When I first heard about the Retro VGS and that it would use the same shell as the Atari Jaguar, my interest did perk up over something like the Zeebo, the Ouya or the Gamestick. The Jaguar was my first modern console and the first console I bought with my own hard earned money. It had some better games than it is often given credit for (as I have pointed out on this blog…I probably need to do another Gems of the Jaguar again) so it has that “special place” in my nostalgia. Of course just the shell doesn’t make a console – the hardware beneath the skin, the controller and most important the games make it worth owning or not.
So today I learned about the Indiegogo campaign for the console, which has the very ambitious goal of raising almost $2 million in a little over a month’s time. As of writing this, the campaign is $1,931,364 short of their goal and there are only 5 days left to contribute. Barring a miracle, they are going to have to raise capital via other more traditional methods. Probably doing another run of Atari Jaguar cart shells and cases wouldn’t be a bad idea, I wanted to get a few but they closed that off after a certain date for some reason. Although chances of that raising almost $2m in any reasonable amount of time isn’t something I would recommend that anyone hinge their bets on.
The problem of course is that they are wanting to ask $350 for a new console (market price) that is playing games which in all honesty, are something you would be finding in the bargain bins of GameStop or on the eternal “on sale” pages of Steam or eShop site. They did get some pledged support from some NeoGeo developers interestingly enough – the main game that should be the pack-in for the console is NG:DevTeam’s Gunlord, which was made available for the NeoGeo MVS arcade platform. But Gunlord isn’t enough to carry a $350 console that is far less powerful than a PS4 or Xbox One which are currently at the same price point. The other games look OK but nothing that makes me say to myself “man, I’d better save up!”
So what would it likely take to generate interest? – The FPGA stuff as they describe it would be very cool – the ability for the hardware to mimic old game hardware in a more precise way than emulation – in fact that would have been fitting for it to support something like Atari Jaguar games as far as being fully backwards compatible with that or even better, FPGA the unreleased Jaguar II which did get far enough along to have full specs and a prototype board that could play Tempest 2000. In fact, a console capable of offering hardware for any number of unreleased systems would be a very cool thing to have (assuming that intrepid developers out there would go and tackle coding for them, and most likely would require knowledge of something like Assembly and not HTML5). If the console did have various hardware specs for a variety of forgotten 80s and 90s consoles, then the $350 price tag is much easier to swallow. Personally if someone was able to develop a system that was capable of mimicking every Atari system released, I could see myself spending that much for the hardware. Handling other systems like Amiga, Commodore 64, Intellivision, ColecoVision, etc. etc. would also be really awesome.
But without those perks (the campaign needs over $3m in cash to make that happen) and just by itself, you need to have to have those Grade A+ games to make it worth the price of admission as then it has become just another low-powered Android type console but without the massive libraries of being connected to the Android marketplace. That becomes something that most gamers are not going to want to spend a lot of money on, unless you come up with a AAA game, which we all know would require millions and millions of dollars to develop the software for. Doing some better marketing likely would have helped too – just making this sizzle reel that wasn’t even Public is a lousy way to build hype (I’d forgotten about all of this until I saw a blurb on Twitter mentioning that it is a failure before even starting).
So where do they go from here after crowdfunding has failed? We’ll have to wait and see as I have no idea what their plans are. Being an arcade guy, I’d say do what Nintendo did in the 90s – release the base hardware as an arcade cabinet with a few of your games and use that to hype up the console while also raising some capital. But, I doubt anyone would take that advice. Either way I like the idea of the RetroVGS but cold reality has come into play that they need much more at launch to create demand on the market for the asking price.