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2020 Has An Overwhelming Amount Of New Consoles Coming

Believe it or not, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One released almost seven years ago. For some, the time seems to have passed in the blink of an eye; for others, the wait for the next generation of consoles has felt like an eternity. Whether you're ready for it or not, times are changing. The big two have bumped against the upper limit of what consoles are capable of, and it's time for yet another jump into the future.

The gaming landscape has changed drastically in the last decade. While Nintendo is basically running its own race, there's a whole new ecosystem of custom consoles looking both to the future and the past, offering new technology and takes on popular yet dated concepts. Nintendo may have popularized the notion with the NES Mini, but it's now far from alone. While shiny big name consoles are on the way, 2020 is shaping up to be the Year of the Console. Here's what gamers have to look forward to during the next 12 months.

Polymega - February 2020

The ultimate dream of pretty much everyone with an interest in putting a retro console back in their living room is the ability to put every retro console back in their living room. It's easier said than done, of course, but the folks at Playmaji are giving it a go with the Polymega.

Polymega's unique range of options sets it apart. Specifically, CD-based options. The system will support Sega CD, TurboGrafx CD, Neo Geo CD, PlayStation 1, and Sega Saturn games. Historically, those are some of the hardest systems to emulate, making the system impressive right out of the gate. The Polymega will also support cartridges on a per-system basis using module add-ons which add the cartridge reader for NES, SNES, Genesis, and TurboGrafx titles. Best of all, the system is completely region free, so Japanese game support is very much on the table. 

At $300 for the system and $60 for each module, the Polymega may seem a bit pricey for a retro console. Given that many of the systems it emulates cost that much individually, the all-in-one nature of the Polymega makes it kind of a steal.

TurboGrafx-16 Mini - March 19

Anyone who has played around with the NES/SNES Mini or the Genesis Mini knows the drill by now. The TurboGrafx-16 Mini is a smaller version of the TurboGrafx-16 console, complete with period accurate controllers and 57 pre-loaded games. Considering the TurboGrafx-16 wasn't as big a hit in the West as it was in Japan under the moniker PC Engine, much of the lineup is new to Western eyes. That definitely isn't a bad thing, especially since it means Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, Ys 1 and 2, and the hilariously weird Cho Aniki get more exposure. 

Of course, Konami found a way to be, well, Konami: The West's port of Splatterhouse is still censored, and two additional text-heavy Japanese RPGs (Tokimeki Memorial and Tengai Makyo 2) will be Japan-only (we get the PC Engine port of Salamander as a consolation prize). Here's the real kick in the teeth: Hideo Kojima's forgotten cyberpunk masterpiece, Snatcher, will be included, getting its first Western release since the Sega CD ... except it's the Japanese PC Engine port, which will not be translated into English. Konami giveth, and Konami taketh away.

Evercade - April 9

The biggest hurdle with just about every unofficial retro console releasing is the most logical and fundamental one: where do you get the games? Most of these systems don't let you upload ROMs, original discs and cartridges are often scarce, and many of the classics are obnoxiously expensive. Evercade looks to provide a solution to this issue. Though your bog standard retro gaming console, the Evercade will feature its own third-party approved and curated cartridges. Each cartridge is actually a compilation containing anywhere from six to 20 games each.

Evercade's creators have managed to rope in a surprising list of publishers thus far, ranging from perpetually up for anything folks like Atari and Namco, to less common retro targets like Interplay (Earthworm Jim, Clay Fighter) and Technos (Double Dragon, River City Ransom). Having the official seal of approval from the original publishers is a nice touch, and if the system is a hit, it will likely open the door to even bigger names making large chunks of their back catalog available.

Atari VCS - October 2020

Though nearly 27 years have passed since the Jaguar released, Atari will return to the console market in 2020 with the VCS. While the system looks similar to the Atari 2600 on the outside, it features all the hallmarks of a modern day system: 4K resolution, Bluetooth controllers, streaming capabilities, and more. Atari has kept the true power of the console under wraps, but the company has promised it will use Linux as a native OS, allow some rudimentary app creation, and will absolutely play modern games. The Sandbox Mode will also let you install any OS, which Atari demonstrated by running Windows and loading Fortnite via the Epic Games Launcher.

Atari's reentry into the console scene is an interesting little twist few saw coming, though the target market for the VCS remains up in the air. Atari's track record as a 21st century game maker leaves something to be desired, begging the question: does anyone even want a new Atari console?

Intellivision Amico - Oct. 10

Before the infamous crash of 1983, Intellivision was one of the few legitimate contenders to Atari's throne, offering superior graphics and a controller years ahead of its time. There are still plenty of old school gamers with fond memories of the name, and that's what industry veteran Tommy Tallarico is banking on by buying up the rights to Intellivision and putting out the Amico.

