Remember the good old days of video games coming on cartridges? We're not talking about 3DS cards, either - we mean the big, chunky carts which NES, Mega Drive and SNES games shipped on. These lumps of plastic defined an industry for years, and they could be making a comeback if a new crowdfunding campaign is successful.
The Retro VGS is a console which bucks the trend by picking carts over disc-based media. Its other big selling point is that unlike modern systems, it doesn't require regular firmware updates and its titles don't need patching.
The brainchild of industry veterans Mike Kennedy, John Carlsen and Steve Woita, Retro VGS will not only allow developers to produce their software on cartridges - just like the good old days - it will also be able to emulate older consoles thanks to its field-programmable gate array (FPGA).
Looking curiously like an Atari Jaguar, the console needs $1,950,000 to make it into production. Software seems to be geared towards the "faux-retro" end of the market, with NG:DEV.TEAM's Neo Geo release Gunlord being perhaps the most impressive graphically. "Pack-in" game The Adventures of Tiny Knight calls to mind the Wonder Boy series, while RPG Pier Solar and Double Dragon Trilogy are both "pending" releases.
The team behind the system seem to have their hearts in the right place, and are concerned that in 20 years we won't be able to plug in and play our current generation systems because elements such as network play and critical updates will be switched off. With that in mind, the Retro VGS has been conceived as a platform which will stand the test of time - at least from a collecting and playing perspective - rather like vintage consoles like the NES and SNES, which can still be purchased and enjoyed even today.
WayForward's Matt Bozon has already voiced his support for the concept, stating:
However, what the team doesn't seem to have considered is the high cost involved with producing physical cartridges when compared to going purely digital. It remains to be seen how many developers will support the platform should it make it into production, especially when they can hit a much larger audience via smart devices or traditional consoles, such as the Wii U, PS4, 3DS, PS Vita and Xbox One. It's also worth pointing out that while firmware and software updates can be annoying, they often add better functionality and new features - and most gamers would rather have them than do without.
Still, if Retro VGS did manage to secure a large market share - or at least one big enough to make it commercially viable for developers and publishers - it could potentially offer a way to re-publish retro games on proper cartridges, as well as give indie devs a platform where their games can gain additional attention.
Have a look at the pitch video below and let us know what you think about this unique venture by posting a comment.
This article was originally published by nintendolife.com on Mon 21st September, 2015.
I want to see where this one is going. Oh, it looks like a Jaguar because it uses indeed the plastic outer shell of Atari's ill fated home effort.
I'd totally buy a modern day SNES. Cartridge based home consoles is something we've been missing. Who else misses no load times?
Can't help but feel the controller seems very similar to the Wii U Pro Controller. That's certainly a better base than the Atari Jaguar controller!
Not sure I see the market for this. People already create real cartridges for "retro" systems and the digital market is probably a better space for indie development. Perhaps it will find a niche market.
Not a hope in hell that this makes anywhere near it's funding target
I wish Neo Geo had done this instead of that horrible SD emulated X system. If Neo Geo had made a console for $100 with built-in memory and released titles on cheaply made SD cards similar to DS, they would have done quite well.
Wow. So original. No one has ever tried to make a new console that plays cartridges, nope. No way. Super new and original. What's RetoN again?
Ubisoft won't like this console, that's for sure. They love releasing broken stuff and then attempting to fix it.
The twist is that this isn't a clone machine. Reading is fun.
It's a good idea. There are a lot of people who even to this day, mostly play retro 2D games. On some days, I'm one of them.
I doubt this'll succeed though given how the Ouya turned out.
I agree 100%.
Here's hoping the NX is a cartridge based system like the 3ds (fast sd cards) with large storage space.
What a great idea! I have actually been wanting gaming to go back to cartridges. Only problem is that they aren't really economical anymore. But man would in love to have a console where you can pop in a cartridge, just like the good ol days.
because indie games never need patching post release?
