Aluminum

The game isn’t over

By Nick Wright

Seattle company fabricates Nintendo-compatible video game system from block of 6061 aluminum

May 2014 - Remember the first time you played a Nintendo Entertainment System? When it was first introduced in 1985, you might’ve picked one up for your kid. Or you might’ve been a kid yourself, blowing dust out of cartridges, taking Mario Bros. to task and practicing your aim with Duck Hunt.

Nearly 30 years later, a Seattle-based company has reinvented the iconic video game as a machined aluminum console. The original system (as well as the Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64) was plastic. The aluminum reincarnation, dubbed Analogue Nt, is no doubt an attractive electronic that could hold its own on a TV stand next to a stereo and DVD player.

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The company that built the Analogue Nt is Analogue Interactive, founded and owned by Christopher Taber. He says the target market for the Analogue Nt is videophile gamers—certainly those who want their video game systems to stand out. It’s available to preorder for about $500, which is about $100 more than a PlayStation 4. The system will play original Nintendo NES (and Famicom) games, and it works with original NES controllers and components.

The idea came from a desire to experience the NES properly, Taber says. The enclosure is machined from a single block of 6061 aluminum and weights about 3 pounds. It’s CNC machined, sand blasted and anodized to a flat silver (other colors are available).

“The dust flaps were tricky because they warp easily when being blasted,” he says, but eventually the designers worked around it. The system is manufactured in China and assembled here in the U.S.

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Video game systems traditionally have been made from less-costly plastic. (They still are: Nintendo is developing systems for emerging markets.) But as more electronics makers, led by the likes of Apple, come out with popular aluminum smartphones, laptops and appliances, metal video game systems are somewhat of an anomaly.

“The unfortunate reality for the metals industry is that there’s very little metal-based nostalgia in gaming,” says Paul Schwada, director at Locomotive Solutions, a Chicago-based hardware experience consultancy. Even the mature gamers in their late 30s and early 40s grew up with plastic-based consoles, such as Atari, the offbeat Intellivision, then the true launch pad in Nintendo’s grey plastic box, he says. 

“The aluminum Analogue Nt is cool, but has no more mass market appeal than a pair of carefully crafted Bang & Olufsen speakers made from Brazilian teak,” Schwada says. The real value focus in gaming, he says, is performance—speed, graphics, creativity—not materials, unless they improve performance. The metal-performance connection isn’t evident yet. For those looking for an aluminum homage to a legacy system, the Analogue Nt’s likeness to NES might be the only connection one needs to make. MM

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