‘Unleash Your Nostalgia’ with RetroBlox: the new gaming system which lets you play all your favourite retro games!
Wish you could still play your favourite retro games? We have an exclusive interview with the creators of RetroBlox, the new console that lets you do just that.
RetroBlox is an exciting new console which brings retro games back to the present. Compatible with many older systems, RetroBlox allows you to replay many beloved classics on a brand new system. The founders and developers behind RetroBlox were kind enough to answer some questions, and share some information on this highly anticipated new console.
Could you please give a little information about what the RetroBlox can do?
RetroBlox is a Modular Multi-System Retro Game console. It features a CD/DVD optical drive for playing CD based classic video games (such as those of the PS1, Sega CD, and TurboGrafx-CD) in its base unit. It is also compatible with Element Modules, which are specifically made for classic cartridge-based systems (such as NES and Sega Genesis) and include the cartridge connector and at least two controller ports for each classic system. Placing a cartridge into an Element Module that is connected to the base unit allows users to play games directly using our advanced Hybrid Emulation tech, or install the game to the system digitally for convenience and preservation of the game in an iPod / iTunes type relationship. The system also features online connectivity for Twitch streaming and sharing of social content to leading social networks.
Why did you feel that there is a need for the RetroBlox?
RetroBlox fulfills several needs that are currently not met by other competitive products on the market. First, there’s no commercial retro game system that uniformly supports optical disc based media. Second, original game console hardware is prone to failure over time, as are cartridges and optical media. For someone who is a retro gaming enthusiast, they cannot be assured that their games (some of which have never been made available on current gen systems) will last a decade more into the future. So, we’re providing them with a legal solution to digitally preserve their games, just as you would want to digitally preserve your family photos or VHS tapes. Last, many games that contain special chips and mappers are not compatible with some of the leading retro clone game systems on the market, and our patent-pending hybrid emulation technology will allow those games to be played without issue.
How have you started development on this? Have you contacted many other gaming companies about the RetroBlox?
We began development on RetroBlox in November 2015 and are primarily focused on supporting the indie community for the launch of RetroBlox, but since the announcement two weeks ago, we have also began discussions with other higher profile game development and publishing partners.
Who are the main people behind the RetroBlox? What games are they most looking forward to playing on Retroblox?
The main people behind RetroBlox are myself and our CTO Eric Christensen, although the rest of our team have also played significant roles in the design and engineering efforts that have brought RetroBlox this far along. Eric and I met while working at Insomniac Games on Ratchet & Clank around a decade ago and have been friends ever since. We always talked about retro gaming with reverence while working there, especially the TurboGrafx-16 and PC-Engine. Naturally, we have a huge affinity for that console, but in practice we play anything that’s good. My personal favorite genres are RPGs and Shoot ‘Em Ups, and I’m looking forward to diving into my deep backlog of games in those genres from my personal collection. When I find moments of time in between production work on RetroBlox to actually play, I have been playing Light Crusader for the Mega Drive / Sega Genesis which is a hidden-gem type Action RPG made by Treasure.
How do you feel about modern games? Do you believe there is much difference between the games playable on RetroBlox and modern games being developed?
Having worked on modern games for some time and been heavily involved in the behind-the-scenes, there’s no question that current-gen titles take an incredible amount of concentrated effort from a large organization to make, and for that reason alone there is much respect to be given to the teams and studios behind them. Small gaming studios have also clearly been able to thrive making indie content for current-gen systems as well, especially with the introduction of turnkey-development solutions like Unity and Unreal Engine. I would say the main difference between the modern systems and classic games are that programming games for classic systems requires an understanding of low level development that is quite different from knowledge needed to make games using the tools of today. However, the games are also much simpler in nature so they don’t require as much money or effort to release. If you ask me whether I think current-gen games are better or worse than retro, I think it’s down to preference as well as nostalgia. There’s no doubt in my mind that the best retro game is as good, if not better, than the best current-gen game. The key difference between good current gen games and good retro games, and where retro games have the advantage, is simply a sense of nostalgia. Retro games have the totally unique and instant ability to transport the player back in time to a simpler, less complicated place in their lives. Think about how crazy the world is today in comparison how your life was when you were 9 or 10 years old (if you’re in your late 30’s, or early 40’s like me, that is). Retro games can strike a significant emotional chord with both mainstream casual gamers as well as hardcore gamers, just by hearing the intro music to a game they used to love playing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to people who do not actively collect retro games, nor do they play current-gen games, but when I tell them about RetroBlox, I almost universally get the “Yes! Do you remember (insert game name here)”. This is why I believe retro gaming has bigger potential than the niche collector-focused hobby that some may classify it as today. You could probably say that 20 years from now, people who remembered the sights and sounds as kids of the first generation of Facebook games or early iPhone hits will feel the same way about those games, which are probably being eaten up by banks and holdings companies as we speak.
Is there one game in particular that the team at RetroBlox are excited to play on the system?
