Tucked away in a far corner of the West Pavilion of the Los Angeles Convention center among the independent game developers showcased by IndieCade during E3 is a small booth demonstrating the latest Polymega hardware, a device that’s billing itself as the NES Classic for every old-school game released on every old-school gaming platform.
The company that’s making the device first debuted last year as Retroblox, and while its name has changed (it’s now called Playmaji) and its hardware has gotten more refined, the vision remains very much the same.
Playmaji debuted the new system and its user interface last year at E3 and it’s back again this year to tout its new pricing and drum up support for a pre-order campaign — even as it tries to raise money to license games from publishers.
Last year, Playmaji eschewed going down the crowdfunding route and instead raised $500,000 from undisclosed angel investors, according to chief executive and co-founder Bryan Bernal. This year, Bernal said his company would look to launch a pre-order campaign within the next three months and begin shipping systems by the end of the year.
While there are plenty of consoles (like the Retroengine, or Hyperkin’s SNES clone, or Analogue’s SuperNT) that tout similar capabilities to play retro arcade and console games from gaming’s golden age, Playmaji’s grand designs to provide an all-in-one networked console for gaming that can stream to Twitch or YouTube may set it apart.
The company wants to ensure that it’s doing everything by the book and not tacitly encouraging piracy, according to Bernal.
Eventually Bernal does envision a move into licensing (aiming for 50 to 100 games when the company launches its first product in the fourth quarter of this year), but for now users are limited to the cartridges that they own — or that they can find somewhere.
Both Bernal and his co-founder Eric Christensen have a history in the games business, coming from Insomniac Games where Bernal worked on the Ratchet and Clank title.
The hardware console will sell for $249.99 initially, with module sets that allow for users to upload games from different consoles starting at another $59.99. Those modular sets also include controllers that resemble the classic designs from NES and Sega systems.
“We designed new classic controllers packaged with the element modules,” said Bernal. “You can have a retro controller ready to go. To allow the classic feel and emotion of the games to carry on into the future.”
So far, the company has only raised $500,000 in pre-seed funding, but Bernal is gearing up for a larger round of $2 million to $3 million for licensing additional games. He said preliminary talks were already underway with companies like Sega, Konami and Capcom.
“The closest corollary on the market is the Classic Mini,” says Bernal. While Sega supports classic cartridges through one of its game platforms, no other console that’s on the market presents a unified device for all of a user’s old games, he said.
“This is supposed to serve as the home base in your living room,” said Bernal.