On September 29, 1996, Nintendo launched the Nintendo 64. It would be the last console to feature cartridges as the storage medium before Sony’s PlayStation would change the landscape of game distribution and development with the optical disc format. Now Mike Kennedy, founder of GameGavel and Retro magazine, is gearing up to launch the Retro VGS Kickstarter to bring back the cartridge based video game console.
The Retro VGS Kickstarter is slated to start some time this summer. The goal is to “bring back the culture of gaming and the collectibility of owning cartridges, boxes, and illustrated instruction manuals,” according to the official Facebook page. Anyone who has ever spent time blowing into their NES cartridges to get them to work may not have the fondest memories of cartridge based games, but there is a logic to the nostalgia factor that may make this a successful project, though likely only for a subset of the gaming population.
Cartridges from the 90s were bulky, expensive to manufacture, and extremely limited by the technology of the time in terms of how much storage there actually was. Today, one 64GB USB stick could hold thousands of old NES games at a fraction of the cost. It is this cost effectiveness that Kennedy is banking on to entice both gamers and indie developers to release retro themed games on this new Retro VGS console.
Digital distribution is becoming the standard model for the video game industry. The PC gaming world has been firmly entrenched with digital distribution as Steam, GoG, and other digital distribution channels have brought an end to the retail boxed copy of games. The dedicated home console market dipped its toes in the water with the last generation of consoles, but is quickly pacing to be a digital delivery platform with the current home consoles. Those games that are sold at retail are merely empty shell boxes that have the disc, box artwork, and a legal disclaimer if they are lucky. This is a far cry from the days of the multipage manual and mini strategy guide in games like Final Fantasy VII on the original PlayStation.
Similar to the vinyl revival currently taking place in the music industry, the Retro VGS Kickstarter is likely to appeal to gamers who shell out the extra dollars for collector’s editions of PC and console games. The Inquisitrreported that vinyl album sales were at 9.2 million in 2014, up from 6.1 in 2013, and the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down. The sales of vinyl records, while impressive, still only represent a niche market of the music industry of enthusiasts who both appreciate the fidelity of a well mastered vinyl and want to show a sign of loyalty to their band by investing in a physical product for display at their home. Gamers who have a giant titan status from Titanfall or a chalice from the Assassin’s Creed Unity Strategy guide are the subset of gamers who value the physical copy as as sense of control over their collection or pride in supporting their game franchise.
You can read Kennedy’s full interview with VentureBeathere.
[Image Source: Retro VGS]