I don't see many indies taking advantage of this system, I would imagine produces cartridges more expensive then even discs. I would expect the likes of Capcom and other who made other snes remasters
Isn't that an atari jaguar shell????
This is a terrible idea. It's like they brainstormed a way to make something worse than the Ouya.
I'm worried about this, it sounds like a great idea in theory but I can't see an awful lot of support for it in the long term.
It's a nice idea, but I don't really think it's anything more than that, which is a real shame.
''games that looks like games and not interactive movies''i have this almost every time i play a modern big game.i'm like ok cool movie but where is the game?you walk press a button to open door,walk,cutscene,open door,pick up gun,damn,thats not a game!i had this with mass effect 3.i realy liked it a lot for what it is,a great scifi movie
I have to agree with the nay-sayers on this. The whole industry is moving to digital downloads for cost reasons, and that stinks, but it offers gamers the ability to play really great retro games and retro-styled indie on new systems and on the cheap. I know my love of carts will not justify buying a new system to play a limited number of indie games.
Errr... Does someone want to tell Matt Bozon he could easily release Shantea and the Pirates Curse as a 3DS Cartridge or Wii U Disc? Basically, there is the option for a physical copy, and the fun option of collecting can still exist. Shame downloads are the way of the future.
I would be curious of the specifications for this machine. Very odd they are not mention in the kickstarter. Also, bring back the N-Labels. Don't use the Atria Jaguar's pointless cartridge handle.
This thing is ugly AF. Is there really a market for a "new" retro console? Indie developers make games for PC...
Watermelon sure do like to annoy us Dreamcast fans.
That's because it's a modified version of this:
I believe they made a deal with Interworks to get a version of their Wii third party controller for the Retro VGS. Personally I find that to be a mistake, because the d-pad and face buttons are horrendous.
these dumb 3rd party console things can just go away
@AVahne Ah thanks for clearing that up. I would agree that is a mistake. The one thing you really want on a retro controller is an excellent D-pad.
The project is certainly ambitious and it would be nice to see it succeeded, but I don't think it stands a chance. They need to get the first million in the first few days and that doesn't look likely.
To be honest the connection to Jaguar, which isn't the best loved or remembered system won't really help either. It makes sense given the availability of the mould, but they would get tracking with a design inspired from the Nes or Snes.
At the very least, this system makes indie games seem a lot more valuable than they usually do. It's another plus that games released on this system will very likely be better remembered than most digitally-released indie games will be, I feel, and perhaps the games on this system will be (relatively, at least) exclusive to it. I think we can all agree that this is a cool idea.
But without even considering high production and marketing costs and the VERY lofty funding goal, its aethestically non-pleasing cartridge design, uncreative hardware design, a very generic and boring name (even for a "retro throwback" console), and an incredibly niche potential audience, this pitch instills almost no confidence in me.
How exactly do these developers expect the Retro VGS to sell, much less stand out among any sort of retro-themed gaming merchandise? Are they going to produce just like 300 units after shipping the backers' units? They're going to need much more than shout-outs from Matt Bozon and John Carlson if they plan on making this a big deal among retro enthusiasts. This all seems like a fantasy in the minds of American veteran developers who want to return to their beloved industry, yet refuse to learn how forms of game content and the distribution thereof have massively changed in the past two decades. And reality is indeed a real pity, because this is such a fun idea!
If Nintendo re-releases the Super Nes I will be the first in line, I so want to buy many of the old Super Nes games, but I dont want those games on emulators or freaking VC I want the real deal, but Super Nes games are incredibly expensive nowadays But I will buy them if they were re-released.
Watch and see this conso,e go to market, and get more shelf space than both the WiiU and 3DS combined.
Color me blasphemous. But... I'd love to see a system like this run modern games on a cartridge! Lol! Darn. Arkham City and Metal Gear Solid V won't boot up! Better blow on it!
@DESS-M-8. The reason it looks like an Atari Jaguar is because when Atari went bankrupt they sold off the molds for the Atari Jaguar casing. A company that makes dental cameras also bought the molding and made a dental camera that looks like a Jaguar too.
