The Retro Gaming Watch, a passion project from Jason Rogers, has blown past its Kickstarter funding target of $35,000 USD (as of writing, it's sitting on $56,286) and has an estimated delivery window of November 2024. As per its name, the Retro Gaming Watch is a smartwatch with a design focused on classic and retro video games from the 1980s.
Sporting a physical design (and orange color) reminiscent of the original Nintendo Game & Watch devices, the Retro Gaming Watch features a flip-open design to reveal a screen and controls. It's kind of like a Game Boy Advance SP that you can wear.
According to Jason, including an FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array), Arm Cortex M33 processor running at up to 160MHz, 1.5 MB of "fast RAM," and a dedicated 2D graphics processor is enough power to handle DOS games and console releases from the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. Plus, it's a smartwatch that connects and interacts with your smartphone for app and message interactions.
What sets this apart from off-the-shelf hardware that simply emulates retro gaming hardware is that it features custom FGPA programming with 2D video processing to ensure smooth and accurate representations of classic games. According to Jason, the Efinix T20 FPGA, with its 20 Kb logic elements and around 1000 Kb of RAM, is "enough to match any 16-bit console in the 90s and maybe even push us to the first 3D generation."
The Retro Gaming Watch's development spans 10 years, with multiple iterations and revisions leading to the design you see here. As for the display, you're looking at a tiny 1.54-inch custom 320x320 pixel LCD with a 60Hz refresh rate. The Retro Gaming Watch also includes a magnetometer, accelerometer, audio amplifier, and mono speaker - with additional features like heart rate monitoring, microSD support, cameras, and shoulder buttons currently being considered.
"We have built it, it works," Jason Rogers writes. "We have a miniaturized proof of concept capable of doing most of the normal smartwatch things as well as being a monster video game machine that will rival anything from the DOS and 16-bit console era."
Even so, the ultimate goal is for Retro Watch to be a platform for budding developers, as running a game natively on the hardware uses 10X less battery power.