Gam­ing fans res­ur­rect beloved 1980s ZX Spec­trum

The China Post - - ARTS - BY KIL­IAN FICHOU

A gam­ing con­sole that was the fore­run­ner of to­day’s PlayS­ta­tion and Xbox has been brought back to life more than 30 years later af­ter an online fundrais­ing cam­paign by nos­tal­gic fans.

The ZX Spec­trum be­came a clas­sic af­ter its re­lease in Bri­tain in 1982 and its suc­cess helped in­tro­duce a gen­er­a­tion to com­put­ing and sim­ple but ad­dic­tive games.

Its newly cre­ated suc­ces­sor, the hand­held ZX Vega, repli­cates the orig­i­nal’s sig­na­ture rain­bow stripes on a black rec­tan­gu­lar joy­pad with red arrow but­tons.

Play­ers can ac­cess 1,000 retro games stored in the mem­ory by link­ing to a TV screen.

The first 4,000 have al­ready rolled off the pro­duc­tion line of the SMS Elec­tron­ics fac­tory on the out­skirts of the cen­tral English town of Not­ting­ham, pro­duced by com­pany Retro Com­put­ers.

It all kicked off with a crowd­fund­ing cam­paign backed by the in­ven­tor of the orig­i­nal, Sir Clive Sin­clair, some­thing of a leg­end in the history of video games.

The cam­paign aimed to raise £100,000 (US$156,000) in two months, of­fer­ing to sell the new ver­sion for £100 each.

The tar­get was reached in 36 hours.

For David Levy, CEO of Retro Com­put­ers, the suc­cess of the cam­paign is no sur­prise.

“There are a huge num­ber of peo­ple from the 1980s who played the Spec­trum, en­joyed it, and want to have the same ex­pe­ri­ence again,” Levy told AFP.

“And quite a lot want their chil­dren to see what they were en­thu­si­as­tic about 30 years ago.”

More than five mil­lion units were sold of the orig­i­nal Spec­trums, af­fec­tion­ately known as “Spec­cys,” one of the first home com­put­ers to be widely used in Bri­tain.

But it even­tu­ally lost out to com­pe­ti­tion from Ja­panese giants Nintendo and Sega.

“It was the PlayS­ta­tion, the Xbox of its day,” said gamer Jonathan Cauld­well, a fan of the con­sole for 30 years.

The Nos­tal­gia Busi­ness

Faced with cin­e­matic game graph­ics and vir­tual re­al­ity head­sets, re­newed en­thu­si­asm for the sim­ple con­cepts and pixel­lated graph­ics of yes­ter­year is fuelling a re­vival of “retro” games from decades past.

“Spec­trum games are quick and fun, you pick them up, you play them, you put them down, and that’s all there is to it,” said Cauld­well.

“Games nowa­days, from mod­ern con­soles, are big com­pli­cated things.”

Sev­eral fac­tors have com­bined to fuel the re­turn of sim­ple games: the emer­gence of in­de­pen­dent de­vel­op­ers with lim­ited bud­gets, but also the boom in mo­bile phone games — aimed to take up lit­tle mem­ory and be ac­ces­si­ble to a wide au­di­ence.

Damien Du­vot, who re­views games on YouTube un­der the han­dle MrMeeea, said it comes down to the lack of imag­i­na­tion.

“You turn around, and sud­denly re-do what worked in the past,” he said.

For play­ers keen to buy orig­i­nal older con­soles, the search can quickly be­come ex­pen­sive.

Web­sites such as Lukie Games or DK Oldies, whose motto is “gam­ing like it’s 1985,” can charge US$140 to US$300 for an orig­i­nal 1980s Nintendo En­ter­tain­ment Sys­tem ( NES), with games go­ing from US$8 to US$45.

“It’s what I call the busi­ness of nos­tal­gia,” says Du­vot, who ad­vises view­ers on where to find bar­gains on old games.

“A few years ago I found NES games for 3 or 4 eu­ros. Now some are sold for hun­dreds of eu­ros. This is money-mak­ing, pure and sim­ple.”

Buy­ers must also con­tend with the risk of get­ting a bro­ken con­sole or illegal copies.

By res­ur­rect­ing the ZX Spec­trum, which was dis­con­tin­ued in 1992, Retro Com­put­ers is serv­ing this mar­ket while at­tract­ing new play­ers.

They even have a ri­val: Elite Sys­tems, a Bri­tish com­pany that made games in the 1980s be­fore mov­ing into mo­bile gam­ing, has an­nounced that it too will re­vive the ZX Spec­trum — this time with a full-sized copy of the orig­i­nal.

It just goes to show that this in­dus­try, “Game Over” never truly means the end.


A tech­ni­cian holds up a new ZX spec­trum con­sole at the fac­tory in Not­ting­ham, Eng­land on Aug. 4.

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