So, I’m noticing something weird these days.
Actually, it’s a subject of interest rather than confusion.
If you believe the reports there is a massive popularity resurgence for classic video games. This holds especially true for classic NES (Nintendo) and SNES (Super Nintendo) games. That much is rather understandable and rather unsurprising if you think about it. These games were never really reproduced beyond their initial run (or at least within five years of it) so there is a fixed number of units in existence. In addition time can easily degrade classic electronics and especially old NES systems as we were all in the habit of blowing into them, not knowing that our spit was eroding the copper contact points inside.
So there’s something to the idea of simply buying a classic system, plugging a game in and playing.
Or is there?A Retro Revival
In this modern age it is easy, insanely easy to pirate classic games. Heck if you follow what the big modern game publishers say now they argue that game piracy is at a fevered pitch. That is the justification for modern DRM practices at least. And sure enough if I really wanted to I could easily pirate the entire NES, SNES and Genesis libraries with a few keystrokes and mouse clicks. I’m not including photograph evidence because that would possibly make me libel for a crime.
Might be a lot of those omissions this entry actually.
But, what’s a game without the right controller? Well that’s not an issue either. Retro-bit is a company (among others but theirs is the name that comes forward the most) that specializes in creating controllers for nearly all systems that have USB cables or even just adapter cables so that someone’s existing controller can work with USB.
Or heck, if I don’t want to do that I can just use a Bluetooth adapter and hook up my PS4 controller to my computer (which I’m doing a lot now) and easily just map the controller to the buttons in the emulator and play any game with my controller. Granted I’m doing that now to play games on Steam but that’s not illegal!
Also Sony, if you read this please just give us a driver so we can play games on Steam. Please?
So for little to no effort I can easily pirate and play any game I want with any controller I want so long as I can connect it via Bluetooth or USB to a device. That technically includes my phone as well! And if what we believe about piracy and, in reality, the human condition is true then the market for classic games should be dwindling and atrophying. Plus emulation of video game systems and roms (the digital software of a video game cartridge) have existed since I was a lad in High School (which was a long time ago, let’s move on) so there should be no real need to reproduce anything beyond controllers.
Well you can throw that entire last paragraph out the window because there is definitely a market for classic systems and by god! It is hungry.
This might be puzzling for some considering two factors:
- The only reason to buy a classic system is to play a classic cartridge game.
- Many of these classic games can be illegally reproduced or legally bought and played on modern systems in a purely digital reproduction.
But if that’s the case then products like reproduction controllers (that work on the original systems) and especially reproduction systems should not be experiencing a major boom. But here is the thing: They are and in a big way these past couple of years.
My first example to this effect would be one of Retro-Bit’s products the RetroDuo Portable 2.0 and Hyperkin’s SupaBoy shown respectively.
As far as I can tell both systems can output to a TV in addition to the LCD screen within and the SupaBoy can actually take SNES peripherals making it effectively a portable system. And if you didn’t want to be limited to just SNES games there are a host of other portable systems and adapters (yes adapters) to port nearly any game to a SNES or at least use it as a power docking station. And I’m listing off Genesis, Gameboy Color, Master System, etc. It’s just mind blowing.
Now why is this even possible? Well, according to the developers Hyperkin “To the best of our knowledge, all of Nintendo’s original design patents have expired, and none of the parts were reverse-engineered from the original SNES system.” (taken from this IGN article so props to them on the work) I assume that’s the case for Retro-bit as well.
Now these are just portables so there’s some tangibility to the argument that of course these sell well because they’re portable systems that output to TVs. Why, were I a businessman I would carry such a thing on flights with a few games and play in my hotel room and then just fit it back in my suitcase.
Granted there is the use of a laptop as well but laptops are significantly bigger and that involves piracy.
But then how do you explain these retro consoles getting made?
While some are simply system replacements both Retro-Bit and Hyperkin have multi-cart systems. A Multi-cart system is a reproduction video game system that can carry games from multiple past consoles. There are several of these appearing on the market as we speak. Hyperkin has the Retron 3 which can play SNES, NES and Genesis… what? They’re developing a new system? The Retron 5? Okay how many can it play… JESUS!
I… I have a lot of those…
Oh and it takes SNES, Genesis and NES controllers and it can output in HDMI because why the fuck not? And you know what? Even I’m considering getting one. After I check reviews of course. But even still there wouldn’t be a market for retro consoles if there wasn’t a market for retro games! It certainly has to be enough that these companies justify making these types of devices their main products!
Now I’m not pretending for a moment that this movement is sustainable or even constant but a big part of my desire to own one of these systems is to replace my own original ones and keep them safe in storage. Also having an HDMI output doesn’t suck. But there are some strong conclusions we can make about this based on the interest and sustainability of such endeavors. It means the piracy has nothing (or little) to do with the value of these products. At the least the impact of piracy is so minimal that it does not negate a reasonable profit margin for third party products that support the legitimate release of a game cartridge.
And that, in itself, I find very interesting.
So too does this work exist.