Will Our Old Consoles Die Soon?

Nintendo Entertainment SystemDo you ever wonder when our old consoles will just die from age? I know many people that have had their NES die right on the shelf. Soon, you’ll be afraid to pull your Genesis off the shelf for fear that it might be dead as well.

An online friend of mine mentioned that SNES systems actually go out more than any other systems he has ever dealt with. For a number of years, he bought and sold all types of video games both locally and on eBay, and early on, SNES systems seemed to be almost indestructible. However, over time almost every SNES system he bought in the last two years has been dead, while pretty much every Genesis system worked, at least after some major cleaning.

And if you are concerned about your cartridge-based systems, CD/DVD based systems will most likely fail long before say a SNES of Genesis (Aside from the cart slot) simply due to the fact that the newer systems have moving parts. I would imagine that all Sega CDs, Saturns, and Playstation (many PSXs are already dead) will fail either with the CD lens, track or motor long before anything else happens.

However, the Saturn is probably the toughest CD-based system of all time. I rarely hear of Saturns with laser/CD motor problems. I had had more people with trouble with PSOne and PS2s that cannot read disc and the like. My Genesis and SNES still work great for the most part, aside form the occasional problem with dust on connectors — even then, I have some cartridge cleaners.

At least with the Playstation, we have the PS2 and PS3 with their near-complete backwards compatibility and ePSXe covering out backs with emulation. But how long until all our Sega Saturns and Dreamcasts end up dead? The Saturn is a very complex system and has yet to have a very reliable emulator. While there are some emulators that can run a few games in a playable manner, it still has a long way to go before it would make a decent replacement for the real system. The Dreamcast. of course, is more modern and won’t be perfectly emulated for a while. At this time, we have no alternative to playing Sega’s last two systems.

Supposedly many of the older cartridge-based systems may have their lives extended if you know how to care for them and can obtain parts. The most common problem for some of these older consoles now is the capacitors failing. But it is possible to swap in new one — however, personally, I’m not quite that skilled yet.

Even if these simple repairs keep the consoles belonging to electrical geniuses alive, those of us that a big more casual when it comes to electrical repair may be out of luck. That is why I promote the idea of having new console releases either by the original company or a third party (Messiah Entertainment is an excellent example). You can read my piece entitled “Console Re-Release Ideas” to see my previous thoughts on this topic.

26 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    I worry about this every single day. I want my Saturn and Dreamcast to live forever, or at least until emulators catch up. I don’t see why some third party won’t come along and make a quality revised edition of these consoles. Sega would probably be pretty generous about it.

  2. Belgand says:

    I find this quite interesting due to the same issue occuring in the film industry. Sure, films tend to hold a much larger market well after release (while more and more gamers are coming on the scene with less and less ability to care about a game a month after release) and are more widely distributed as well, but both are a form of media that, unlike books, require some device to make them work. If nobody bothers to do a re-release and the old systems fail then short of emulation the work is more or less lost forever.

    I’m hoping that Nintendo might be taking a step towards combating this with the download abilities of the Revolution. A cost-effective way to keep older games from expiring and something that can easily (or so I presume) be built into future consoles.

    We’ve already seen relatively recent works more or less vanish with PC gaming… as computer get newer and faster and technologies change many older games simply aren’t playable without modifications in most cases.

    We need to work to preserve gaming if we want games to be something that lasts for the future, rather than just being a temporary amusement lost to the future.

  3. Jeff says:

    My NES is still going strong, last time I checked it! Great to pull it out and play Mario or California Games sometimes.

  4. Matt King says:

    I have an old school NES and a top-loader, both going strong. One way to keep it in good shape is to keep it out of your basement and out of wet conditions!
    Besides, if yours dies, you can easily get one at the local pawn shop, eBay or Amazon…

  5. halosoul says:

    My Master System gave up a few years ago, I’m reluctant to get another, incase that gives up too. But boy, do I wish I could play Alex Kidd, Sonic and Wonderboy again, many a happy gaming memory.
    Perhaps Sega will put up Master System games for download on the Revolution?

