Two More Retro Minis Announced
Retro gaming and the plug & play hardware model sort of go hand in hand and with good reason. Consumers are willing to put up with complexity to have the latest and greatest (virtual reality systems like the Oculus Rift are a great example of this) but when it comes to getting their fix on games they loved when they were 7, a lot of that capacity for complication quickly diminishes.
We want to plug the thing in to the screen, experience some nostalgia then be able to watch our TVs at their native 4K resolutions until bedtime an hour later; visit the past then jump back to the present as it were. Original hardware collectors and emulation aficionados may not agree; but Nintendo went and proved this reality beyond a shadow of a doubt when they released the NES and SNES Classic Edition Minis.
As expected, there has been a growing number of new options making their way to this segment to attempt to capitalize on the residual excitement Nintendo was able to stir up. This makes even more economic sense when you stop to consider how many potential customers failed to get their hands on either of Nintendo’s two elusive consoles and are looking for something to fill that void.
Europe has been enjoying successful release of the C64 Mini: The plug and play retro console containing sixty-four Commodore 64 game titles, BASIC language options and the ability to run ROMs. The company behind this hardware assures that a North American release is in the works once they are able to secure distribution. My advice would to be speed this process up; the best time to eat is while the kettle is still hot.
Now comes not one but a pair of Retro Mini console announcements. So far each of these seems to pertain to the Japanese market though you don’t need to be an economist to realize it is North America that went crazy for the Nintendo Minis; you’re probably going to want to find a way to get these things out to the audience that refused to allow a single NES Classic Edition the opportunity to sit on a store shelf.
The first of these, the Sega Genesis Mini, came about rather convolutedly. Initially announced by Sega and presumed to be a legit OEM effort (like Nintendo did with theirs), this exciting news fell to the wayside quickly when it was then revealed Sega would simply be licensing the Genesis Mini to ATGames for production and distribution detail.
Why is this such discouraging news? Well because ATGames has been producing officially licensed Sega Genesis plug and play systems for literally years! They have been relatively inexpensive, included somewhere around 80 games and did something even Nintendo missed out on with their Classic Editions: included a cartridge slot to play original games.
It’s tough to get excited about the same release in a new plastic shell, likely with less titles, removal of the cartridge port and a higher MSRP. Nostalgia can be a powerful marketing tool but Sega is pushing its limitations with this one.
The second announcement, though equally as mysterious, is certainly cause for excitement. SNK, in celebration of their 40th Anniversary, has announced a Neo Geo Mini Edition. Not much else has been said about it yet and prototypes have yet to manifest but the potential for play and collecting excitement for this one is simply off the charts.
If we are to base it upon the announcement pic alone (above), it almost looks like a bar-cade tabletop design. Rather than a small plug & play TV device, it would likely integrate its own screen and make use of an arcade stick(s) interface. Pics such as the one used in this article are starting to circulate demonstrating a small arcade-style unit with its own screen and the ability to output via HDMI as well.
The system’s library of 148 games has been largely limited to a tiny niche’ market despite the system boasting an unprecedented lifespan (1990-2007) on account of steep entry cost. Hardware at the time would set a consumer back $650 (when a Super Nintendo was going for $149) and game cartridges sold for anywhere from $100-$300 apiece.
Suffice to say, the average gamer knew only of the Neo Geo and its library of games through the MVS arcade cabinets- which, amazingly, contained the same cartridges as the AES home console. In short, Neo Geo games weren’t like their arcade counterparts, they WERE the arcade games.
Contemporary collectors can attest that the value of Neo Geo hardware and carts has only increased throughout the years. This fact alone could make a Neo Geo Mini a very desirable investment indeed. If rumors circulating the web are true, the unit should contain the following 40 game titles:
MSRP on the unit is yet to be released but if they can get this thing in or under the $99 price-point, there’s a very strong chance of it earning widespread appeal. Specs appear to be running an ARM processor for emulation and a custom front end; nothing particularly costly from a manufacturing standpoint.
It seems not a week passes without the announcement or arrival of another retro plug & play. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: NEC/ Hudson if you’re listening, there will never be a better time to consider getting to work on a TurboGrafx-16 Mini.