I love the basic idea—I've often thought about something like this myself (not that I have any means to do so)—but I feel all the little the specifics of the design will limit it's appeal to only the most dedicated of gamers.
I know they had to use the old Jaguar moulds and stuff, from what I read, but I'd rather this thing were like the size of a Apple TV (and just as sleek), the carts where simple cards like those you might have found on the PC Engine (in fact, I'd love to see the console be about the size and shape of the PC Engine), and I wish even the controller was a tiny bit slicker (although that's not too bad).
Still, this looks pretty cool and I'm there's some people out there who are going to love it.
I like some of the ideas here, such as the FPGA and the choice of USB and 9-pin for controllers, though I imagine that could lead to issues. Tiny Knight looks good so far, but it's unproven and not enough to hook me as a pack-in game. For me, Gunlord would be the most enticing launch title. Gunlord is excellent, I think, but I already have it for the Dreamcast. I'd even be willing to buy it again online via GOG or similar, but not enough for this. As was already pointed out, the price of $300-350 seems high to many. What makes it worse is that the guy behind this had already stated they were aiming for $150 with "a chance" it could be $180. I'd say they missed the target a tiny bit.
That's an atari jaguar.
Good to see those old Atari Jaguar cases are being put to good use. I'm expecting this console to end up like it, actually.
"Quick, what's the most generic name for a system you can think of!?"
Though I will admit that it has a nice ring to it.
Terrible on every level, and the whining about patching in the pitch sounds like the same juvenile crap I hear from people arguing on the internet. Rather appropriately, at that.
Here's the thing, though. Retro games had bugs too. Severe ones. And I don't mean obscure third-party crap - Link's Awakening had a severe issue that could force you to restart the game in Eagle's Tower, the seventh dungeon out of eight for those unfamiliar with it, and all you had to do to trigger it was save and quit without manually resetting part of a puzzle, something you never had to do anywhere else in the game.
Frankly, this whole Kickstarter reads like someone that's trapped in the past and can't accept the world moving on without him.
I hope the new nintendo console brings back cartridges.
@VR32F1END Only NA NES cartridges needed to be blown in and that was due to the design of the front loading NES and honestly blowing didn't make it better.
I could see this maybe being decent with the right games, but the one thing I do not miss at all about my old consoles is the wired controller.
@DarthNocturnal "Reading is fun."
You're cute, but don't try so hard next time.
I don't need a Magic 8-Ball to be told "Outlook not so good."
I'm on the edge here. I love cartridges... but trying it it todays market?
Show me Shovel Knight and maybe I'll chip it, but I don't see a bright future for this...
Yeah no thanks. Loading times suck, but paying full AAA price for an indie game because it's on a cartridge? I'd rather wait it out.
Also why use the same shell as the Jaguar? Did they want it to look terrible on purpose?
I'm with those that think that nostalgia can only carry you so far, and that the amount of nostalgia in the retro community isn't enough to carry this project across the finish line. The CPU is ARM, which makes me wonder what the system OS will be (it's unspecified but I highly suspect it will be an Android or Linux implementation.)
It won't play other carts, only VGS carts designed to work with the system. And games start at $30 for the crummy ones and slide up to $60 for games like Gunlord. Why would I pay $300 for this console when I can buy a used Dreamcast and a copy of the game for about $110?
The pack-in game is made by a retro outfit that is ENDLESSLY hawked by Gamester81. I used to watch his YouTube channel until I decided I was both tired of trying to understand what he was saying as well as being sick of him always pushing games his retro company makes. They're about on par with the F2P games in the Play store, albeit without the cartridge.
There's no way this project gets funded. None.
Oh, and just to be pissy I scrolled down and saw how they were so proud of their working "prototype" controller when all it is a black Interworks "Controller Pro U" for Wii-U.
