Some people might consider the Microsoft DOS (MS-DOS) era as the golden age of PC gaming. That's when games like The Secret of Monkey Island, Ultima VI: The False Prophet, Doom, SimCity, and a bunch of other retro-tastic titles emerged. Unit-e, the same company that built a giant (and functioning) NES controller that doubles as a coffee table, is hoping to recapture some of that magic with a pint-sized PC.
It's called PC Classic, and it's a throwback to when desktop systems routinely came in those old beige boxes that booted to DOS. Before there was Windows, there was the command line interface—any old school PC gamer will remember fussing with extended memory to get some DOS games to run, and having to park the hard drive when shutting down.
The PC Classic will require none of that nonsense. It's a play on the reemergence of retro gaming systems, most notably captured by Nintendo's wildly popular NES Classic and SNES Classic consoles that come pre-loaded with some of the top titles of its day. Likewise, the PC Classic will come with a selection of DOS games already installed—at least 30 titles, all fully licensed and legal.
Unit-E says more games will be available for purchase separately, though unfortunately it is not divulging a list of launch-day or post-release games. "We don’t have a list of confirmed titles yet, but the goal is to provide all of the games that defined the PC gaming experience of the 80s and 90s," Unit-E explains in its FAQ section.
That said, we can see Doom, Quake 2, and Commander Keen 4 running in the announcement video, so those are probably bound for the PC Classic. As to the actual hardware, on the front of the little box are two USB Type-A ports and an SD memory card reader masquerading as a floppy disk drive, plus a large power button. Around back is another USB Type-A port, an HDMI output, composite video plugs (those yellow, red, and white connectors), and a spot for the power cord. Bluetooth support is baked in as well.
In short, it's an "adorable DOS game console for your TV." It's also relatively affordable at $99. The question is, does it have legs? I'm not so sure. I spent a large part of my youth muscling with DOS after graduating from the Commodore 64, and while gaming nostalgia is hot right now, I have a tough time seeing the PC Classic finding a big audience. Many classic games are already available legally through GOG, and of course there is the emulation scene powered by programs like DOSBox.
The advantage of the PC Classic is that it's presumably easy to set up and use—plug it in, hit the power button, and start gaming. There's value in that, as well as the legality of playing games without venturing into the emulation world on your own.
From a design standpoint, I think Unit-e missed an opportunity to built a vertical tower reminiscent of older PCs, though the beige color scheme is certainly a throwback, and the faux floppy drive is cool. For those who want nothing to do with "chain-smoker beige," Unit-e will offer at least one other color option "in a more modern palette."
The PC Classic will be a crowdfunded project slated to kick off later this month or early December. If all goes to plan, it will release in late spring or early summer of next year. Hit the link in the Via field to sign up for email updates, if you're interested.