We've had our eyes on Polymega for quite some time, and even got the chance to go hands-on recently, which only made the wait for this amazing retro system even harder. The unit was supposed to go up for pre-order this week, but there have been teething issues - one of which involves an attack which took the site down totally - and as a result it's been hard for Playmaji, the company behind the venture, to communicate the various upgrades and changes that have been made recently.
With this in mind, Playmaji's Bryan Bernal has gotten in touch to give us an update on what's happening in the world of Polymega - including decisions made immediately after E3 after gauging feedback from players and the publishers.
First up is the fact that the console's CPU has been upgraded from a 4-Core Rockchip RK3288 1.8Ghz on ARM to a higher speed Dual Core Intel CM8068403377713 (G5500T @3.2Ghz) on x86, enabling Playmaji to support more resource-intensive systems, like Saturn and N64. Saturn was announced as the console's mystery CD-ROM system a short time ago and has been made possible thanks to a licensing deal with the author of a Saturn emulator.
Changes have also been made to the 'Hybrid Emulation' system; FPGA has been moved out of the console itself and into select modules to accommodate the larger CPU and addition of more systems. The first FPGA module will be Famicom, if its reward level is reached. The base unit is compatible with FPGA modules from day one and no hardware upgrade will be required. The SNES Launch module will not be FPGA based, but a later revision will include this functionality. Meanwhile, there are no plans for TurboGrafx/PCE, NES, or Mega Drive / Genesis to use an FPGA module for the time being, but it has been confirmed that third parties will be able to create FPGA-based modules for Polymega post-launch under a special licencing agreement.
Due to the switch from the slower Quad Core to higher speed Dual Core, the Twitch feature will no longer be part of the launch package; it may be reinstated later after the pre-order campaign is completed and all reward levels are locked-down.
Interestingly, launch modules will include five officially-licensed games installed on their onboard flash memory. Speaking of which, Polymega's digital store will launch in Q4 2019 and will allow games to be purchased and downloaded directly to the console. Prices will start at $3.99 USD for cartridge games and $5.99 USD for CD-ROM games. This could be the most exciting aspect of the whole project, as it effectively creates a 'new' Virtual Console challenger. It will be interesting to see how many companies support this store.
A rewards system will be available on the pre-order site (when it's up and running again) which offers 20 levels of rewards that are activated after the minimum funding goal of $500k USD is reached. These rewards include new CD systems, modules and new system features and functionality.
In addition to this, a statement regarding the use of flash carts, Game Genies and multi-carts on the console has been issued:
The team at Playmaji has spent a good amount of effort on a piece of technology called Active Cartridge Reading, an experimental subset of Hybrid Emulation that allows you to use any games or peripherals that work on a real classic console using a live blend of software-based emulation and memory mapped hardware. This technology, while it exists, is not yet fast enough for some of Polymega’s supported systems, and would result in a degraded overall experience if launched prematurely.
Now, support for game cartridges with on board DSP chips such as Everdrives, Starfox, or live-reading of devices like Game Genies is blended.
First, we’ve licensed standard DSP-compatible emulators for systems with those types of cartridges, which will allow games with special chips to be played via software emulation. That means you can now play backed up games such as StarFox and others regardless of whether you have the cartridge inserted, a convenience that most gamers will appreciate. We’ve also added a software-based Game Genie and Pro Action Replay as a reward level for supporting the console beyond its initial funding goals. The Super Game Boy is no longer compatible with the EM02 SNES SFC module, however, we have set up a GB / GBC / GBA module as an additional reward tier if reached.
Second, certain systems are going to be FPGA based. The first example of this is going to be the dedicated Famicom module, which will be released after the launch of the system. Famicom is particularly important to be implemented in this manner as it included accessories such as the Famicom Disk System (FDS), which was a critical part of its library and one that we will not be creating a dedicated module for. The tech to support FPGA modules is built in to the launch version of the Polymega™ Base Unit, and we may continue to release other FPGA modules in the future. FPGA modules will have a slightly higher price point than standard modules.
This decision / change overall has freed up our team to focus on matters that more factually push the needle in terms of overall system compatibility, as evidenced by our recently-announced support for the Sega Saturn, adding over one thousand new compatible games to Polymega™. What made this possible is that by removing the larger size FPGA from the base unit, we were able to opt for a higher clock-speed dual core chip rather than a slower quad-core chip for the main CPU, which now opens up the door to more demanding systems like Saturn, N64, Dreamcast, and more — which is what many people have expressed to us that they want.
Multicarts will be tested on a game by game basis and a compatibility list will be produced for all systems prior to the launch of Polymega™, but we only can confirm compatibility with officially licensed games at this point in time.
Finally, it has been revealed that a partnership with The Video Game History foundation has been established, with a portion of all Polymega hardware proceeds going to grants provided by the foundation toward emulation development and video game preservation.
Pre-orders are $249.99, and the system is expected to launch in April 2019. Let us know what you make of all this news by posting a comment below.