Latest product from #RetroN5 maker competes with #NESClassic
It’s so flaming marvellous to see a new manufacturer make strides into a competitive market, and to actually succeed at bringing innovative products to that market.
The market-awareness no doubt comes on the back of Nintendo’s own “NES Classic Edition” launched in Autumn last year. While Hyperkin follows their you-still-need-the-physical-game-to-play approach, Nintendo’s offering requires no cartridges, as all the software is pre-installed. (IMHO: this is what keeps Hyperkin out of I.P. related court cases.)
Coincidentally: further comparisons in the output of both companies can be made between Nintendo’s own announcements of the (somewhat tongue-twisting) “Nintendo Classic Mini: Super Nintendo Entertainment System” being launched in Europe during Autumn of 2017; while Hyperkin had beaten the Big N to the punch by years with their own “SupaBoy” (that even got an upgrade, also for Autumn last year)!
While portable gaming has been a big chunk of the market for some time (Nintendo’s big release this year is the “Switch” that can essentially be completely disassembled; while their first official “GameBoy” was released in 1989) it’s fair to say that big budget / high street manufacturers have had a hard time staying relevant amidst the proliferation of hardware piracy and third-party “knock-offs”. As above, Hyperkin seem to be staying well away from actually tapping Nintendo’s IP by using emulation*; even though Nintendo are quite famous for suing the pants, glasses and neckties off proven pirates**.
(*Q. 18 on the FAQ: “Does the Retron 5 use emulation?“)
While the Switch’s “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” does look rather stonking fabulously pretty, and is clearly being the focus of Nintendo’s marketing department this passing year; one wonders why Nintendo would shout loudly, albeit somewhat briefly, about the NES Classic; then proceed to completely stop production comparatively soon after?
While I’m sure there’s been a need for a cash-quick product, as Nintendo compete globally they have seen a decline in Net revenue since 2013; and the Europe region is beset with Brexit (but not necessarily tightening UK purse-strings) while North America is allegedly spending more than ever; an item that quite literally flew off the shelves would probably be a no-brainer in terms of sales. With 30 games included, but accessories not (it’s only released with one controller but accepts two) and easily fits into carry-on luggage: the idea of a whole “console” being portable has officially been tried-and-tested by an I.P. “originator”.
One wonders if this was merely an experiment to find the needs of the market with a nostalgia-tapping “ideal” product with a very short sales window (potentially twice in two years); if this was to encourage the tactics displayed by “private” resellers known as “scalping” for presumably ethically dubious reasons; or if it was “time” for the originator to access a new audience. Perhaps all three.
Anyway, if arguably, all of the above hasn’t stopped innovation from non-owners (i.e. “third-party” creators) including those responsible for the aforementioned knock-offs. If it did this article, for one, would be very different.
It is extremely easy to find a very portable system created, under license from the original owner of the IP, precisely to capitalise on waning or unreliable trends; and to “scratch an itch” left by failing hardware (as it’s very likely that cases, connectors and joints will all be failing after regular usage over the course of twenty years). It could also be argued that this is the kind of niche Hyperkin (and its contemporaries) are expecting to fill with its products. Hyperkin’s “RetroN 3” is even listed in Sega Retro’s “Clone Console” wiki (see the paragraph entitled “Response”); the same directory that contains a page on the very different “Hamy SD“.
While Sega (principally Nintendo’s only competitor throughout the early nineties) has taken an entirely different tack and licensed their IP to a variety of third-parties: you could argue that this approach is only as good as its partners can produce; on occasion with fairly bad results.
Fortunately Hyperkin appears to be bucking this trend; with SlashGear, Nintendo Life, Den of Geek and GameSpot all giving the RetroN HD (which is technically the RetroN 1 HD) at least an honourable mention.
For those interested: the machine works in a different way to the (previously discussed) RetroN 5. While the latter uses straight-ahead “emulation”, downloading the entire contents of a cartridge into onboard dedicated RAM and interpolating / rendering (etc.) as necessary; the former is a system-on-a-chip machine, directly reading the contents from a cartridge, then running current signals to the outputs. This information comes second or third-hand; as historically Hyperkin haven’t been great at revealing schematic-level plans of their devices; but with the inherent issues surrounding their use of copyrights not their own, that’s probably no surprise…