The key word for this system is "simplicity." Tallarico and his team are creating a console specifically focused on old school 2D gameplay. They hope to demolish the steep technological learning curve that plagues the big consoles — even something as pared-down as the Switch — and create a new system that has that retro arcade appeal of games that are inherently easy to pick up and play. If that isn't enough for the hardcore bunch, though, the cherry on top is a new Earthworm Jim title slated to release as an Amico exclusive.

PlayStation 5 - Holiday 2020

After some big blunders with the PlayStation 3, Sony turned the tides of the console war with the PlayStation 4. Faced with this resurgence, Sony has stayed the course with the PlayStation 5. The console will bring a nice bump in horsepower, some controller tweaks, and the engineers seem hellbent on murdering the concept of load times once and for all. Some of the biggest new features center on taking away two of Microsoft's major aces in the hole: the 4K UHD Blu-Ray drive, and backward compatibility.

The 4K drive will come as a huge relief for folks who were baffled by Sony's decision to exclude it from the PlayStation 4 Pro. Backward compatibility is a bigger deal after Sony shunned it for the current generation. It could be even bigger if the persistent rumors about compatibility with the PS1, PS2, and PS3 pan out. Sony had good cause to approach Blu-Ray capabilities and backward compatibility with caution: both contributed to the eye-popping PlayStation 3 price tag, one of the main factors behind PlayStation's fall to third place during the previous generation. While exciting additions, many question what these technological upgrades will cost.

Xbox Series X - Holiday 2020

Microsoft has talked up the Herculean capabilities of the Series X for some time now. The design and name of the new console hint at Microsoft's plans for the future. The Series X looks an awful lot like a PC and the compact tower seems poised to spawn a series of iterations with updated hardware every couple of years rather than the usual hyperjump forward once a decade. 

While the hardware will change, the Series X retains some familiar aspects. Even the controller draws from previous designs, providing a mashup of standard Xbox One and Elite Series 2 features. With the addition of a share button, the controller will finally catch up to the capabilities of the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.

As it stands, Microsoft has a lot going for it except every player's main concern: the games. The company has gone to great lengths to improve its notoriously weak first-party stable, including the release of a mind-blowing Hellblade 2 trailer during the Xbox Series X reveal at The Game Awards in 2019. Hopefully, this is just a taste of the wonders to come.

Super Retro Champ - TBD

The 16-bit console wars have cooled enough in recent years for gamers to discuss the topic without a drag out fight breaking out. Back in the '90s, whether you were Team Nintendo or Team Sega was all-important. It's the 21st century now, and it's time someone made the sincere effort to heal the wounds caused by the conflict. Enter the Super Retro Champ.

While not the most ambitious old school system on the way, the Super Retro Champ looks to do one very important job: let you play both Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo cartridges on the same console. This handheld portable, which you can also connect to a TV, looks to build on what Sega tried to do with the Nomad and Nintendo's steady re-releases of SNES titles on the Game Boy Advance. Being able to play Super Metroid and Streets of Rage 2 on the go using a single console is a special privilege on its own, but for many survivors of the 16-bit console war it feels like a final declaration of peace.

exA-Arcadia - TBD

In recent years, arcade cabinets have become more accessible to the average player in much the same way turntables and vinyl have become living room accessories once again. That's good enough for folks who feel like messing around with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game for 20 minutes from time to time. For the serious cabinet operator, however, the exA-Arcadia is the savior some have sought for years.

The exA-Arcadia is set to change things back to the way it used to be. Remember when you had Neo Geo cabinets with four games you could pick from? Well, there was a reason those were popular for operators: they basically had a less user-friendly Neo Geo inside that held four mega-sized cartridges that could be swapped out at will. The exA-Arcadia looks to bring that level of variety, customization, and insane horsepower back to the scene. Mostly the Japanese are taking advantage of the system to power some mind-boggling bullet hell shooters, but the hardware is poised to draw fresh blood into arcades again.

Playdate - TBD

Created by Firewatch and Untitled Goose Game publisher Panic, Playdate is taking the road less traveled as far as new consoles go. The system's graphics are no more advanced than the original Game Boy, and a tiny hand crank on the right side acts as an analog control. But you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, especially in an era of gaming that has seen folks accomplish magnificent feats like Nidhogg and Return of the Obra Dinn using ancient Macintosh SE games as a visual reference. 

Panic promises the system will deliver unique experiences made by "incredible game designers, some you've heard of, others you haven't." Given it pushed out two of the most fascinating indie titles of the last decade, it's easy to buy into the hype. Moreover, the rollout is going to be its own special thing, as the system will get a secret game every week after launch. Whatever comes of this, given the limits and possibilities of the hardware, you could be looking at one unique set of games when the Playdate finally arrives.