We’ve seen retro consoles that are tiny enough to put on a keychain. But the Retro Gaming Watch is a tiny game console you can wear on your wrist and use as a watch when you’re not playing games on it.

But you can also flip up the screen to reveal a mini game console that looks like a Game Boy SP. And there’s hardware and software to aid in emulation, allowing you to play classic console games on little console. The developer is raising money  through Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for the Retro Gaming Watch, with early bird rewards starting at $159. It’s expected to ship top backers in November, 2024.

One of the first things to note about the little retro game console is that you’re not actually supposed to play games while it’s on your wrist: that would be an ergonomic nightmare.

Instead, you can place it on a wrist strap for use as a watch and detach it when you want to play. There’s a small external display for basic watch functions, plus a 1.54 inch, 320 x 320 pixel, 60 Hz internal LCD display for gaming.

There are four action buttons plus a D-Pad, a built-in mono speaker, magnetometer, and accelerometer.

Under the hood the system is powered by a Renesas / Dialog DA14706 chip with a 160 MHz application processor, two ARM Cortex-M0 processors for sensors and Bluetooth, a 2D GPU, and 1.5MB of internal memory plus 8MB of external QSPI RAM.

But there’s also an Efinix T20 FPGA that can be configured to “create custom video game hardware on the fly” with custom cores to emulate those used in “most 8 and 16-bit” game consoles. In other words, while the primary application processor isn’t exactly a powerhouse, it doesn’t need to be when you’re playing classic console games, since a lot of the emulation work is handled by the FPGA.

Developer Jason Rogers says there’s already a working proof of concept device that offers smartwatch & gaming features including:

  • Smartwatch features
    • View smartphone notifications on your wrist
    • Send and receive messages when connected to a phone
    • Interact with smartphone apps
  • Retro gaming features
    • Download apps, games, and updates via a wireless connection to your phone
    • Play DOS and 8-bit or 16-bit console games

Rogers says that early versions of the watch get around 2 to 4hours of battery life while playing 2D games with the FPGA engaged, but you can get up to 2 days of battery life when using the Retro Gaming Watch as a smartwatch.

There are still some things that are up in the air, including the final case design, which may depend on how much money is raised from the Kickstarter campaign. If thousands of people back the project, then the final version of the Retro Gaming Watch could have a machined steel body. If the number is in the 500+ range, then it could be injection-molded plastic. And if it’s much lower, then it’ll probably have a 3D printed case.

There’s also a chance that the final version could have additional features like shoulder buttons, a microSD card reader, heart rate monitor, or camera.

As with any crowdfunding project, there are some risks involved: backing the campaign isn’t exactly the same as pre-ordering. There’s a chance that the Retro Gaming Watch might never ship, or might not live up to its promise even if it does. But it’s certainly one of the more ambitious retro/mini gaming projects I’ve seen in a while.

Folks who don’t want to wait until November, 2024 to get their hands on one can also pledge $350 for the “Beta Tester” tier to receive a “terrible” prototype with a 3D printed case and hand-soldered development boards among other things. But they’re scheduled to arrive in March, 2024 and beta testers will also get the final version of the watch when it’s ready to ship, plus the option of buying any forthcoming prototype revisions at cost.

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  1. Thanks for the great writeup! Its been an exciting two weeks. If you have any questions for a follow up or an inside scoop on current progress let me know. Analytics tell me this article really helped get the campaign rolling at the beginning!

  2. It’s too pricey and probably something I will only play once and spend the rest of its’ life in the drawer.

  3. The watch aspect of this device isn’t interesting at all to me. I don’t even understand how I would use it.

    However, the idea of using it as a handheld gaming device seems interesting, especially considering that FPGA chip. That sounds like an interesting concept, using an ARM chip to handle most of the work, and an FPGA chip can be configured to act like additional hardware to help with extra functions that can’t be emulated accurately (like audio, video, etc).

    Cool idea, but the undertaking seems very ambitious. For example, who is going to build and support these custom emulators that you’d need to build to handle this hybrid concept?

    Nice idea. Hope it works out.

  4. True story. Back in ’88, I was in the sixth grade. I had a classmate that was telling me he had this cool wrist watch gaming system with tiny little cartridges like the nintendo.

    Of course, for awhile, being gullible me back then, I believed him. But he would never bring it to school and show me it, even though I was persistent in asking him. Of course it was bunk and he was putting me on.

    Now, some 35 years later, the technology exists to be able to have such a thing. How far we have come as a species!

    1. I’ll believe it when I see it working, right now all we’ve got are renders.
      I mean yes, we had the technology since the touchscreen ipod shuffle, I just have my doubts about this particular product since they couldn’t be bothered to draw images or compile photos representing how smart watches are all the same. I get that this is somewhat harder to represent visually since the conformity is mostly about how each watch has more or less its own repository that is entirely at the mercy of the manufacturer, and there’s no way to load software onto the watch except that repository, but it’s not impossible.

  5. ..wow.. oddly hostile comments about a harmless retro game device..

    oh, and some other person who says they don’t understand its utility…right after having admitted they..didn’t, read, the, article…..SIGH..

    here’s a usecase for everyone, go out for a run, bring this with you, it’s as small or smaller than a FunKeyS (able to play and do a greater variety of things (WATCH)) & it weighs practically nothing and won’t weigh you down nor will it bounce around heavily, throwing off your rhythm/distracting your run and play some games on it for a bit when you stop to catch your breath on a break during the run..

    BONUS OPTION!!: the significant other drags you out with them while they do some shopping, slip this into your pocket before you leave home and make the hours spent waiting for them seem like minutes!! :O
    yes, you CAN wear it like a watch, but you don’t have to!! 🙂

    1. At least it will provide others with hours of amusement watching you ergonomicically gaming the e-waste

  6. Love how most of the video is basically a Midjourney promo. This is a novetly item, not a watch you would wear every day, and as such it is fine and fun. Just based on what it does the value proposition is not great, but for people who collect these retro emulators it probably a great pitch. I personally would not want it, but if someone I know were to have it I would have my 10 minutes of fun and be done with it. I have my Miyoo Mini, and do not really see myself buying anything new until the $100 category can play PS2/GC titles confidently in another few years.

    1. I think this would be a good time to remind people to NEVER EVER let AI art influence your perception of statistical norms. At least with commissioned art the artist at least has the perception of feeling a little bad about drawing something the artist knows isn’t real. Meanwhile I could ask Stable Diffusion to generate a bunch of images of “all [insert demographic here] are [insert characteristic here]” and spread them all over the place and people would believe it, especially if it’s insulting, because people love a good insult.

  7. While this isn’t exactly a retro watch, it is something completely different. Casio watches are better example of well executed “retro” watch, but still aren’t analog like a mechanical pocket watch. I guess this gadget has 2 screens without having to read through the article. I still don’t understand what it is useful for, nor would I care enough to judge someone else for wanting to “game” on one, as ergonomically painful as that sounds…

  8. This could be exciting if I could believe it would ever be socially tolerable or that it would ever actually work as advertised.

  9. The mount / band thing automatically a W. I’ve had a number watches , smart watches and my fav ones simplest that could be on off arm ez. Plus like just honest imo everyone wants retro wrist like that. Is the dream 🙏