Over the last couple of years, the market for retro gaming nostalgia has hit a new peak. As a result, gamers who grew up during the heyday of the console wars and arcade high scoreboards have seen a number of products that are made to scratch that itch for bygone days of spending a week's allowance chasing the top spot on any number of classics. While many companies have ambitiously sought to create larger, 2/3rds scale cabinets, My Arcade has been focusing on creating budget-minded desktop-sized cabinet replicas alongside a series of on-the-go Pocket Player devices that feature a number of well-known brands including Bubble Bobble, Pac-Man, and Dig-Dug. Most recently, the team at My Arcade announced they’d be producing a portable hand-held NES/Famicom called the Retro Champ.
We had a chance to catch up with Amir Navid, SVP Product Development and Creative Director at My Arcade to discuss the company’s influences, aspirations, and how their products are changing to meet consumer demands.
Shacknews: I grew up in an era where Tiger Electronic LCD hand-helds were as close as anyone was getting to an arcade experience on the go. I was wondering if these classic devices were an inspiration for My Arcade?
Amir Navid: Absolutely, The Tiger devices, Coleco devices and especially the Game and Watch handhelds were huge influences on us. I love that era of gaming, things were wild and new and technology was just more interesting, and it was taking shape in front of our eyes. It seemed like you could see the future through these gadgets and games. Companies were taking risks and doing something very new. We try to channel that energy and do something new but leave in the colors, the characters, the sounds that remind you of that amazing era
Shacknews: How do you decide which games you’re going to give the “My Arcade treatment?”
Amir: We try to focus on a combination of classic titles people love, and games that were amazing but perhaps did not get the attention they deserved, like cult classics, rare finds, and overlooked gems.
Shacknews: Are there any “holy grail” titles that you haven’t been able to secure yet?
Amir: This is a tough question, as we’ve been fortunate to work on some amazing titles we love like PAC MAN, Burger Time, Space Invaders, which has been a real honor! Of course, there are others that we are dying to work on, but have not secured yet or in the process of securing. I can’t talk about them now, but there are a lot of amazing titles that we still hope to do.
Shacknews: Is there a game that’s requested more often by fans than any other ones?
Amir: We get lots of requests from consumers and they are varied, which is a testament to how many great games were made in that era. People are nostalgic about different ones based on their own personal experiences and memories. Obviously games like PAC MAN, Galaga, and Space Invaders have a huge following, but we also get lots of requests for titles like Splatterhouse, Rolling Thunder, Elevator Action, and Mappy which are amazing games that are not as recognized by the masses.
Shacknews: In the past, some of your models have included home ports of certain games rather than the arcade versions, but it seems like you’ve now switched to focus more on arcade ports. Was this a decision driven internally or by fan feedback?
Amir: We love our fans and from the beginning, our goal has been to deliver a product that is fun, nostalgic, and price-friendly --not only for hardcore fans but for everyone. We made 8-bit and 16-bit versions of the games because we felt these games were great. We wanted to keep these collectibles at a price that is friendly to all and have been working hard for the past few years to develop solutions where we can do Arcade versions of the games at similar prices. Ultimately we want to keep this line affordable and collector-friendly but also give all our fans what they want. Additionally, those that prefer the arcade versions can also look to our Mini Player line (which includes the Namco Museum Mini Player and Data East Classics Mini Player), which have multiple Arcade original games loaded into each unit.
Shacknews: What sort of research goes into the design and fabrication of each product?
Amir: It’s a bit different for each title. The design work is intensive, done with assistance from the licensor and also a lot of hard work from our staff to research the history, the art, the shape, and the variances that may have been released, so we can get it as close as possible. People feel nostalgic when they see things they remember fondly so, we need to evoke those feelings by letting them see and hear their past, and reflect on their memories.
Shacknews: Earlier in the year, you announced the Retro Champ, a portable NES/Famicom player. It’s definitely a pivot from the Micro and Pocket players. What drove that innovation? Are you looking into doing something similar for other classic consoles like the Turbografx or Master System?
Amir: Yes we are extremely proud of the Retro Champ, it was made out of love and for the community of people that like collecting cartridges and import games! Honestly, we were surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response we got for it. It’s good to know people still appreciate physical media and appreciate the games that paved the way. It’s going to be fun and affordable and will allow people to play their games without trying to figure out how to connect an RF adaptor to their new TV or replace that pesky power adaptor they lost. It’s also handheld so you can grind for hours on your favorite games.
To answer your question if there will be more, I can say: never underestimate the Champ.
My Arcade products are available at a number of retail outlets as well as online retailers. You can learn more about them over on their company website.