‘Creepy Bird’ Anyone? Meet San Antonio’s Retro Video Game Developer

San Antonio—Video games are big business, and highly dynamic. From the Xbox to virtual reality, how players play has changed quite a bit since the Atari and the NES brought home gaming to the masses.

One San Antonio video game developer is riding a wave of renewed interest in older gaming systems, starting a business that sells retro versions of video games that can be played on classic Atari, Sega, and Nintendo systems, among others. The catch is that it’s not necessarily for the folks looking to replay the most popular games of the last century: Piko Interactive develops new games and publishes old games that were created but not necessarily sold.

The company assembles the game cartridge hardware, rewrites software code to make sure the old games work properly, and sells multiple games in single cartridges that can be used in the original consoles, according to founder Eli Galindo.

“It’s basically the original Nintendo on one chip,” Galindo said during a phone interview in early December.

Retro gaming—playing remastered or retooled versions of, say, old Mario Bros. or Zelda titles on the original consoles or newly made plug-and-play devices—has become more prominent in recent years. That’s partly because technology has progressed enough to allow dozens of games to be stored on a single chip, instead of each game needing its own large cartridge. Nintendo released a mini version of its NES system earlier this year as a plug-and-play device—one that has games preloaded to it, so cartridges aren’t involved—that has around 30 of its classic games.

Piko’s focus is on lesser-known games, particularly ones that were developed and never released. That includes games like “Super Noah’s Ark 3D” and “Mr. Bloppy Saves the World”—indeed real games that were developed 20 to 30 years ago and were easy to acquire the rights to because they never hit the market (or had short lives), Galindo says.

The older games do require some coding to get them working properly, Galindo said. Because it’s old technology, he has hired freelance developers who know how to code in the low-level languages used for old systems. On the hardware side, Piko assembles the cartridges after buying parts like chips from vendors.

The company was founded in 2011, and received its first funding through a Kickstarter campaign that Galindo created to develop his own video game. Galindo is the only employee, along with the developers and a few other contractors.

Piko, which moved into the Geekdom co-working space in San Antonio last month, still creates its own “homebrew” games, like one called “Creepy Bird.” That’s Piko’s “take on the extremely popular side scrolling obstacle dodging mini game that hit millions of mobile phones in 2013”—but with a much creepier-looking bird.

Galindo said the company gets website orders on a daily basis—the cartridges, some with multiple games loaded, cost $35 to $75—and he wants to try to sign distribution deals.

For anyone who forgot to buy a present last week for the gaming enthusiasts in their life, who happen to have an old-school system, luck may have just found you.

David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at dholley@xconomy.com Follow @xconholley

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