That controller runs about $25 on Walmart and I bet a wired version, featuring fewer components, would be even cheaper to manufacture. It seems pretty clear that they're buying components off the shelf from companies willing to sell them items (the Jaguar mold, the Interworks controller design) and are slapping them together. With something like the Raspberry Pi costing $40 full out and providing all the power a console like this needs, where in the h*ll are they coming up with a $300 price tag? The other components, like the pin slot and power supply, can't possibly cost much.
It could be the FPGA board. They seem to start at $70+ and go all the way into the $500 range. No idea what one they picked, and they said they were able to expand to a bigger one on their page, so they could easily have a $100 board in there if $150-$180 was their original goal.
Man oh man that is freakin awesome! I want one. Sign me up! I love cartridges and 16bit style games. You know what, I was really hoping something like this was going to happen, but I always imagined SEGA would do it. Frigging brilliant Idea.
The whole video game industry rushed forward with new technology and 3D gaming so fast to get were it is today that I feel we left something important behind. I really hope this happens, they have my support.
@Yorumi great point. What have they done so far that makes anyone believe they'll actually have more games produced than what they've shown? Even their 10-15 games estimate sounds like quite a farfetched quota for something so prototypey as this. Also, $300 for this? Okay. Hopefully this is all only conceptual for now, but there should have been a lot more R&D done before they began a campaign that requests $2 million.
As a huge fan of physical media, carts especially, and also as a huge fan of my Ouya console (r.i.p), this thing will never be a successful console. It's a cool thing, sure, but the market for a dedicated machine to play physical versions of games you can get on steam for sales as low as .99 cents is just not feasible.
I am also dubious about the specs of the console. We know that with today's technology we can get great looking 3D visuals from cartridges the size of a small cracker as the 3DS has shown us, but it's the hardware that limits what cartridges can do since all a cart is is a storage medium for the program. N64 had a memory limit of 64MB and those games looked more complex than any in the pitch video.
From what the pitch shows, I'm still not sold based on just the collecting aspect of physical media, it needs to also push limits on what we conceive cartridge based systems to be capable of. I picked up in the pitch that the cartridge has the hardware to run the game, and that just confused me further, and brings to mind the Super FX chip and the like which will add to the issue of pricey media.
It's a very cool idea and if I had any reason to believe that it would stand a chance in today's gaming market, I'd be all over this, but I am not going to pony up the price of a Wii U for a RetroN 5 that may or may not be capable of having 3 year old indie games released for it I've already played elsewhere. If it was like the Ouya and sold for a safe price point - $99 - I may have pitched them a bone.
Good luck guys, I really hope I am wrong.
As cool as this system sound on paper, the reality is that I don't think the market they're aiming for is big enough to make it remotely viable as a platform in the modern market.
Matt Bozon, I'm with you mate. I'd love to see Shantae on this. Cartridges are great. Plug them in, turn it on and your away. So simple and fun and great to collect.
People are dissing this because it looks like the Jaguar. So what? Its all about being retro. Indie games are the best thing to happen to the games industry. Without them we would all be stuck playing over hyped, big budget, cinematic dark edgy games that don't play like REAL video games.
In theory, I would love to see this succeed. In reality, $2 million is nowhere near enough to follow through on such a grand promise. Sorry, but it just isn't. They're going to have tons of issues along the way, we've been through this with other devices on crowd funding. You need an infrastructure in place to make this work, and $2 million isn't enough. Do the research yourself, even if they had $20 million, this would still be a difficult venture.
Another thing to note about this particular campaign, is that it is being funded by Indiegogo, not Kick starter. They don't function the same way. If a project fails to fund, no one gets their money back on Indiegogo. In Kickstarter, everyone immediately gets refunded when that happens. There are even less safeguards in place to ensure creators follow through on their projects, though I suppose the trust involved would need to be greater just to donate in the first place. Yes, I used the word "donate" instead of "pledge", because that is closer to how giving money works on Indiegogo compared to Kickstarter.
