With the upcoming release of a new Neo Geo hand-held console we look back at it’s crazy history and bold business decisions
Posted on Thursday, November 1st, 2012 by Matthew Reynolds
The Neo Geo has become quite infamous for its insanely high launch price and colossal sized game cartridges but to those fortunate to play it, it has remained as one of the greatest consoles of all time. Recently it has been announced that the console is going to be remade as a sleek hand held console which, for extra cost, can plug into an external shell mimicking the old Neo Geo shape. So just why is this console considered so great and why does it have such a cult following?
True Aracde Experience at Home
The Neo Geo came out in 1991 and was competing against the Mega Drive and the SNES. The most popular and highest quality games on both of these consoles and their predecessors were usually ports of Arcade games. Unfortunately the consoles didn’t have quite the processing power that the arcade machines did and so these ports were redesigned from the ground up, and if you are a gamer from that period then you know that these ports were always nowhere near as good as their arcade counterparts. SNK, the makers of the Neo Geo, wanted to change this and release a console capable of playing good arcade games.
SNK were revolutionary at the time for producing arcade machines which had interchangeable cartridges allowing for multiple games on one machine. Floor space was precious in arcades so one of SNK’s arcade machines would allow arcade operators to change the games every so often and effectively have multiple machines in one. It was decided that a home console would be created under the title of the Neo Geo AES (Advanced Entertainment System) and it would have the same hardware capabilities as the regular arcade machine and be able to play exactly the same games.
Consumer Crushing Price
This was a remarkable leap forward and the AES became the daddy of consoles in terms of technical power. However all this power came at a consumer crushing price. At launch the AES was priced at $649.99 with games going for an incredible $199.99, more than the price of a Sega Mega-Drive ($190)! The game cartridges weighed a lot and were bigger than VCR tapes. Needless to say the sales were initially poor, the premise of the console was great but it was unproven and not many people could afford to take the gamble of this new home console company. Eventually talk began to spread that the console was great allowing the fantasy to come true that you could play the exact same arcade games but in your home. This new fame still didn’t change the fact that most people simply couldn’t afford it.
The games produced for the Neo Geo remained strong and they were making hit after hit of 2D fighter games that we even rivalling the great 2D fighter games company rivalling Capcom. Sadly in 1996 SNk officially ended production of the AES in Japan. The production of games continued all the way into 2004. The Neo Geo still has a massive cult following today and many fan websites exist exploring the console and its games and keeping it alive. Tracking down the console and games today is a very expensive hobby and the prices can go into the thousands. As noted earlier though there is being a re-release of the console in a small handheld device with 20 of games included and if you pay a bit extra you can get a shell of the original console as well as an old style controller.
The Neo Geo was a revolutionary console that aimed to do one thing, produce a kick ass games machine that played proper arcade games at home regardless off cost. Its this dedication to the industry that led to a massive fan follow but unfortunately it also led to its early demise.