RetroEngine Sigma Shows That There’s Still Life in Microconsoles

The RetroEngine Sigma hit Indie Gogo on December 6 and reached its goal the next day. This device has been known about to some degree for a while since the trailer for it hit Vimeo before the IndieGogo launched – but there wasn’t a lot known about it. The video showed off a wide variety of emulated classic games – and there was no skirting around what this was meant to be. It’s an emulation box that brands itself as such with the video even showing off a wide variety of systems whose libraries are playable with it. While the OUYA brought emulators to consoles before anyone else, it also at least had the defense it needed of being usable for homebrew games, and some emulators on its marketplace came with a few of those.

Based on the RES using a smartphone-guided setup, it seems like there will be an app made available that allows you to either sideload or directly download various console emulators to the device. Right now, it’s known that the Atari 2600, NES, SNES, Amstrad, GBA, Atari 7800, Game Gear, Lynx, MAME, MSX NGPC, Comoodore 64, SG-1000, Sega CD, Sega Master System, Sinclair, Nintendo 64, Neo-Geo, Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, Vectrex, PlayStation 1, PC Engine, Atari Lynx, Game Boy Color and 32X will be playable. The device’s small size is OUYA-esque, but the shape was crafted to evoke the Genesis – and really does look gorgeous with a silver base and black accents.

The device hooks up through HDMI only and includes two USB ports for any USB controller – so users of retro-inspired USB pads will be right at home. You can also hook up a micro USB hub and get even more controllers hooked up. Those seeking a wireless controller option can use a Bluetooth-enabled controller, and the device will ship with an AC adapter. The device’s pricing structure is fair – early birds could get a deluxe set with two controllers and a 32GB card for $69, but it’s now $90. those wanting a huge lot fo them can still spend $490 and get 10 units with 16GB cards, or you can spend $690 for 10 3GB units. Those seeking the least-expensive option can go with the $69 tier that gets you a controller, the device, the MicroSD card reader, and a controller with a 16GB card for $69.

The OUYA had an early-bird price of $80 and a regular price of $100 that stayed pretty constant throughout the device’s life. Other Android boxes are out there, like Xiaomi’s Mi Box – but that uses stock Google Play and many of its emulators cost money to download. With the OUYA, all of its initial emulators were free and others, like ePSXe and DraStic, could be sideloaded with ease if you already had them via the Google Play Store. Given that this device is just an emulation box, one would hope that the emulators on it were free – and it featuring several systems that aren’t replicated on the OUYA means that it can hold some appeal to users of that device.

It’s a Linux-based device, so it shouldn’t run into nearly as many problems at the Android-based OUYA did with controller latency – something that is quite important when you’re trying to enjoy a fast-paced platformer. The use of Linux should also mean more up-to-date emulators, as Android-based ones don’t get many updates comparatively. One big downside in terms of overall value is that the OUYA could be used as more than an emulation box thanks to the ability to play a wide variety of games from either the OUYA storefront, the Amazon storefront, the Google Play Store, or any appstore you sideloaded to it. By using Linux, you can also just hook up a keyboard and mouse and them browse the web or even create documents – so someone wanting a mini-computer to take on the road for retro gaming and document writing would be set.

You can also use KODI on it and set this thing up as your go-to home entertainment media center. Those buying the base unit will get a PS2-style pad, while those getting the deluxe will get a Genesis 6-button-style controller and a PS2-style controller The device is not set to ship to retailers and is only planned for a release via the IndieGogo – which is a bit odd. OUYA may have had lofty goals, but they did at least reach the heights of retail. With this being a pure emulation box, it makes sense to not do that though since it’s already going to be enough of a grey market device anyway.

Still, the fact that this device has reached its initial goals so quickly is promising. Microconsoles may never reach the heights they could have — at least as full-fledged gaming devices — but things like the Amazon Fire TV and especially the Fire TV Stick bring low-cost gaming to the masses. The Sigma has a bit of an uphill battle like the OUYA because its coming from nowhere without any real history to give people an idea of how good it could be. Fortunately, the OUYA had a strong staff that supported the device – while this will rely on the individual developers of the emulators to provide regular updates and upgrades to keep it relevant. Hopefully the story for the Sigma winds up being slightly more positive than the OUYA’s was. It’s a story that only time will tell — but they’re off to a promising start. We’ll be keeping an eye on this device as its release draws near.