The Clockwork GameShell is a handheld device that looks a bit like a GameBoy. But it has a color display, more buttons, and a GNU/Linux-based operating system with support for emulators that let you run games from a bunch of different consoles.

Oh, and the GameShell is also a modular device that you can assemble yourself.

Clockwork is launching a Kickstarter campaign for the GameShell today, and hopes to ship it in April to backers that pledge $89 or more (that’s the “super early bird” price).

The GameShell consists of 5 modules plus a case that holds them together:

  • Mainboard (with a single-board computer called the Clockwork Pi)
  • Battery (1050 mAh for about 4 hours of play time)
  • 2.7 inch, 320 x 240 pixel 60 Hz color TFT screen
  • Keypad with buttons and D-pad
  • Stereo speakers

The Clockwork Pi acts as the brains of the system and features an Allwinner R16 quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 processor with Mali-400MP2 graphics and 512MB of RAM.

The system also has a microSD card slot (with support for up to 32GB of storage), a micro USB port, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.0 as well as development pins.

Clockwork plans to ship the device with two games pre-loaded, DOOM and Cave Story. But it should also be able to run Atari, GameBoy, GameBoy Advance, NES, and SNES titles, among others.

What sets the GameShell apart from other retro game consoles is its modular design, which could theoretically pave the way for future upgrades such as faster processors, higher-resolution displays, or other improvements. But right now there are no plans to offer any upgrades, and Clockwork will likely determine whether to offer future modules after seeing how successful the initial crowdfunding campaign is.

But the Clockwork Pi is basically a fully functional PC in its own right, and the keypad is an Arduino compatible, programmable accessory. So if you want to use the modules for something other than building a GameBoy-like console, you may be able to do that.



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14 replies on “GameShell is a modular, DIY handheld game console (some assembly required)”

  1. Screen is a bit small / lowres. Memory seems a bit anemic. Lastly, and this is the deal breaker: no shoulder buttons. I really don’t see how this is going to be all that good for SNES / GBA games without them.

    Other than that, it looks cool.

    1. two stretch goals have been met, and they add a lego style back, and shoulder buttons.

  2. I’ve been waiting for something like this for a while. There’s lots of DIY (3D printed) projects that have the same aim as this, but someone really needed to put together a polished product and sell it.

    I’m a little confused about why everything needs to be modular. Why not cut costs down a little, and just make the buttons and board replaceable? I don’t see why I would want the screen and speaker to be modular.

    Also, I’m a little disengaged with their choice of board. Why not focus on the Raspberry Pi, and Retropie as the OS. It already has a well established community, and well established compatibility.

    It seems like the SNES is the most resource-demanding emulation that this will handle anyways. A Raspberry Pi Zero can handle that no problem. Why reinvent the wheel?

  3. This is actually cheaper than making your own. Sure, a RasPi Zero is cheap (if you can get one), but the screen with a controller board alone runs for $30 (for a HDMI one at least, as SPI is much too slow for decent framerate), and there are a lot of small and cheap stuff that adds up pretty quickly once you start to put a project like this together.

  4. As Dr. Cybrid said, the lack of shoulder buttons is a bit of a dealbreaker for an emulation handheld. Unless you’re specifically going for the nostalgia pop of putting a Pi or similar device inside an old Game Boy, I feel like the GBA/PSP landscape layout is much better suited to this sort of thing.

    On an related note, I’d love a kit like this that would fit in my old GP2X without much futzing. That was almost a perfect form factor for portable retrogaming.

    1. Just re-read and this thing is coming with Doom preinstalled? Yikes. Yeah, the shoulder buttons are definitely needed. I played through it on GBA and managed, but it needs about two extra buttons, preferably on the shoulders, to be an optimal experience.

  5. Love the concept, but I want to have enough hardware (processor, screen resolution, available buttons) to at least do PSP emulation. Once they make a PSP-compatible version of this type of device, I’m sold.

    1. You might as well get something like a QSD 636 to power through it.
      The old ZTE Axon 7 (QSD 820) can power through it, barely. The OnePlus 5 (QSD 835) can handle it better. However, the Galaxy S9 can handle it without a problem… the new QSD 845 SoC is much improved in each core-performance.

      I know Android isn’t the most optimised platform for emulators, but its gotten a long way. It’s getting a lot of attention, on top of that, there’s plenty of great Apps.
      The listed specced devices can handle:
      Atari, Sega, NES, SNES, GBA, N64, DosBox, Dreamcast, PS1, PSP emulation.
      …if lucky, maybe GameCube and Wii.

      The PS2 is weaker than both, but its much more complicated, so emulation isn’t quite possible yet. Maybe within 2 years, it would be stable. However, the next big one is the Wii U which is almost complete on the PC, so it could possibly get a stable Android port soon (1-2 years). Just think a phablet could be playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild in 2020… putting the Nintendo Switch to shame.

  6. I could see myself supporting this. Very little of what I emulate needs shoulder buttons… I never owned an SNES; the 16-bit emulation I do is TG16/PCE and Sega Genesis. Other than that, it’s all Gameboy/Color, NES, Sega Master System/Game Gear, Atari, and possibly some (much older than Doom) DOS games.

    So given what I like to play, this would handle everything. Unfortunately, both my GPD XD and my DSi with its flash cart also handle everything, so I’m not sure this would offer me anything new.

    1. It wouldn’t.

      With that said, I wonder if its feasible to open up an Nvidia Shield, or GPD XD, or GPD Win…. and replace its insides with something more modern. Maybe a Spare SoC, like the latest QSD 835 for the Android models. Or the latest (for the iGPU performance bump) Intel Core M/i-Y for the Windows model.

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