I doubt we could come to a universal agreement on a single game, but one thing we can universally agree on is that we as a team are excited to play the new-old games that are going to be released on RetroBlox. The idea of a classic games developer come out of retirement to make some new stuff would be fantastic. For example, I’d love to see Nasir Gebelli, famed Iranian-American programmer of the classic ‘Final Fantasy’ games come up with some interesting new ideas that could be published on RetroBlox. Or what if Hideo Kojima decided to make a 16-bit spiritual successor to ‘Snatcher’ that wouldn’t require a $20 million budget or 250-person development team? I think there’s a lot of potential there. We just need to show it can be done, show that there is an audience for it, and offer a great platform for them to use to get it out there.
When will the Kickstarter begin? Will there be any incentives?
The Kickstarter is going to launch in April 2017. There will be plenty of incentives but we’re not ready to announce what they will be yet.
When do you predict this going on sale?
Next year. We’re currently in discussions with distribution partners for North America and Europe so that you can buy RetroBlox at retail.
Which gaming systems will be compatible?
So far, we’ve announced modules for NES, SNES/SFC, MD/Genesis/32x, TurboGrafx-16/PC-Engine, and Atari 2600. For CD game consoles we’ve announced Sega CD, TurboGrafx CD / PC-Engine CD, and PS1 (these systems do not require an attached module to be played).
Are there anymore systems you’re hoping to add?
Yes, quite a few actually. The great thing about having a modular and online system is that we can keep releasing new consoles far into the future, so even if your favorite system isn’t supported at the Kickstarter, there’s a good chance we could release it later down the line either as a software update for CD consoles or by releasing a new Element Module for a cartridge-based system.
Legality issues aside, we believe that looking at a list of 1,000 ROMs downloaded in a torrent file significantly cheapens and kills the experience of enjoying retro games. However, there’s a big difference when placing the cartridge in the slot and playing, or backing up a game from your personal collection so that you can play it on a dedicated console in your living room. The initialization of this ritual subconsciously makes you want to play further and to enjoy the full experience. Now, that’s not to say there isn’t a place for digital content on RetroBlox, as there is, but we think there’s also room in the market for a device that marries the best of both worlds, which can help create a larger community of retro gaming fans around the world and move retro towards mainstream legitimacy.
Will the RetroBlox make any changes to the original games?
The games will operate as they were intended to, though we will be announcing new ways for users to create additional content (translations, mods, etc.) that compliments retro games in the future and do not require vast changes to the original code. For games and mods that are user-copyrighted content, or sit in a legally grey area, we won’t be able to digitally distribute them on the RetroBlox digital marketplace without permission from the original authors.
Will there be any internet connectivity? Will this provide any extra features?
Yes, RetroBlox features online connectivity and for launch we will be supporting Twitch streaming, social sharing of screenshots and videos to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. We also have some additional surprises in store which are not being announced yet.
How do you feel the gaming industry has changed over the last 30 years?
That’s a big question, but I’ll do my best to give a perspective. First, it goes without saying that the introduction of mass storage media (CD-ROM) and polygonal 3D moved games toward the experience of realism and film and TV. Bits and pieces of classic gameplay are retained in modern games, but they are rich and vast and complex now, saving little for the imagination in both good and bad ways. Second, I believe there was something that happened in terms of the approachability of home video game consoles with the introduction of the second analog stick (eg; PlayStation 2 and Gamecube) that raised the barrier of entry for casual players significantly. The controllers just started looking too complicated. Nintendo clearly acknowledged this when introducing the Wii controller in the 2000’s, and Apple’s introduction of the touch screen interface on the iPhone significantly lowered that accessibility bar as well. Both were resounding successes, and the latter paved the way for enterprising mobile game developers to take advantage of new micro transaction-based payment models. Many game studios such as Supercell have become wildly profitable by subtly honing these free-to-play models and there’s an entire generation of kids who have grown up accustomed to it, largely based on mobile devices and social networks. So, when a company like Nintendo attempts to enter the same market with a classic console game game franchise (‘Mario Run’, for example), they might only see limited success when attempting to use the pay-to-play payment model that the iPhone’s user base is unaccustomed to, much like if Supercell attempted to release a microtransaction-based ‘Clash of Clans’ on the 3DS or Wii U. For us, this begs the question of whether there is an audience out there who loves classic games (‘Mario Run’), dislikes free-to-play payment models (‘Clash of Clans’), and are not interested in current-gen gaming (Wii U / Switch). I know that I personally fall squarely into this category and that’s the market we’d like to address with RetroBlox. I believe its larger than some people may think.
How can people support your Kickstarter?
The best way to support the Kickstarter is to sign up on our email list at retroblox.com, or to follow us on Facebook or Twitter. We will be providing detailed updates on all three throughout the campaign and beyond.
Final thoughts from our Editor
RetroBlox plans to bring the past, present, and future of gaming together, which should be enough to grab the attention of any gamer! The gaming industry has never been bigger, systems are becoming more powerful and games are getting bigger and more realistic. I can’t wait to see RetroBlox bring back so many loved classics from the past!
I’d like to thank the team at RetroBlox for taking the time to answer my questions, and recommend all readers to follow and like them on social media to keep up with all their most recent announcements.
Written by Stan Cohen
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