Arcade gaming is making a “tiny” come back, thanks to this mini machine.
A group of developers at U.S.-based TinyCircuits have created the world’s smallest arcade cabinet, offering you the chance to play games like Flappy Birds, Tiny Invaders (by Eike Decker) and Asteroids, on an Arduino platform. The console, which fits in the palm of your hand, comes complete with an analog joystick, push buttons, speakers, a USB port for charging and a 16-bit screen, measuring 24.4 mm. Ken Burns, founder and president of TinyCircuits, explains how this is the must-have gadget for any retro-loving gamer.
What led you to develop the Tiny Arcade?
The Tiny Arcade is an outgrowth of our main TinyCircuits product line which is designed for hobbyists, students and artists who want to create their own electronic projects. TinyCircuits is a small modular electronics system which is designed to be very easy to use and plugs together like little electronic Lego. So by plugging in the various modules, a user can put together a very small project that could have things like motors, GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth and sensors. Around two years ago we introduced a small OLED display that works with this system, and made a small gaming system to show off the possibilities and everyone we showed it to loved it.
We then put together a small arcade cabinet using our standard TinyCircuits and the OLED screen as a demo, and again people kept asking us how they could get one themselves. That led us to create a product just for the Tiny Arcade, which allows people to have their own little mini arcade cabinet — and put it together themselves, which is very easy to do. The programming of the arcade is open, which means users can develop their own games using the Arduino programming environment, or if you just want to play games, you can download them for free from our website. Plus, different users are creating and sharing their own games that they developed for it.
Can it really play arcade games?
Yes, it really does. One reaction people have when seeing the videos or pictures of the Tiny Arcade is that it must be really difficult to play since it’s so small; however, it’s actually very playable even for adults. There is also a microSD card slot in the Tiny Arcade, so new games can easily be loaded into the unit, and it can also play videos off of the microSD card.
Is this the tiniest video game console in the world?
I think so. We’ve seen some other small gaming systems, but I haven’t seen a smaller arcade cabinet.
Is it difficult to play in a tiny arcade cabinet like this?
Actually not at all. That’s one of the major reactions we get when people see pictures of it. But it’s really quite easy to play even with adult-sized hands, and the screen is extremely crisp and clear, making for a very fun playing experience.
Tell us about the DIY kit?
The Tiny Arcade was initially designed for our regular customers who are people who like to create their own projects, which is why we designed this to be a kit you put together yourself. However, it’s extremely simple to put together — no soldering or special programming is needed and the circuit boards just plug together. The acrylic case also assembles quite easily, like a jigsaw puzzle. It takes less than 10 minutes to put together, and there are also different stickers you can put on the case to decorate it the way you want it.
Since it’s an open platform, you can also program your own games for it, and a number of our users are doing this already. The great thing about this is that even if you’re not a programmer, there are people out there constantly making new—and free—games for the Tiny Arcade, so it gets more fun over time.