really need to sell it well.

      Hopefully next time around they get the price down to a more appealing level. The guys on the team have strong ties to the retro community and I’m sure they will be doing their best to give people what they want.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Even though I do have an Ouya (and never use it) the first thing I thought of was the Retron 5. For $160 CAD you get a new console that can play many of your favorites. So they have already done all the things that the RETRO VGS need to get done. Maybe being emulation based makes that difference but I still can’t bring myself to sent $300+ USD on the RETRO VGS. Maybe if it was out, had a large library of games and was tested and true I might consider it but even then… it’s a lot of coin.
        Thanks for the heads-up that RETRO VGS is coming back with a new campaign. I’ll keep an eye out. I actually pledge on their old campaign today. I’m surprise Indiegogo will take money when it has been canceled.

        Liked by 1 person

        • You’re right – the emulation side (if they build on it) really does lean into the territory of consoles like the Retron 5. Though they were mostly tight lipped about it, it was mentioned that it was possible for a 2600 adapter to be built simply because that hardware could be made with no need for Atari licensing (that’s all tied to the games). It’s a nice introduction, but for that aspect to catch on, there’ll have to be a lot more systems supported for it to become an alternative.

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