From the path that ended with the Nintendo 64, comes the first new cartridge-based home console, the Retro Video Game System, or Retro VGS for short. While it is still in the early stages of development with a Kickstarter page that is expected to launch soon, this ambitious console plans to bring nostalgia back to households and give a new outlet to indie developers. It is worth noting that this is not a console that is designed to play pre-existing games like the Retron 5 and those before it. It is a brand new console that will play games that are to be released in cartridge form.
The Retro VGS is a collaboration between Mike Kennedy, founder of Gamegavel.com, co-founder of Retro Magazine, (Hence the use of “Retro” in the title and the similar logo) co-host on the Retro Gaming Roundup podcast and one of the organizers behind the Classic Gaming Expo in Las Vegas and Steve Woita, where experts tried to help with gaming addictions, a veteran of the gaming industry who played a huge part in the making of Kid Chameleon and helped with the designing and programming of Sonic Spinball and the Sonic the Hedgehog 2, while employed at Sega. Woita has also worked on games for the Atari 2600 and 3DO. The initial idea was years in the works, but officially hit the ground after Mike attended a recent E3 and saw major booths from Sony and Microsoft that put a heavy emphasis on indie games, which were predominantly retro-inspired with classic gameplay and pixel graphics. The idea to give these games a rightful place on a home console with a cartridge form became a goal as well as reaching out to developers of the past to work on sequels to their classic games that could appear on the console.
With 6 months into the console’s development and an approaching release of the Kickstarter account in “Summer 2015,” let’s go over all that we know about the console, what they are planning for it and some hints on what we can possibly expect in the future.
The Design: To cut costs, the console’s design was pulled from the ashes of the Atari Jaguar’s failure in the 90’s. The molds were then bought by Imagin Systems, a dental equipment company to use as an oral camera called the HotRod. Once the HotRod went out of production, the molds for the console and its carts were purchased by Mike and his team to re-purpose for video games once again. There has been mention of creating a cover piece for the cartridge slot to block out dust, but all that you have to do is leave a game in the console. The Jaguar’s cartridge design will also be used. Little has been said about spine labels on the carts or whether or not the cartridge will retain the same handle that Jaguar carts had.
The controller itself is likely to be a third party release of the Wii’s classic controller pro, which combines the layout of a SNES pad with the dual analog sticks of a modern controller. While the sticks can be a turn-off to retro purists, imagine how much they would help in a top-down twin stick shooter inspired by Smash TV or Robotron 2084. They have mentioned that they plan on outsourcing third party USB-wired controllers of this model to work with the system, which will also cut down the cost of designing a new controller. The console itself will have two USB ports for use with the pack-in controllers or any USB controllers that you might want to use. It will also feature two 9-pin ports for Sega Genesis or Atari 2600 controllers.
The Hardware: Little has been said about the inner-workings of the console other than the fact that it will run on a FPGA system, which will allow the VGS to run games similar to whatever console that particular game is styled after. This move has been made to keep costs down while still giving developers a lot of freedom with their games. They have noted that the games on the system will range in style from Atari 2600 games to Playstation games and everything in between. The system will not be subject to region locking. In terms of output, the VGS will have composite, S-Video and HDMI. There will be absolutely no online capabilities for the console, meaning that the game that you get is the complete game, unlike modern AAA titles with their day one DLC. All save data will be saved directly to each cart.
The Games: So far, the only confirmed game is The Adventures of Tiny Knight (Video below with the first major announcement of the console), a game co-created by YouTuber and all around nice guy, Gamester81 and his studio, Collectorvision Games. Regarding the packaging of games, they will be released in Sega Genesis-style clamshell cases with artwork inserts and instruction manuals.
Keep reading for plenty of hinted games and potential developers.