  6. Moonshadow says:

    can’t say my old systems are on their last leg, however i have indead gone through quite a few NES frontloaders. My Sega CD, Saturn, Dreamcast, Genesis, SNES, and currently restored/rebuilt NES are still going strong. Also, don’t forget the handhelds.Game Boys and Game Gears, and eo Geo Pockets are still hanging in there ( with the exception of machines that are abused), While Lynx’s tend to have power buttom issues late in their lives( a fixable problem thats not too hard to correct) and Turbo Express’s are dropping their audio amplifiers like crazy due to cheap capacitors( a repair only to be done by those who can do board level repairs), leaving headphones as the only way to hear whats going on.

  7. boffy_b says:

    Tec Toy, Sega’s Brazillian distributor, still make and sell new Master Systems, Mega Drives, Saturns and Dreamcasts.

    So, at least Sega’s consoles aren’t going to become extinct for the time being, though you may have to travel to find live specimens in future.

    See their site: Tec Toy Videogames(in Portugese)

  8. Anonymous says:

    I think there should be a piece of hardware that emulates the CD drives of older systems, maybe plugs into the ribbon cable of where the CD drive should be. They make setups for older computers like C64 or Apple II that either replace the floppy drive with a flash memory card or a PC as a server. Imagine holding all the Saturn or Sega CD games on your PC or a couple of games on a micro SD card? This would help preserve the games for generations. Once the laser goes out of the majority of systems, prices are going to skyrocket on ebay. You can already kind of do this with PS2 with the latest mod, it boots directly to flash and then to your hardrive. So, it NEVER accesses the optical drive AFAIK.

  9. Caleb says:

    I wish I spoke Portugese…

    I wonder if the future will lead other companies to create new systems that will play mulitiple formats – like the SNES and NES system?

  10. i am looking for a console.. its too old, i remember a little of it.. mmm 500 games in 1 embeded on the console and i remember i had a yellow catridge with a lot of games, (a lot of them repeated versions but but little changes) wich indluded mario bros 1, and a lot of classic games, bomberman, a game of a child who looks for its familiy and starts from its house; the clasic antartic game…

    every1 knows this console??

  11. Alpha says:

    I have had my GameCube replaced already (within 11 month of purchase), still got and using my first SNES console. I believe that cartridge-based systems will out lasting CD-based systems for the fact of moving parts. I am not sure how many music CD players I have gone through in the last decade but still using the same tape deck though.

  12. racketboy says:

    Those are probably pretty good assumptions, however, I would think the Gamecube is one of the more reliable of the bunch…

  13. Mike Martin says:

    RE: Marcelo Andres

    What you had was a pirated console, probably one of the infamous NES-On-A-Chip systems. The cartridges were Famicom pirate cartridges, most likely, and would probably play if you plugged it into a regular Famicom. The easiest way to determine this is if a copyrighted game (like Super Mario Bros) was on the multi-cartridge… If so, it’s a pirate system.

  14. steve says:

    you noobs, these things are made of solid state stuff that lasts FOREVER. All you have to do is keep it away from serious dirt/dust and moisture. All the problems I have ever seen have been from liquids or heavy ambient moisture (garages, etc) and or a combination with dust to make it worse. If everyone would keep their systems in a dust-free place and keep the games in a tub or protective case/sleeve, they would last longer than you will. The only things that really ever go bad are the batteries. I have a very early PS2 that has hours upon hours of use and it is not even close to failing, only 1 game ever gives me read errors, and I think its just because it was a bad printing of the game.

  15. christina says:

    i agree with steve. 100% mate

  16. christina says:

    P.s
    My playstation 2 rocks.
    millions of games (nearly)
    never bored.

  17. Giovanni Arixi says:

    My SNES works great, but since 10 years ago has problems reading “newest” games like donkey kong country.The strage is that trying several cardridges of dkcountry(snes pal and games pal) my console read only 1of this games,that in other console working great).Strange

  18. Brian says:

    We have all the repair parts and free repair guides (with images and detailed instructions) to repair and maintain your NES, SNES, and N64 systems. I actually repair and maintain a number of systems each and everyday.

