Joining The Switch Effect on today’s Industry Interview is Tim Hartman, Founder and President of Retrotainment Games and Cash-in Culture. Cash-in Culture is a retail chain in Pennsylvania that focuses on retro and current products that include video games, movies, music, and toys! Aside from operating three locations, Tim is also a video game creator for the original NINTENDO ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM. That’s right, we said the original NES. These games are brought to gamers by Retrotainment Games, a division of Cash-in Culture that Tim also manages. Tim has worked on Chip Maestro, which allows you to make midi tunes with the NES, Haunted: Halloween ’85 & ’86, and the recently Kickstarter-completed (and fully funded) Full Quiet. So if you aren’t already excited, get ready to learn more about Tim!
Tim, thank you for giving us this interview. Before we get into it, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with the gaming industry?
I’m basically an 80s kid that has a tough time growing up. My personal interests are all over the map, but I really dig old monster movies, music and vintage video games. Lately I have been listening to Converge, watching Twin Peaks and playing a great NES homebrew game called 0-to-X when I am not buried in work. I got into the gaming industry when my business partner Greg Caldwell and I developed our first game Haunted: Halloween ’85 for the original Nintendo Entertainment System. After wanting to make an NES game for many, many years we finally realized that dream when we released the game on cartridge.
What was your first console/game you owned?
It was the Atari 2600 and it was glorious. My sister and I got it for Christmas, it was the highlight of the gifts under the tree that we got from Santa. Demon Attack, Combat and of course Pac-Man dominated the cartridge slot for us as we were being introduced to gaming at home.
Growing up, what inspired you to pursue a career in the gaming industry?
I guess it was being creative and wanting to see more things that I personally identified with in gaming. Through Cash-In Culture it became a possibility, and later a reality, with our first release on the NES Haunted: Halloween ’85.
Owning a retail store must be very exciting. You get to interact with gamers, see amazing products going in and out of your store, and keep retro gaming alive. Can you share some insight as to how Cash-in Culture came to be?
It was basically something that came about after years and years of trading and collecting. I started when I was very young, around third grade. Baseball cards led to action figures and gaming which lead to the current state of Cash-In Culture. It is great to be a part of something that was around before everyone was chasing the same nickel. The industry changes so much, but the relationships, interactions and friends that are made along the way are the most important part.
What’s the coolest item you’ve had come into your store?
Boba Fett mail-aways, Donkey Kong Country competition cart, SNES demo carts and store kiosks are amongst the highlights, but if I had to choose one it would be the Sharp NES TV/Console that we continue to use at conventions to this day. Such a rad unit!
As stated earlier, you are a creator of retro games for the original NES and Famicom. To be fair, you also released these titles on the PC, but we want to know more about the experience of making new 8-bit games that can be played on the original console. Let’s start with Haunted: Halloween ’85 & ’86. Where did the inspiration for these titles come from?
Greg and I were heavily inspired by growing up in the suburbs in the 80s. I personally have an affinity for the holiday of Halloween and it felt natural to start there. There is so much history, including a ton of personal history that we used in those games like trick or treating on Halloween night, school Halloween parades or even staying up late watching old monster movies on fuzzy UHF cable stations.
Just recently, you launched a Kickstarter campaign for your new title, Full Quiet. To quickly summarize, Full Quiet stars a father in search of his son as he ventures deep into the forest. Along the way, you’ll solve puzzles, upgrade your equipment, learn about the forest and its inhabitants and more. Your original goal was $5,000 and the campaign concluded with a total pledge for $32,398.
What were the feelings and emotions as your campaign was initially running and ultimately when you saw it exceeded its original goal?
Humbled. We had 500+ backers for something completely new that we wanted to make. We pour everything we’ve got into our releases and I think people pick up on that. We have a track record of finishing and providing a solid product at the end. And lastly, we’re thankful that people are as passionate about the NES as we are and still support new NES games. The NES homebrew community is such a strong force that allows games like ours to find an audience. There are so many great people out there! For anyone not familiar with this movement, checkout www.nintendoage.com and get involved.
Given the limitations of the NES, were there any challenges you experienced while trying to bring certain elements of gameplay to the console?
Any challenges?? That is funny. It is pretty much all challenges to develop for the NES given the hardware restrictions that you face day in and day out. If you love the NES, you know that developing for it is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that it requires you to make hard decisions, but a curse in that it limits your ability to do what you have conceived in your head.
Let’s “switch” gears a bit. We at The Switch Effect are obviously huge fans of Nintendo’s newest console, the Nintendo Switch. What are your thoughts on the system?
I did not pre-order it, but was fortunate to get it within the first few weeks of its release. I was also lucky enough to demo it at PAX EAST and was basically hooked from that point forward. Getting to meet some of the Nintendo staff and getting introduced to it that way really helped me understand where it was headed. I am not at all surprised by its success or continued momentum. Without writing a book on it, I would sum it up as saying that its versatility is a strong marketing point, but the developing catalog of indie titles is its secret strength.
Is there a chance we could see Haunted: Halloween ‘85/‘86 or Full Quiet make its way to the Switch?
That is a possibility. ’86 was slated for the Wii U but that is no longer a viable option. I really want to see it on the Switch. It would be a dream come true to have one of our games officially released on a Nintendo console!!
Where can our readers follow future updates for your projects?
All of the links can be found below.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share?
The NES is still alive! There is so much focus still on that system from not only friends of ours, but a massive cult following of collectors and fans. I really encourage people to support “NEW” NES games that are built from scratch. #8BitLegit
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. We look forward to the release of Full Quiet and all your future endeavors!
Haunted: Halloween ’85 and ’86 can be purchased by clicking on the links below.