Back on the day after Christmas, we announced the Console Living Room, a collection of console games dating from the 1970s through the 1980s that could be played right in your browser, with no plugins or installation necessary. With over 800 cartridges emulated from five game consoles, the chance to relive old memories, make new ones, and experience video game history were huge.
In the months since, there have been college courses assigned to study the old games in the Living Room, reviews written by players trying these games for the first time, and a crowd of tens of thousands of players checking the whole thing out.
So, it’s time to make the Living Room a little bigger.
As of today, the Console Living Room now supports 2,300 cartridges for 21 consoles.
It is 100% guaranteed that you have never heard of all of these consoles, even if you were playing video games at the time they were around. Some flamed out spectacularly, only creating a handful of cartridges. Others were the victim of bad timing or needless delays, making their technology significantly out of date upon release. One of them had a short lifespan and was only ever released in Taiwan.
All of them are a part of history.
These consoles (now spanning from the 1970s through to the 1990s) represent the uniqueness of the video game revolution, as living rooms were transformed from watch-only television shrines into places of activity and competition, often against the machines themselves. Only a small percentage of companies now release home consoles, investing many millions and huge armies of support/development staff to do so – these online exhibits harken back to when a comparatively small number of people could pull off what now takes many hundreds to do.
The relative stability of the market now is a quiet meadow compared to the intense battles that came before.
As for the games themselves, there’s an untold mass of creativity, triumphs, tears and near-misses throughout the thousands of cartridges. Games that should have been big but weren’t, games that make you wonder what they were thinking, and games that have taken on the patina of warm regard but… just aren’t as good as they say.
Some other notes about this expanded collection:
Adding 2,300 cartridges to the collection at once means that a significant number lack the documentation or information they deserve. A team of volunteers has been working to shore up descriptions, cover images, and screenshots for these many programs, but the work is ongoing. In a notable amount of cases, there exists very little information about the game cartridge at all. Games that sold well or had a notable brand tend to have more information available, while short-selling products fell between the cracks. If you would like to volunteer to help backfill some of these items, please contact Jason Scott, software curator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lastly, we continue to have no sound available on these emulations. We have experimentally proven sound works, and we are now working with multiple teams of people who are involved in emulation, the browser audio standards, and other aspects to get this dealt with. When it’s ready, we’ll announce it.