Is the microByte Retro-Gaming Handheld Just Too Small?

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The choice for retro gaming enthusiasts continues to expand, with devices available in virtually all form factors. While some prefer authenticity over playability, others are attempting to take retro gaming to a whole new level: atomic.

One example is microByte from Byte-Mix Labs. Launched on CrowdSupply, the microByte basic version is just $45. Already 70% funded (with a $3,750 goal), the ESP32-powered 7.8 x 4 x 1.7 cm condom pocket-sized console features a D-pad, four main buttons, shoulder buttons, and a1.3″ IPS display with a 240 x 240 pixel resolution. That display is barely larger than the average adult male’s thumb.

 microByte emulates the following some well-known 8-bit and 16-bit consoles at 60 frames per second:

  • GameBoy
  • GameBoy Color
  • NES
  • GameGear
  • Sega Master-System

Also promoted as a hack/development device, the crowdfunder page highlights some higher-end games that should run on it, with help: 

  • Doom I and II
  • Wolfenstein 3D
  • A proof-of-concept SNES emulator
  • ScummVM games

There’s also a work-in-progress Atari emulator. It even has Arduino compatibility.

Small Is Beautiful – But Is It Useful?

On first look, the microByte is an attractive option. With 240MHz core, just 8MB of RAM and 16MB of flash storage it is pleasingly low-fi and as retro as you can get. Sure, it has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but they aren’t what lets this project down.

It’s just too damn small.

Ultimately, a retro handheld this big does nothing to encourage retro gaming. It’s sadly little more than a trinket, designed to show what can be built, rather than what should be. It obstructs the discovery of great games. Unless you’re four and have exceptional eyesight, or are desperate for a finger-sized gaming system that doubles as an Arduino, the microByte, sadly, is a waste of time.¬†

I can’t help thinking there could have been a more constructive use of this crowdfunder.