A console named Retro with a controller which has dual analog sticks. Hmmmm.......
Did someone say Ouya ?
@Shiryu Supposedly, the internal guts (hardware) of this machine are also based on the Jaguar. There is a YouTube interview with him where he admits to having bought the Jag's patent.
If Emulation is involved, yeah, maybe it'll be successful.
@TomKnows let's see how this goes...
I highly doubt this will get funded and I doubt even more that it will remain commercially viable, but I love the idea, so I backed it nonetheless.
As long as they have an awesome library and that thing is built to last for like, 30 years( and you can play retro games like its the 80s/90s,) then I could be all over it. It probably won't be anything like that though.
Why on Earth are people surprised they are using an Atari Jaguar shell? Those shells have been showing up in dentists' offices.
I'm interested but I feel it will be a small market for this console
@TossedLlama Same. TV remotes are laggy now.
This hype train is already derailed before it left the depot.
You can see the train wreck for yourself in this 80+ page documentary on Atariage. Grab the popcorn; you're in for a long read...
Not surprised to hear the campaign is having difficulty. Not to mention the fact that cartridges have never really gone away. The GB and DS families have all used cartridges as their primary distribution. Some of the indie games in question games could have been released on a 3DS cartridge, but choose digital releases instead. Why? The business model doesn't support premium pricing for this content. Why would somebody pay $30-$60 for Shantae when they can already get it for $15 or less?
In my opinion this concept faces competition from several quarters. The most obvious competitors are the Retron-style devices, both Android based emulation and single chip system solutions. Not only do these devices already exist, cost far less to purchase, have large existing libraries, but there is no real restriction on new games being released that support these systems. As an earlier comment has already mentioned this puts the Retro VGS in competition with every retro system out there, which is not a good position to be in!
The second area of competition are growing digital marketplaces.Yes you need an internet connection for these services and some require additional checks, but they are also providing far lower priced entry points for retro styled content. Regardless if you love or hate them places like Steam, GOG, Google PLAY, etc., have dramatically reduced the price people are willing to spend on games in general. Even the Nintendo eShop falls into this category. Of course these options don't offer the Plug'n'Play factor that the Retro VGS is going for, but the lower prices will mean the majority of people won't be interested in Plug'n'Play as a feature.
Finally the campaign itself could be better too. One of the biggest black marks for me is the lack of clarity on the systems hardware itself. The campaign mentions ARM processor and FPGA array, but provides no insight into what specifications these will be and what they can achieve. I think the systems price point is probably pretty reasonable given the cost of FPGA arrays, but I'd imagine the average person will be thinking why do I what one of them in my system? Even if it could replicate the hardware function of older systems it still wouldn't be compatible with their carts and controllers...
They also provide a grid comparing the Retro VGS to the existing home consoles, which is another mistake in my opinion. The systems price point does put them into the same region as the Wii U, PS4, etc., but it simply raises the question why would I want a Retro VGS when I can get a modern system for a similar amount. Sure the modern system may be more prone to failure in future, but it also provides a wealth of modern features that the Retro VGS doesn't have. Without wireless controllers, disc drives, hard drives, Internet, evolved OS, better controllers, etc., it raises the question why is it in the same price region at all?
So as I said before this is a niche interest product designed by people with good intent, but with some misplaced market expectations. I'd imagine the very minimum they need to sell is 10,000 units before the system becomes in any way viable and right now that looks like a tall order.
I really like these guys. I hope they succeed. After watching the video I kinda have an idea why they went with the Jaguar design. I just wonder what kind of Processor they are using and exactly what will it push. The Atari Jaguar Had a killer 2d color pallette. It was capable of doing some very good 2d games but instead they pushed this crappy 3d gaming engine. Heck I would actually be happy to see the Jags Processor and a bunch of 2d games made for it. But I also understand the Atari Jaguar was really hard to program on. I would just like to know what's under the hood and they didn't explain that real well. Heck it could be a Raspberry Pi under there.
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