GamesBeat: What are you trying to do with the controller? Are you trying to get the basic D-pad, four face buttons, kind of like the Super Nintendo?
Kennedy: Right now, again — keeping this thing viable — we could have gone out and created a brand new controller. I’ve talked to a lot of developers and it’s important to them to have the dual analog sticks for twin-stick shooters and a variety of things. The reason we’ve kept those is — even though they aren’t really that retro, there are some great advantages to those sticks in retro games. We wanted to leave those on at the request of the majority of the developers we’re talking with. And then I also wanted to have your classic D-pad in there. One of the issues –I don’t know, issue 3 or 4 of Retro magazine, we do a swag-bag spread, a feature on retro video game merchandise. We had a short blurb on Interworks Unlimited’s controller for the Wii. Now, I looked at that and I thought, in my head, that’s exactly what I have envisioned for this thing. It has the dual analog sticks mated up with a classic SNES-style controller.
We went to Interworks and talked to them, and at least at this point, it appears that we’re going to be working with them. They’ll be creating a new USB controller for us that’s going to look like that one, but branded for our console. That controller is classic. There are some concerns with it. They’ve given me some. The quality of it feels great. It doesn’t feel like — I’m not going to name other manufacturers, but it feels like a really nice, sturdy controller. People have had issues with the connectivity to the Wii on that particular controller at times, but we’re not wireless, so that shouldn’t affect us. I don’t mind. I think it’s going to be a great controller for developers to exploit. It has everything they’re going to want. It has everything the younger modern-day gamers will like and it has everything the classic gamers will like. It has the D-pad. The buttons are all oriented properly. I just think it’s going to be a really good controller.
The plan is to pack in two controllers in each box. We’re also going to, I think — again, this is a little tentative because it hasn’t happened yet, but we’re planning on putting two nine-pin connectors in front as well, so that people can plug in old Ataris or any other classic nine-pin old-school controller. We’ll make sure that developers can exploit that as well. Gamers can use our factory controllers, or their favorite USB controllers, like a trackball. It fits with a nine-pin if they want to. But the USB gives us tons of flexibility. You can put a USB multitap on there and add more players. We’re taking it back. We don’t want to have any network connectivity, any of that stuff. We just want to plug in a cartridge, flip the on button, the game works out of the box. It’s not going to require patches and all this stuff. Hopefully people are ready for a kind of return to this style of gaming.
GamesBeat: When will the Kickstarter launch?
Kennedy: Our plan is to launch it this summer. If I had my way we’d launch it right before E3, but it could be June or July. Honestly the hardware is taking us a while. Originally I wanted to launch the thing in February. It’s difficult to create a retro system with modern-day televisions and modern-day technology. You’d think it would be easy. It’s probably easier to make a PS4 these days than a true retro console to play new games. It’s all high-def TVs. Some people want high def. Some people don’t. But we’re sort of forced into it. If I want this console to last for 10-20 years or longer, you pretty much have to go HD with it. But we’re going to have S-Video and composite as well, I think. If you have an older TV — we’re still trying to figure out how that all fits together resolution-wise, playing with all the different types of televisions out there. It’s tough. But I have a couple of great hardware guys working on it.
One of our guys did some work for Sony. Steve, my partner on this, worked at Atari, Apple, Sega. He’s the software and hardware guy. I’m up here in San Francisco. I had dinner with him last night. We spend probably 10 or 15 hours a week, and we’ve been doing this for about six months, just nailing down hardware specifications and build materials. We decide one thing, and then we change something else. We don’t want to screw up. It’s a big undertaking. We want to make sure this is the best, most awesome system, if you’re a retro gamer, whatever. This thing is going to be a love letter to every cartridge-based system that ever came before. We want to do it justice. If we miss the summer, hey, we miss it. If it goes to this fall — we don’t want to launch until it’s right. We want to have a working prototype for the Kickstarter. After the Kickstarter, once we’re sure that it’s going to be fun, this thing is probably going to go through another two or three levels of prototyping before we even get to a consumer version. That’s the progression.
We’re trying to talk to some big-name publishers about bringing back old fan favorites on this thing, or sequels. That’s actually why I’m up here in San Francisco, meeting with a third party developer that’s done a lot of third-party development work for Sony and Capcom and Konami and Sega. We’ll be partnering with this group to lead our charge into those types of companies to work out licensing deals for some of these games that they haven’t monetized in 10-15-20 years. As you know, there’s a lot of games out there that people would love to see brought back. A lot of these games wouldn’t come back and play real well on mobile. You play retro remakes on mobile, right? The touch screen is horrible. There’s just no way around it. For retro-style games, you need precision control. You don’t want any controller lag. You need that zen-like experience that a wired controller can give you. There’s a lot of these games that we think, with the right treatment and the connections involved — it’s possible we might be able to go out and bring back some of your favorite NES-style or Super NES or Sega Genesis games as sequels. We’re putting down our wish list of what titles we would like to see brought back.
The neat thing about this Kickstarter is that we’re not only Kickstarting the console, but we’re also going to Kickstart about a dozen games right along with it. Something like this has never been done before. When the Ouya launched it was Android. They were going to have games on it no matter what. There were only a few that they ever really mentioned. For us, we want to say, when this thing launches in April of next year or whatever, it’s going to have at least these 12 titles, if not more. We’re going to have a bunch of indies on board and stuff. We want to be able to tell everybody in the Kickstarter, here’s the pack-in game. We may have two or three pack-in games for the Kickstarter. We’ll probably do cartridges just for the Kickstarter backers or something.
There’s been no major discussions with Sega about this, but this is an example of what we’re looking for: let’s say we hit $5 million or $6 million and that stretch goal is a new Fantasy Zone or a new Ghosts ‘n Goblins from Capcom. That’s what we’re trying to nail down. If we can get some of these big-name titles and use them as stretch goals, and then have various reward tiers where you can pick one of the stretch goal games, or two or three of them, to add to your box — this is an opportunity for developers who want to bring back an old title. They can bring it back as part of our Kickstarter.
There’s a lot of moving targets. We don’t have it all planned out. But we have really high expectations for it, as you can tell.