The Package: Their initial plan is to release the console with two controllers and at least one pack-in game, which has already been confirmed to be a special gold launch copy of The Adventures of Tiny Knight. In addition to the standard black finish, early backers of the console will get one of 10,000 total limited edition “Legends Series” consoles with color schemes styled after one of gaming’s greats: Mario, Link, Sonic and Pac-Man. They have also just announced the “Treasure Series” which will have a run of 5,000 total consoles in either gold, silver or bronze. Word has also been made of translucent color schemes to be also released through Kickstarter in limited quantities, which will be reminiscent of the N64’s Funtastic color consoles.
The Price: Their initial target for the bundle is between $150 and $180. This is not a final price as it will hinge on what is included in the basic package and what costs are for the production of the console. With June just around the corner, we can only hope for the Kickstarter to launch soon and finally answer this question.
Rumors/Hints from Facebook and interview comments by the VGS team: All of these statements should be taken with a grain of salt as pure rumor as things do change during the production of a console. However, they do give some great insight on what we can possibly expect from the ambitious console.
- Games are said to cost between $20 & $50 each depending on if they are an indie release or a release by a major publisher.
- While one game has been confirmed to be a pack-in title with the system, Kennedy mentioned in an interview with the RetroNick Radio podcast (See bottom for video) that there is a possibility of three pack-in titles, all of which will be a special gold cartridge in commemoration of the launch. Kennedy mentioned that one of these could be a trequel to a popular arcade hit. He did not give any more information on this game other than that it is a very recognizable franchise.
- There is a possibility for as many as 12 games to become available at launch.
- In the RetroNick interview, Kennedy stated that developers will be able to create their own games and order copies through his team which they can then sell. He added that if these titles stand out as something special, they could strike a distribution deal.
- Support for USB thumb drives is possibly being added for “other cool reasons” that they’ll release soon as mentioned in a reply to a Facebook comment.
- According to a Facebook comment, a game maker cartridge is currently in discussion to allow players to create their own games using the included design suite.
- A Facebook post was made hinting at a potential wood-grain version of the console as a limited backer reward.
- A Facebook post was made polling their fans on how they would feel about a scrolling shoot-em-up resurgence on the system. After the 90’s, the number of shmups developed for home consoles in North America has dwindled, causing many to import to get their fix. This would be an awesome return to form for one of the genres that was plentiful on systems such as the NES and Genesis.
- The following UNCONFIRMED games were hinted as releases or mentioned as games that they are discussing with developers:
- Retro City Rampage (Suggested as a launch title in both a Facebook post and in the RetroNick Radio interview.)
- Axiom Verge (Currently in talks with creator, Tom Happ as noted in a Facebook comment response)
- Pier Solar (Currently in talks with WaterMelon Games as noted in the RetroNick interview)
- The idea of a brand new He-Man game was suggested to Facebook followers with no other information than polling for reactions.
- According to a Facebook post that they pulled down after posting, a series of re-imagined Intellivsion games from their original creators, including Astrosmash, Shark! Shark! and Night Stalker, would see release on the system through Retroaction Entertainment. The deletion of the post may hint otherwise.
- Shovel Knight (Currently in talks with Yacht Club Games and they are interested!)
The following list is of all the pages that the Retro VGS Facebook account has liked, some of which have already been mentioned as either confirmed partners or potential partners. While I don’t want to lead anyone to believe that any of the previously unmentioned companies are anything more than an interest of the Retro team and that they are in fact working with them, seeing the first four names certainly brought a huge smile to my face when I thought “What if?” One of these could be behind that mystery game that was mentioned earlier with a potential trequel on the system!
With over 9,500 followers on Facebook and the recent outpourings of Kickstarter support for industry veteran created games such as Mighty No. 9, Yooka-Laylee and Bloodstained, it seems unlikely that this project will not get the green light through Kickstarter. Through their Facebook page, they have been very attentive to concerns from the community and are always looking for not only feedback, but potential partners in game development. All that we can hope for is that they deliver on all of their promises and release a quality product that truly starts a revolution in the gaming industry and gets support from major developers. The cartridge will live on!
See the interview with RetroNick Radio below for a lot of great information on this exciting project.