Remember the Neo Geo? It might be making a comeback

The Osaka-based SNK Playmore is reportedly getting into the hardware business again with none other than the Neo Geo. But this time, it's a portable game player.

Fatal Fury--a series (sort of) made popular on the Neo Geo.
Fatal Fury--a series (sort of) made popular on the Neo Geo. SNK

About 15 years ago, I bought a Neo Geo at an antique store. I paid $1. And I still think I overpaid. But SNK Playmore, an Osaka-based game company, must believe that there's some value left in the Neo Geo name, if the latest reports are to be believed.

According to Japanese gaming site Famicom-Plaza (Translate), as well as U.S.-based game site Kotaku, SNK has developed a portable Neo Geo device that will launch with a 4.3-inch LCD display, 2GB of memory, an SD card slot, and 20 Neo Geo games preloaded.

Those of us old enough to remember the Neo Geo might recall some of the games reportedly coming to the device, including "World Heroes," "King of Monsters," and "Fatal Fury." The portable will even come with "Baseball Stars Professional."

If those games don't sound familiar, there's good reason for that. The Neo Geo AES, a console SNK released in 1990, was never able to become a mainstream hit, due mainly to its $650 price tag at launch. But that didn't stop SNK from trying again. In 1994, the Neo Geo CD was released and faced similarly poor sales performance.

In 1998, SNK tried something a bit different: a portable gaming device. But as with its consoles, the device failed to gain traction in Japan and Hong Kong--the only two countries it was made available. The Neo Geo Pocket Color, which hit store shelves in 1999, fared a bit better than its monochrome predecessor, but it too was quickly discontinued.

So, why might the new Neo Geo portable succeed where so many others from SNK have failed? It's tough to say. The portable-gaming space is becoming increasingly hostile to companies that want to sell a device designed solely for gaming.

In November, research firm Flurry Analytics released its latest market-share data, based on U.S. portable game software revenue, for mobile devices. Based on its market checks, Flurry believed that by the end of 2011, iOS- and Android-based devices would capture 58 percent of all U.S. portable game software revenue , followed by Nintendo's DS with 36 percent share. Sony's PSP would only nab 6 percent by the end of the year.

It was a sobering finding for Nintendo and Sony, which back in 2009, owned 70 percent and 11 percent of the U.S. portable game software revenue, respectively.

Given that, how might SNK's portable fit into the mix? Neo Geo games aren't exactly the most sought-after titles, even though they've been making appearances in Sony's PlayStation Store as of late, and based on the specs reported by Famicom-Plaza and Kotaku, the device might be easily overshadowed by the more-capable Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita. The same old Neo Geo scenario might play out again if SNK decides to try its luck in the portable space once more.

But whether SNK will, in fact, try its luck remains to be seen. The company did not immediately respond to CNET's request for confirmation that it will launch a new portable.

 

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