Pico Cassettes are like NES cartridges for your smartphone

One startup has introduced a small cartridge that plugs directly into your phone’s headphone jack to unlock games.

Who could forget the days of whipping out their Nintendo system, blowing into the base of their Super Mario Bros. cartridge and then slipping it into the console for some 8-bit gaming goodness? Well, one Tokyo startup has come up with a similar platform for the smartphone era called Pico Cassettes. 


The team at Beatrobo have developed a tiny game cassette that plugs into a phone’s audio jack, acting as a physical key for unlocking old-school games. These cartridges are actually an extension of the startup’s PlugAir technology, which has been used to sell physical music and video content throughout Japan. (In fact, it was on display inside the Atmel CES booth back in 2014.) While the dongles themselves don’t actually store any software, each one serves as as an authentication key for unlocking content by sending out an inaudible sound to the device.

What’s nice is that, since each Pico Cassette has a unique identifier and can securely communicate with Beatrobo’s servers, players will have the ability to save their games and play each one on a number of gadgets.


“We’ve been thinking about gaming since we designed PlugAir,” Beatrobo founder and CEO Hiroshi Asaeda recently told Tech in Asia. “We thought it could be cool to plug a character-themed dongle into your phone and then unlock a special character in a game like Puzzles and Dragons. We had the idea before Nintendo announced its Amiibo figures, and we still think there’s an opportunity to make that kind of device for mobile.”

For now, Beatrobo’s first goal is to relaunch some classic NES titles like Super Mario Bros. and Pac-Man. In the process, the team is hoping that Pico Cassette can one day do the same for vintage gaming as Spotify has done for the music industry. While still merely at the demo stage, you can follow along with the project on Beatrobo’s website here.

[Image: The Verge]

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