‘Flashback’ Maker Trades Twitter Snipes With Fans Over Downgraded Pac-Man Plug-N-Play

‘Flashback’ Maker Trades Twitter Snipes With Fans Over Downgraded Pac-Man Plug-N-Play

A new plug-and-play retro game machine doesn’t offer what it promises on its box. Players are feeling burned by what they say is a bait-and-switch, while the maker of the system says it’s all due to last-minute production snags.

The manufacturer, AtGames, has been making all-in-one retro consoles including the popular “Flashback” line for well over a decade. These inexpensive machines are pre-loaded with a bunch of classic games and vary in quality. Last year’s Sega Genesis Flashback HD had a shaky start, where the company ended up sending faulty review units to the press.

This year, one of its new machines is having the exact opposite problem: The early review units sent to the press are better than the ones on store shelves.

One of its new machines is called the Bandai Namco Flashback Blast, which contains 8 of that publisher’s most popular games, including Pac-Man, Galaga, and Dig Dug. As the reviews started to trickle out for the Bandai Namco Flashback Blast, something started to seem wrong.

YouTuber John Hancock had a review copy which was sent to him by At Games, which he gave a generally good review. Another reviewer, known as Madlittlepixel (or MLP) on Youtube, picked up a version of the console at Walmart, and gave it a very different, much more negative review.

As MLP’s fans pointed the differences in their reviews, he realised that the retail version of the console that he bought at the store included the Nintendo Entertainment System versions of the games, whereas Hancock’s review copy had the games’ original arcade versions.

The original arcade versions are considered to be much better than the NES versions, which had to be significantly downscaled to work on the less powerful home hardware of the 1980s. MLP went on to point out that the box for the retail version of the Bandai Namco Flashback Blast uses pictures from the arcade versions, which he felt was misleading to customers.

As fans of retro games picked up on this, they began tweeting at AtGames asking for an explanation (or just outright accusing it of deliberately misrepresenting its product). AtGames began to respond.

“The early review version could not make it to production, even though it was anticipated it would,” read one tweet.

AtGames did not elaborate on why the version with the arcade games did not get produced, and as of press time has not responded to an email from Kotaku asking for clarification. But AtGames was also not done tweeting, and some of its responses to fans were strongly worded, to say the least.

“You never heard of companies multi-tracking product development? There have never been changes from earlier versions of products versus the retail release?” it wrote to one user.

“So you’re saying we custom made a special product in hopes of deceiving people because we thought no one would notice a difference like that? I’m not sure I’m seeing how that makes sense versus the reality of a production change,” it wrote to another.

“You clearly don’t wish to discuss things reasonably and don’t wish for the company to help with whatever issue you might have, so I guess you’ll just continue to make one-sided accusations,” it said in response to MLP’s video about the situation.

In a later production run, AtGames said, it will replace the home console versions with arcade versions.

In the process of explaining this, the At Games Twitter account started blocking other users, including another YouTube reviewer, who made a video about it. In several replies to users, the person (or people) running the AtGames Twitter account said that the only people who were being blocked were those who had “cross[ed] the line into harassment.” They clarified in a response to another user that part of their definition of harassment is “repeated use of the word ‘scam’ and words like it.”

So is this a “scam”? It’s plausible that last-minute production issues might have caused AtGames to have to switch the versions of the games it used on the Blast.

But since the imagery used on the retail box still shows the arcade versions of the games, it’s not out of the question to say that some consumers might be misled by the advertising.

It seems like everybody involved here could benefit from a little more understanding: customers shouldn’t automatically assume that every change in a product during its production is a deliberately concocted scheme intended to trick them, and AtGames should probably try to listen more and dig in its heels less when it makes a mistake that materially affects the quality of its products.


    • A good rule of thumb is that if a company doesn’t give a shit about having a PR person protect them from themselves, they probably don’t give a shit about consumers, either.

