“ICOULD be handy, mending a fuse / When your lights have gone”. The Beatles were singing about turning 64, but they might well have been singing about Ireland’s original console obsession. The lights went out on the Commodore 64 decades ago – but tomorrow they will flicker back into life.
The Commodore 64 Mini hits Gamestop on March 29 for €99.99, bringing with it collective sighs of nostalgia from gamers between the age of 35-45, and collective groans from their
parents, the erstwhile software mechanics who kept the machine running.
“Mum, the loading screen is frozen again.”
“Dad, the tape is stuck in the machine.”
Thankfully, the only tape the Commodore 64 Mini needs is the sticky kind, sealing the box. Once you’ve ripped that off, the only thing left to do is plug the console into your TV. The Commodore 64 Mini, like its hugely successful cousin the SNES mini, keeps the look and
form of the original console, while making it compatible with modern screens. The result is likely to be a lengthy trip down memory lane for many gamers in Ireland, where the original Commodore was particularly successful.
Unlike the widespread success of Nintendo and Sega in later generations, the Commodore was not a truly global phenomenon. It will be
interesting to see if Irish gamers receive the
Commodore 64 Mini with the same warmth and fervour as the SNES Mini.
Thomas Mallon, marketing manager for
GameStop Northern Europe, has no doubts.
“The demand for the C64 Mini has been
phenomenal,” says Mallon. “We’ve received huge amounts of pre-orders and are encouraging customers to look at the pre-order option to ensure they get their hands on one. The expectation from customers has already far surpassed that of the SNES Mini, so we expect this to be the biggest selling gaming item of 2018, so far.”
Unsurprisingly, the Commodore 64 Mini comes with a specific number of games: 64.
Included are the likes of California Games, which introduced Irish gamers to bad skating long before Tony Hawk, and Impossible Mission I and II. The machine is, effectively, a 50%-scale version of the original console, so you can even plug in a full-size keyboard to
program in BASIC. Many successful game
developers made their first games on a Commodore 64. This writer programmed a pixelated balloon to travel across the screen and promptly retired.
For younger gamers curious as to the real difference between a SNES and a Commodore 64, the best answer might lie with the iconic joystick, which comes packaged with the 64 Mini. With just two buttons and an arcade stick, it really does represent a time when games were simpler. While it may be harder to argue that games were better back then, to Irish gamers of a certain age, the Commodore will always be king.
The current Irish king of gaming is
undoubtedly Brendan Greene, the creator of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Greene has slowly started to acclimatise to his role as
spokesperson for the game, which is developed by Korean outfit Bluehole.
Speaking at the recent San Francisco Game Developer’s Conference, Greene said that he wanted Battlegrounds to become “more
intense” and he announced a new 4KMx4KM map. He also remarked that the goal of
Battlegrounds was to become more realistic, which may be as a direct result of Fortnite, a huge battle royale competitor with a much more cartoonish style.
When asked about rivals series Fortnite, Greene was magnanimous: “It’s great. It’s
getting battle royale to a lot more people. It grows the genre.”
Unfortunately for Greene and Battlegrounds, Fortnite is doing far more than just “growing” the battle royale genre. It is fast becoming the genre. Fortnite released on iPhones last week and immediately topped the charts in 13
countries. If that wasn’t impressive enough,
developers Epic also announced that the
mobile port made them $1.5m in just three days. Considering Fortnite is invite-only on iPhones and is free-to-play (meaning players are not obligated to spend money) that number is extremely healthy.
Fortnite has grown tremendously since first ‘copying’ Brendan Greene’s battle royale
concept last year. It remains to be seen whether Greene and Battlegrounds, which is still hugely popular, can keep apace.