The video game industry has changed a lot since the days of the original Nintendo Entertainment System. Piracy in its current form didn't really exist back then — instead, players had to worry about purchasing unlicensed titles more than downloading a cracked game.
Nintendo did its best to keep unlicensed developers from creating games for the NES, but some inevitably got through — and Wisdom Tree's "Bible Games" are easily the most notorious.
Not only were the developer's games unlicensed, they were absolutely terrible: Spiritual Warfare may have had a cool name, but it was a shameless Legend of Zelda knock-off. King of Kings touted itself as a Mario-style platformer, but it was barely playable. Sunday Funday was about as close to pandering as you could get — and these are just a few examples.
Most people had assumed that these games would simply fade into obscurity ... but that doesn't seem to be the case.
After years of quietly re-releasing its games on different platforms, Wisdom Tree has returned with the Arkade: a plug-and-play console currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. The studio's entire NES library is set to be included as part of the base package, with later titles and extra ports serving as high-end stretch goals.
Yes, before you ask: this is real.
Let's be honest: this Kickstarter campaign is a cease-and-desist letter waiting to happen.
It's not that Wisdom Tree doesn't have the rights to its games; it's the fact that the company is taking its unlicensed NES games and releasing them on an NES controller. There's no other way to look at it: the Arkade is an NES controller. The buttons, the color scheme, even its size — they're the exact same as Nintendo's iconic controller. The only way the Arkade could look more like an NES controller is if it actually had the Nintendo logo plastered across it.
... but it's not just the controller, either: the Kickstarter campaign frequently and shamelessly mentions a number of NES classics. Super Mario Bros. 2, The Legend of Zelda, Boulder Dash — not only are these comparisons a stretch at best, but Wisdom Tree seems set on reminding everyone that these games were basically D-Grade copies of old Nintendo games.
That may sound harsh, but it's far from inaccurate: if your games end up as the subject of an Angry Video Game Nerd special, something has gone terribly wrong.
Now, the quality of the games themselves may be questionable, but that doesn't mean that Wisdom Tree's Kickstarter campaign is. The company isn't asking for too much — $16,500 for a 500-model production run — and there are a number of relatively enticing stretch goals. The idea of a fully-animated Super Noah's 3D Ark feature film is bizarre, but also tempting — the fact that the game was essentially a mod of Wolfenstein 3D only makes the whole thing even weirder.
So, will the Arkade's crowdfunding campaign actually go through? At this point, it's hard to tell: it wouldn't be all that surprising to see Nintendo strike it down, especially with the similarities between hardware. Even so, Wisdom Tree does own the rights to its games, and considering they were unlicensed back on the NES, Nintendo doesn't really have any say when it comes to software.
Who knows — maybe in a few months, gamers around the world will be playing through classics like Baby Moses and Exodus. For more info on Wisdom Tree's plug-and-play console, make sure to check out the Arkade's official Kickstarter campaign.