RetroN5 Interview with Paul Leung from Hyperkin
GoozerNation has been following Hyperkin and the release of the upcoming RetroN5 system since it’s announcement. Now at Gamer’s Lounge, Ryan Johnson talks with Paul Leung about some more questions that have arisen as the day of release draws near.
Q: I see the one unit is coming with a multitap power port of sort. Can you explain that to us a little bit? Is it simply for ease of packaging: one unit to ship to the world?
A: The development team behind the RetroN5 itself is split up in many regions so our development models have always used this variable head power adapter. When we looked at the cost of upgrading our power adapter to a multitap model for the commercial release the difference in cost was within range. Although it may hurt our profit margin, the side benefits to Hyperkin and the consumer are huge. I have wondered many times why more products in this world do not do the same.
Q: Does this mean the system will be completely universal, say, for those who travel and love to bring their retro systems with them?
A: Yes! As someone who splits his time between California and Hong Kong, I would directly benefit from having one system that works in both regions. Furthermore, ever since I started at Hyperkin, I have had this unrealized grandiose vision of making classic retro gaming as widely available as possible in order to grow our niche industry.
Q: Given the Bluetooth link for the controllers, will there be capabilities to link other, non-Hyperkin controllers to the unit?
A: Although possible, it remains very unlikely. During the conceptual phase it was put down by management, in a very serious tone, that our system was not supposed to evolve into a living room media center. Thus we eliminated any notion of online capabilities, media playback, etc. So the Bluetooth link will most likely be encrypted and closed off. This is not open source hardware.
Q: If you're playing a massive multiplayer game (say, SuperSpike V-Ball on the NES), will the system function as a multitap, allowing you to use SNES controllers for players 3 and 4, or will you have to find an old Four Score to plug in extra NES controllers?
A: Yes, the system does allow for controllers to become non-specific to the cartridge. Meaning a four player game on the SNES could use 2x SNES controllers and 2X Genesis controllers or any other combination.
Q: I have heard talk of system updates for the RetroN5. Is this true, and if so, how does it work? Will this translate into some semblance of customer service being available from the company?
A: We will have continuous system updates for the RetroN5 until the day that management pulls the plug. These updates would be via the SD card port on the back of the system. During our beta testing period we have gone through several thousand cartridges but some titles have an unknown number of variants. Should we discover a cartridge that is not compatible we would change our core operating system to accommodate. There are plenty of other things we could potentially do with the firmware updates and it is limited only by our talent and creativity.
Q: From a business perspective, I've been curious Amazon has been kinda on a yo yo with your system. It was up, then down. Then the release date changed, and today I see it online but with a later release schedule. Is any of that due to high preorder volume, or do you have anything to do with Amazon's juggling? Have you seen preorder numbers? Is it proving as popular as you imagined it would be? Only one color is on Amazon. When will the alternate be available? (NOTE: Since my original email both systems are on a "wait and see" list. What's the current plan?)
A: At the 75% completion stage, I was eager to prove that our system would be available by Christmas and provided a far-too optimistic date of release. After rushing to production we discovered a problem with one of our pin connectors. The spacing between the pins was slightly off and it could easily cause problems. Once we realized that a Christmas time release was impossible, we took a step back and decided to correct many of the smaller issues that we had ignored previously. I have no doubt that this caused all sorts of headaches for my sales and marketing colleagues. Even worse, I do read some of the toxic comments from the community and it pains me to have failed them so badly.
As for Amazon. According to my sales department, we do not even have a live-person of contact at Amazon. Everything is currently being handled by robots and an anonymous email account. I have not seen any preorder numbers but the massive reaction from the world has easily surpassed anything I would have dared imagine. There is definitely interest for all things retro-gaming at the moment. I do not mean to cause false urgency but we know the number of units being produced in the first batch will not satisfy demand. Hyperkin is a small company and we do not have the financial power to produce a larger order.
Q: Save states are an amazing addition to games that never had ways to take breaks. Can you tell us more about how they will work? Can you have multiple save states on one game, or will it be like the Wii U where one is all you get? How big is the system's memory bank? Is there a limit to the number of saves you can make? Will the memory be expandable, a la USB memory sticks or such?
A: It is precisely because I could never pass Marble Madness on NES that I decided to make save states an absolute certainty in our system. Have you played that game? It's freakin' hard! Any game on the RetroN 5 has up to ten save states. I will not tell you the size of the internal system memory until after commercial release but the SD card slot can supplement if necessary. I doubt this would be a problem since most retro titles are only a few MB each.
We would like to thank Paul Leung for taking the time to answer some questions and all of us here at The Gamers Lounge look forward to the release of the RetroN5.