The Omega Entertainment Machine
While at E3 2011, we got a sneak peak at the Arcade Works Omega Entertainment Machine, which allows you to play Neo Geo MVS games without an arcade cabinet. Obsolete Gamer had a chance to talk with Ari Schwartz about the Arcade Works, the Omega Entertainment Machine and classic gaming.
Can you tell us first off what is Arcade Works?
Ari Schwartz: Arcade Works is a company started by my colleague Quan Nguyen focused on retro gaming. This means not only focusing on bringing retro hardware and accessories to the market to meet the needs of retro gamers who want to play on original or modified hardware, but bringing retro software and new retro-style software to the market. Essentially, we are a company focusing entirely on meeting the market for gamers who want to play 16-bit sprite-based games on old and new hardware.
How did Arcade Works get started?
Ari Schwartz: Arcade Works was started by Quan and myself basically over the Internet! Quan and I were chatting on gchat, and he mentioned his plans for bringing a device to the market. He said he was looking for someone to manage more day-to-day aspects on the operations side, and as I have significant experience with multinational corporations in project management, I came on board as a partner. We’re sort of a garage start up without a garage!
What are your backgrounds as far as gaming and the industry?
Ari Schwartz: Quan is a software engineer with significant experience doing enthusiast products and modifying hardware at the enthusiast level. He’s also been a gamer since he was a kid (we actually were friends since high school.) I’ve been a gamer since I was 5, and Quan and I became friends over discussions about the old 16-bit Squaresoft RPGs like FF VI and Secret of Mana. I actually work for a cellular carrier doing business development, with a strong focus on the mobile gaming market.
Now you premiered the Omega Entertainment Machine at E3 2011, can you tell us about it?
Ari Schwartz: The Omega Entertainment Machine is a consoleized– which means turning an arcade cabinet into a console, basically– version of the old Neo Geo MVS arcade cabinets. We’ve put together a product where you either get to buy a fully assembled and ready-to-play console for $499, or a “take your own hardware and pop it in” plug and play kit for $299. Our product requires no soldering or engineering skill to play MVS cartridges at home.
For those who may not know can you tell us what a MVS system is?
Ari Schwartz: The MVS was SNK’s arcade cabinet for Neo-Geo games. It was called “MVS” because it stood for “multi video system.” If any of your readers have ever been to arcades and played Puzzle Bobble or Metal Slug in a cabinet, they may recall that there were usually multiple games selectable in the cabinet: that was the MVS. A lot of enthusiasts like the MVS because the cartridges are oftentimes many times cheaper than the AES (the Neo Geo console) cartridges, which can cost hundreds.
How will the instant access to MVS titles work?
Ari Schwartz: MVS cartridges are kind of nice as far as Neo-Geo gaming goes, because they’re relatively expensive. Just a quick search on Google will often yield huge batches of games for as little as $10 (sometimes tier 1 titles, no less!) The system will be just like playing on the AES (or an SNES/Genesis for that matter). You’ll plug it in, switch it on, and go straight to your game. No quarters necessary, either!
What MVS titles do you plan to have at first launch?
Ari Schwartz: At the moment we will have a limited supply of games available, and we encourage customers to ask us for a current list, which we will provide at any given moment. We are still working on getting more titles in stock before we start advertising anything so we don’t disappoint anyone.
Can you tell us about the controller?
Ari Schwartz: As of this moment, we are not selling any controllers of our own make, but one really nice thing about our console is that the AES controllers will work right out of the box. Plug any AES controller in, and you’ll be playing right away. In the next few months, we will have a joystick on the market so that folks can have brand new hardware.
Can you give us a hint on pricing and when it might be released?
Ari Schwartz: We put the system up for sale officially today! $299 for the do it yourself kit, and $499 for the full console, assembled and ready to play out of the box. You can buy it at – http://arcadeworks.net/
What is your favorite classic system and game?
Ari Schwartz: I have to admit that I was a Nintendo fanboy back in my day. My family never could afford to get me a Neo Geo (even though I really wanted one!), so I had to settle for an SNES after my NES. However, I was a huge RPG gamer, and I had a big love of those classic Squaresoft RPGs. The game I probably played the most was Chrono Trigger. I hit that New Game + button so many times that I had a party of characters will all level 99.
How important would you say Retro gaming is today?
Ari Schwartz: Retro gaming is incredibly important today. There’s a huge market of underserved retro gamers who are not looking for the next Call of Duty. Maybe they don’t want to deal with playing online, or they just want something less involved. Whatever the case is, they’ve basically been disenfranchised by the extreme focus on huge titles. This makes sense of course for the big studios, who need to target large audiences, but that still leaves a market unfulfilled. I also find it interesting how many titles today are being advertised as “old school” or “retro-style,” but still have 3D graphics. Companies almost seem afraid to try to make a good 2D game. I suspect this is part of why iOS gaming has been so tremendously successful, beyond the prices of software.
One thing that strikes me about a lot of old 2D games is their sheer replayability. While games like Crash Bandicoot or Tomb Raider feel awfully outdated and hard to play today, people can sit down and play SMB or Zelda and it feels as good as it did in the 80s. Those games are still in many ways the template by which we think of games today. An analogy might be Citizen Kane: while a movie like Avatar is technically more impressive on every level, we still study Citizen Kane because it tells us what movies can be at their core, which is damn good entertainment. That’s how I think of retro games.