    See this link for our NES repair guide: http://www.nintendorepairshop.com/nes_repairguide.htm

  19. Reid says:

    I was given a SNES and the kids broke it within 10 minutes but then I found a great project online to reuse the hardware by converting the unit into a USB controller for the SNES game pads.

    http://www.raphnet.net/electronique/4nes4snes/index_en.php

    The parts cost less than $10 from http://www.futurlec.com

    Also added a USB hub and USB thumbdrive I already had in the SNES to run the ZSNES emulator when plugged into the PC and has 4Gb for ROMS. ZSNES doesn’t require running an install and stores it’s config in it’s app folder, so you can run it straight away on other PCs without mucking around first. Needless to say, it’s a hot item around at work and with friends!

  20. chris says:

    I have over 100 consoles. none of my consoles have died other then an atari 2600 form a power outage. Other then that ive bought 1 sega cd that did not work the powersorce compastor died and burned alot of other parts in that area.

  21. Kristoffer says:

    Well for starters I want to say that all of my game systems still work, even my original from Japan Playstation, so I’m lucky on that. However, the value of these systems lies in the playability of the games, as suggested in the banter of the emulators problem with Sega Saturn and Dreamcast. Consequentially the fact that most Nes and Snes games, as well as Sega Genesis and Atari games (Yes I even have a fully working Atari 2600 with some 30 games) are emulated and even downloadable for free or a small price. Most any computer can play them, and with the return of retro consoles like the Snes/Nes console available at thinkgeek.com, or thinkgeek’s huge stock of new never opened never played Dreamcasts the woes of them breaking down can be abated to some degree. The Sega Saturn however does actually have fully working fully compatible emulators that can be installed onto any computer and will read off of any game disk. I have seen and used them. Like SimuSaturn, and SaturnRocks production simulator. There are even fully working fully capable emulators for the PSOne, and Nintendo 64. Oddly enough I think the most rugged of all of the Third gen gaming consoles is the N64, which still worked on a cartridge system and had no truly moving parts. Though their controller design sucked and the one joy stick easily broke off, the console its self was solid. I have only heard of a few that have broken, and that was from, uh, more unfortunate circumstances (being run over, dropped out of the window from the third floor, a sledge hammer “accidentally” falling on it after a bad game of Golden Eye which the dad lost to the son(s) for the trillionth time…)
    I’ll conclude by saying that though the old consoles seemed solid, they had many problems. My NES still over heats after about an hour of play. My Snes’s memory cartridge has fried, and my Sega Genesis freezes every time I’m just about to beat the crap out of Eggman.

  22. BurningArmyman says:

    its not the console im woried about it is the cartige running out of save batery life

  23. Rob says:

    I can’t say for sure because have not have any extended expierence with these mock-ups, but companies are releasing new versions of the consoles. However, many of them don’t have accessory support, and I have only seen mockeries like this for some of the older consoles, particularly the atari (Yet to be confirmed), NES, SNES, the Sega Genesis and master system. I have even seen a portable, PSP esque Genesis in which you can play Genesis games on the fly. The time is coming when We can buy our genesis’s and games right off the shelf. Until then, we retro gamers have to be pretty careful with our systems, I’ve already had to replace the cartridge ejector for my NES, and I’ve already almost destroyed my PS2, which I consider crucial for playing both PS2 AND PS1 games. Some may disagree, but I consider PS2 well on the retro scale, especially when you count in Heavenly Guardian and other retro-esque niche titles.

  24. SpooNMan says:

    Buy two or three of each system just to be safe! 😛

    It’s strange how systems produced in the 70’s will far out last systems being produced in 2010… Hopefully 3rd party companies will be able to produce replacement parts for our systems.

    At least the PS3 makes it easy to replace the SATA hdd with any off the shelf drive and we all know the 360 WILL RROD within 3 years. I used to think my 360 was an exception, but a few months ago my launch system died…

  25. Shendue says:

    As a general rule, if it’s broken, most of the time you can fix it somehow.
    You just need the technical knowledge to do your own maintenance and repairs or know someone who does. I literally fried my japanese Dreamcast once because i mistakingly attached it to 220V, black smoke, burning smell and everything. I opened it, cleaned away the acid to prevent it to ruin the motherboard, and asked a friend to substitute an exploded capacitor (i would have done it myself, but i didn’t learn to solder yet) with a new one. Good as new.
    I personally repaired 2 blinking NES consoles by substituting the connectors (i bought new ones from China for a few dollars).
    You can even find several people who produce spare parts and make repairs for classic consoles. Just do a research on the net.