UPDATE(11/2/2020): RetroBlock2 has launched through Kickstarter! The campaign has already raised more than $18,000 and will be running until December 2nd. Early birds can get this GameCube-themed handheld console for just €119 (about $139). Rewards are expected to be delivered in March of 2021.
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Going back to the N64, Nintendo has been known for releasing consoles with very unconventional controllers. The N64 had that strange triple-handled controller that everyone either loves or hates, the Wii had its revolutionary Wiimote and Nunchuk combo with motion control, and the Switch has its fantastic Joy-Cons that let you switch between handheld and multiplayer gaming. But, of all of Nintendo’s controller designs, the GameCube’s is probably the most beloved by serious console gamers. The slightly unsymmetrical layout was both comfortable and practical. Pierre-Louis Boyer has created a retrogaming handheld console with GameCube-inspired controls called RetroBlock2, and it will be launching on Kickstarter soon.
Boyer’s video below goes into depth about how he went about developing this handheld console and building a pre-production prototype. Even if you have no interest at all in gaming, this video is a valuable resource for those looking for information about how to bring a product to market. Virtually everything in this project is completely custom, including the PCB designs. Boyer had the PCBs and the prototype case fabricated professionally. The prototype case was 3D-printed on a high-end machine, so it looks smooth and free of layer lines. Boyer’s PCB design and 3D modeling skills must be top-notch, because everything seems to have fit together almost perfectly right out of the box.
RetroBlock2 is designed to run RetroPie, which is a Linux operating system that was customized specifically to run video game emulators. It’s built for Arm processors, and most people run it on Raspberry Pi single-board computers. But a Raspberry Pi isn’t used in this device — Boyer essentially designed his own single-board computer to act as the mainboard for the device.
To test the prototype, he painted his 3D-printed case shell and then installed all of the PCBs, controller buttons, and other components. The resulting device looks absolutely fantastic, and seems to perform exactly as it should. A few minor tweaks need to be made to improve the fit and finish, but the RetroBlock2 looks just about ready for primetime.