If’ there’s one thing that old school gamers miss about the consoles of their childhood, it’s the tactile feel of slapping a game cart into their favourite gaming machine. Like vinyl lovers, retro gamers are hardcore fans of their medium. But unlike their audio brethren, they usually have to rely on digging into second hand bins and auction sites to fuel their obsession, with only the odd new game coming out on game cartridges. But do cartridge-based consoles really need to stay dead? Retro VGS (Video Game System) stands up and says “NO!”.
The main dude behind the project, Mike Kennedy, has some pretty impressive credentials in the retro gaming world. Not only does he helm Retro Video Game Magazine, he also runs classic game auction site GameGavel. Mike’s obviously already heavily invested in the scene and a man who knows. There’s a lengthy interview with the man on VentureBeat, and he talks about setting up the magazine, capturing the feel of old magazines and, of course, how they got to the point where they could produce the console.
There’s just a lot of history in there. We have original illustrations and artwork. We have a cartoon in the back like a lot of the old video game magazines did back in the day. Just trying to emulate those magazines in the modern day, with a bit of a more modern look.
Kennedy talks about what motivated his team to start working on a new cart-based console, rather than something that can just play old carts like the RetroN 5 or the many other classic machine clones. Nostalgia is a strong motivator for both building and buying commercial products. Think of the huge market for classic penny sweets, just like you used to get down at the newsagents.
You can still find Ataris at the swap meet, cartridges, 30 years later, plug them in and it all works. To me that’s the coolest technology out there, with that longevity. A lot of us grew up with it. The kids these days are going to miss out on that.
And even the most pessimistic of internet commenter still finds a place in their heart for hope that Retro VGS will see the light of day.
This seems destined for failure, but the child in me hopes that’s not the case.
There aren’t a lot of production plants cranking out new cartridges and solid-state console shells these days, though. But Kennedy and his team have managed to track down the old industrial tools used to produce the original Atari Jaguar and its cartridges, which had been repurposed to produce dental equipment, of all things. You can see some quick video of these machines cranking out new console shells on the Retro VGS Facebook page.
It looks like the Retro VGS team have approached the project from the right angle. Rather than launch on Kickstarter and hope it gets the coverage they need to reach their funding goal, they’re building hype around the concept first, then using that momentum to launch a Kickstarter campaign.
The console hopes to launch with games bundled in the package, much like old school consoles would come with a cart (think NES and Mario/Duckhunt, Mega Drive with Altered Beast), including retro platform game Tiny Knight, currently under development from indie company Collectorvision. In fact, at the console’s launch, Tiny Knight will be on a gold coloured cartridge, harking back to something like the Legend of Zelda cart that was available for the NES way back in 1986. You’d also get a hybrid classic/analog USB controller based on the Interworks Pro U so you can play all the different types of games the console can handle, from Atari-style squares moving around the screen all the way up to basic 3D PSX-era games.
YouTuber Gamester81 Is just as excited about it, and shows off some gameplay for the bundled game, as well. If you grew up gaming in the 80s, it would be very hard not to get a shiver down your spine looking at how it plays, remembering all those hours trying to beat games like
Is there a market?
I personally know at least one person that would be very interested in buying a console like this, and I have no doubt they’re not alone by any means. Like I mentioned earlier, nostalgia is a very powerful marketing tool, and it looks like the team behind the Retro VGS are taking their time, doing things right and making this project a labour of love.
There are still a few questions that need answering before they brave the wilds of Kickstarter, like what sort of developer backing they have, what the hardware can do and how much it’ll cost, but they seem to have the right man for the job leading them and they’re already talking to some high profile indie developers. Whatever happens, I genuinely hope this signals a return to gaming of something as tactile as the game cart so that we can stop staring longingly at vinyl lovers and the limelight they are basking in right now.
What do you think about the Retro VGS? Would you buy one or back them on Kickstarter?