      When you fuck up AND you get caught out not being up-front about it, the only acceptable tone to take with consumers is an apologetic one.

      • I think there’s sometimes an element of stupidity and naivete about bad PR. A lot of conpanies don’t hire a good PR person, because they don’t need one until they’re in the spotlight. AT built a name for itself building low-budget retro consoles and never really needed a PR guy. Now, they’re in the shit, but the same dude who was driving the Twitter account in the beginning is behind the wheel. It’s definitely stupid, but I don’t know if it’s a demonstration of apathy or mal-intent. I mean, maybe. Wtf do I know about it… ;P

  • ReviewTechUSA also covered their story in a video and was also blocked on Twitter for calling them out for it.

    The crux of the issue here though is that – even IF what AtGames says is true – that is, early runs had the NES games and later ones had the arcade games – even IF that was true, the box art is identical between both versions and both versions are being sold for the exact same price, so consumers have no way of knowing which version they are getting. It’s also at the very least highly unethical, and potentially even illegal for them to be misrepresenting the product on the box like that, and for them to be charging the same price for a clearly inferior version.

    If AtGames were really serious about this and what they say is true, they need to issue a complete recall of the product and take it off the shelves completely, until they can complete a proper production run of the final version. As it stands right now though, we know there’s a good number of units out there with the inferior NES roms being marketed and sold exactly the same as the units with the arcade roms and THAT is wrong.

  • They would’ve had a chance to do quality control. Checking the product before release. They would have known the games are a different version before release but would’ve had boxes with art done. Rather than deciding to delay release to get the proper games or fix the artwork and advertising they decided to release the product without even advertising the difference. Whether by negligence or on purpose they have released a misleading product, a product claiming to be something it’s not. False advertisement. And no remorse.

  • They should just recall them. Change the box art to remove any mention of arcade and change the pictures of the games to the NES version of the games.

    Also did they get permission from Nintendo to use the NES version of the games or do they only need Bandai Namco’s permission.

  • Here’s an update from MLP actually – now AtGames has basically been caught lying.


    Basically, some review units they sent to reviewers had the arcade roms but ALL units available to *buy* in stores ONLY have the NES roms. There were *never* any units with arcade games on them despite the box art.

    Really shady.

  • As a disinterested observer, it’s pretty easy to see what happened here.

    1) They started with a concept of doing the arcade versions, and developed box art to depict such.
    2) Pre-retail test production runs of the hardware were done, some of these were sent to reviewers.
    3) Something happened between this and retail launch (maybe the licence to use the arcade version fell through.. it happens).
    4) The retail production runs switched to different game versions due to this issue. But the boxes had already been printed with the arcade artwork (since they’d be produced in parallel with the hardware production or before the hardware production).
    5) Company expects to resolve the issue with the arcade game versions and will ship later production runs with that.

    I think the company could have handled the discussion better, probably by explaining exactly what happened.

    Also, there’s no law that says box art has to match the product exactly. I’m pretty sure that “marketing” artwork rarely resembles the actual product. There’s actual legal terms for this that I can’t recall right now. But basically it’s the same thing as the pictures on the menu at your local fast food joint never match the actual food.. they just look roughly similar.

    I think the only possible legal point of contention (and note, I am not a lawyer) is if the text on the box or sales page specifically calls out that they are the original arcade versions of the games, and not just “8 built-in games” or other generic terms.

  • Fuck AtGames. They willfully used crisp, colourful arcade shots to sell their product when it infact had the significantly downscaled NES version installed. That’s shit and they SHOULD be called out. There IS a conspiracy to mislead in their intentions whether they accept the truth or not and that is some terrible use of social media as a customer service platform.
    Definitely won’t be buying their products ever and even hope the company disintegrates.
    The truth is, consumers have more rights and a larger voice now and some comapnies will fail because of their inability to adapt to reasonable retail practices. And it’s a beautiful thing.
    That will one day claim EB Games.

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