Playing games is something that as a human race I don’t think we will ever stop doing. Gaming in general always seems to be on the increase. Whether it’s sports related games such as fantasy football, puzzle games on your phone, high-end PC gaming or simply board games at a house party, gaming is always going on. Retrogaming is also something that doesn’t seem to be going away. You may think retrogaming would be something that is stuck in the past, but in fact it is on a continuous rise right now and there are new developments happening all the time.

I’m going to take a quick look at some of the hardware and software developments that are currently going on as we enter a new decade. There really are so many things happening that I’m sure I will miss out some, but it will give an indication of just what sort of things are in the pipeline.

The last few years
We ended the previous decade of the 2010s with a plethora of retrogaming products being launched. In terms of home arcade machines there have been several new options in the last couple of years. You don’t just need to build your own home arcade machine like I did. If space is an issue then you could start collecting the tiny arcade machines by Super Impulse. But if you have some more space then we saw the release of the quarter size arcades being made by Numskull. These arcade machines, consisting of many classics including Pac-Man, Galaga, Track and Field and Dig Dug, have been getting great reviews.

Obviously a massive trend in the last few years has been all the mini consoles that have been released. These ready-to-play devices are very handy for casual gamers who want to play retro games in their living room. And they’re super cute too. The list currently includes the NES, SNES, PlayStation, MegaDrive/Genesis, Commodore 64, PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 Mini.

Moving away from the hardware trends, one of the other big things has been streaming software. Online gaming has become an increasingly popular pastime over the last decade as internet speeds increase. Often the gambling industry takes the lead here offering services such as live casino games. Modern video gaming is right there too, with a multitude of streaming platforms springing up recently. Obviously Google Stadia was a big thing that launched last year, although I believe there maybe isn’t quite the games catalogue that people had hoped for yet. But the premise is certainly interesting: streaming games that are hosted centrally. No regular updates needed or storage issues. But you do need really good broadband. But that’s for modern gaming. For the retrogamer we have the newly released Antstream platform which focusses on streaming retrogames without having to own the original hardware. It has been dubbed the Netflix of retrogaming. I believe it has perhaps not been without its teething issues at launch, but all in all it’s a very interesting technology and one that I’m sure we will only see more of for services like this.

In terms of software, I’m sure most people on the street would imagine that retro games are simply old games and that there are no new retro games being made. Quite the opposite, in fact. There are many games that are obviously inspired by the retro genre, such as Shovel Knight, Retro City Rampage and the more recent Retro Mania Wrestling. But there are also new games being made in existing franchises such as the fan made, but officially licenced, Sonic Mania. And we also have to mention that the Oliver Twins seem to be constantly finding lost Dizzy games in their loft which they can release every few years. So retro software is certainly not dead either.

What’s coming in 2020
So there have been some cool things in the last few years, but is there more to come this year? Absolutely. The biggest thing on my radar is the launch of the long-awaited ZX Spectrum Next. A Kickstarter campaign from about 3-4 years ago which is bringing the next chapter in the life of the Sinclair Spectrum to our desks. Very exciting and it looks like it is very professionally made indeed. At the time of writing, several Kickstarter backers have received their Spectrum Nexts, but I’m still waiting for mine as I went for the accelerated version. It should arrive in the next week or two though I hope. One thing that is particularly exciting about the Spectrum Next is that the community around the Spectrum, in the UK and wider afield, is huge. I’m very excited about new games being made for it, such as the already launched Baggers in Space and the currently work in progress, but stunning looking, Melkhior’s Mansion. And when you add the fact that the Spectrum Next has Wifi and Internet capability, which bodes the possibility of online multiplayer Spectrum Games, that is extremely exciting. Multiplayer Jet Set Willy anyone?

Another piece of hardware allegedly coming this year is the Atari VCS. This is by a whole new team that have bought the Atari name and there are mixed opinions about what they are offering. But the fact is that anything that bears that classic Atari logo will get eyeballs on it. So let’s hope they do the brand justice.

Staying on the hardware front, there have been several recent attempts at good retro handheld consoles, such as the very cool GPI Case, several models from GPD and many other devices that can also host emulators. But there are a few new interesting ones coming this year. The Evercade has been making a lot of noise and was released just a few weeks ago, to some quite positive reviews. Another very interesting contender is the Analogue Pocket handheld, which looks very stylish and even got a cover feature in Retro Gamer magazine. I’ve certainly got my eye on that one. There’s also the Super Retro Champ launching later this year, which is a kind of portable device to play original SNES and MegaDrive/Genesis cartridges I believe.

In a slightly different approach, Hasbro is apparently bringing back the classic Tiger LCD games. Apparently, they will be exactly like their original versions, with no bells or whistles. Launch titles include The Little Mermaid, Transformers: Generation 2, X-Men Project X and Sonic the Hedgehog 3. I love things like this, when a brand brings back a much loved product. These handhelds weren’t amazing but they had a lot of charm.

From a software point of view I’m sure there will be yet more remakes and sequels of retro games. Sensible Soccer 2020 was released at Christmas I believe, but I’ll still mention it in this decade as I’m sure it will get lots of updates just now. And another one that is still upcoming is Streets of Rage 4. The savvy guys at Rebellion, who in recent years have bought licences such as 2000AD, Judge Dredd and Roy of the Rovers, have now bought the licence to the Bitmap Brothers brand, so I would imagine we may see a remake or a sequel to Speedball or Xenon on the cards too.

The rest of the coming decade
So, what do we think will happen in the next few years? Probably more mini consoles, although there are not a lot left to do. I’ve heard rumours about a Mini N64. I think a mini Dreamcast would be really cute too. I would really love to see the Spectrum Next community thrive and spur on lots of new bedroom coders. The homebrew scene is already thriving but this could push it even further. If the Spectrum Next is a big success then I could imagine it potentially spawning more new computers like it. The mini consoles are nice plug and play devices for the casual gamer but the Next is a proper computer and I could imagine a Next version of the BBC, C64 or Amiga coming on to the market too. I think it would be great to see.

I definitely think the streaming technology will push forward. These original old devices and cassettes, disks and even cartridges will eventually stop working. We do have some new machines that are being made, either to play ROMs via emulation or to play original cartridge, but streaming will take a bigger and bigger seat at the table I feel.

And in other, more random news, they are apparently starting construction on a Super Nintendo World theme park in Japan, California and Florida. The mind boggles at how cool that could be. There is so much in Florida right now that it’s very hard to see everything in a two week holiday, and this is going to add even more! I understand Japan is due to open this year and one of the American ones will open in 2023.

It’s just so interesting to see that not only is modern gaming of course developing all the time, but retrogaming is also developing too. It’s certainly not stuck in the past, and I look forward to seeing what the future of retrogaming holds.