Origins as Bigjack’s Arcade Emulation
Video Games Classics history began in 1997 as part of the content program for the Bigjack Studios in Brazil, as Bigjack’s Arcade Emulation.
After this introduction, you must be asking yourself right now: “What the hell is Bigjack?”. Well, let’s start then with a bit of history on Bigjack itself. Bigjack is a studio focused on creating comic books with a long history of services provided to Marvel, DC and Vertigo comics. The studio is still active today, but in 1997 Bigjack was on it’s infancy, and wanted to have some content on their website, so “The Bigjack Network” was developed and would host a number of smaller sites attached to the studio site, focused on content. Each member of the Studio was invited to create their own site and maintain it, and the Studio would provide hosting space and some marketing support for the website owners, in exchange for advertising and visibility.
One of these sites was Bigjack’s Arcade Emulation, where I had the opportunity to create my first Arcade emulation site, following the trail of other then famous emulation sites like “Dave’s Classics”, “Retrogames” and “Arcade@Home”.
The site debuted in 1997 strictly based on my passion for Arcade games and a wish to be part the then-forming emulation community. Since I had little to no knowledge on electronics and coding, the only contribution I could make to the community was a website to report about new emulators coming and what their development teams were doing.
Even though it was hosted in Brazil, the site was primarily in English, with a Portuguese version attached. Being both in English and Portuguese helped the site achieve international status real quickly and in June 1998 it reached the peak of its popularity, thanks to a crazy mix of manga comics produced by the Studio and was used to embellish the pages of our site, arcade gaming and soccer (thanks to World Cup France 98), yes a crazy mix, but it made our site soar back then.
As mentioned before, our main focus was on Arcade machines, with a lot of focus on M.A.M.E. (a young Arcade Emulator at the time), even though we covered it all: MAME, Raine, M72, RAGE, Callus, Retrocade, System 16, Sparcade and NeoRAGE, all with emulators and ROM downloading sections.
Bigjack’s Arcade Emulation also hosted both unemulated arcade ROM dumps and schematics for unemulated arcade machines. Our efforts and our reporting on the day to day of the MAME development, brought the attention of some MAMEDev team members that invited me to be part of their team, mostly as an observer of what went behind the scenes to accurately report as a Classic Arcade gaming website owner. I was also part of the Retrocade Dev Team, and was even credited on the first release of this now ancient Arcade Emulator. I remained as a part of the MAME team in some form by 2002 when they understandably did a purge on inactive members and I was removed from the Dev list.
The website’s success was also it’s downfall. In September 1998 we were informed by our ISP that the website could not continue on their servers anymore. The amount of traffic it was generating was so big that they could not handle the bandwidth, specially because of the downloads, considered way too big for the times of dial-up internet. Since the site was not generating any income and was mostly a labor of love, it was taken off-line.
Here’s a look into how the website looked like in November 1998:
Enter Videogames Classics
I continued working at Bigjack Studio as their webmaster, and in 2000, we were offered a deal with an upcoming content provider portal called BRFree. Their objective was to be, in Brazil, what Yahoo was in the United States and Worldwide in the late 90’s. They wanted to have content sites attached to their main site, and wanted Bigjack to make some of them. Some members of the BRFree team were fans of the Bigjack’s Arcade Emulation website and suggested us to bring it back, but with more content. Videogames Classics was then officially born.
The new website debuted on March 17, 2000, but at this time, many of the Arcade emulators that we’ve covered in the past were long gone, and only MAME and Raine continued to receive updates, so we focused on those and since the console and vintage computing emulation was gaining a lot of steam, we were also going to cover every possible 8 and 16 bit system.
A lot of content was created for this website, with history for each system covered, information on new emulators being released, ROMs for download for the latest MAME releases, a small Arcade Flyers repository, a section in which you could play Arcade and MSX games online with the first ever Java emulators developed by Muriloq and Arnon Cardoso. There was also a very active forum on the site however, this time around we were only going to have the website in Portuguese.
The Brazilian emulation scene was starting to boom, and immediately Videogames Classics was the most important Classic emulation website in the country. The decision to not have the site in English was also in part due to a request from BRFree, the hosting provider and partner of Videogames Classics. They wanted content in Portuguese for their portal, and a site of this magnitude in English would waste a lot of bandwidth and defeat the purpose they were trying to achieve.
We accepted the deal, but kept the plan to release an English version at a later date, when the site gained enough popularity and revenue so we could have our own dedicated server.
You can see how the site looked like in August, 2000, right here:
Between it’s debut and early 2001 the site experienced the height of it’s popularity and was the #1 source for information on MAME and download of ROMs for many people worldwide. We kept receiving a lot of international visitors looking for MAME ROMs.
We wanted the site to evolve and become not only a reporsitory of ROMs and Emulators, but also a central for classic gaming history, covering not only systems but games in particular, with every single 8 and 16 bit game ever made covered, if possible.
We like to think that we made our contribution during the emulation’s infancy, when people were still using dial-up to access the Internet and accurate ROMs for the latest MAME release was not easy to find, specially the NEO-GEO ones, that we started to carry as soon and the NeoRAGE emulator was released, however the ultimate goal of having the site covering “everything” failed in the end.
As other projects took place and BRFree was showing their inability to host a site that had such a volume of visitors (we were scoring 2 million page hits in a month, according to their server stats), the site’s server would start to go down constantly, causing the company’s management to request the items for download to be reduced or removed from their server.
Combined with a cease and desist letter from Nintendo requesting to remove any reference to Mario and Donkey Kong from our site and another one from the Amiga Company also requesting us to stop offering games in ADF format for download, we ended up closing almost all downloads in later 2001, to both save on bandwidth for the server and also to avoid the site’s shutdown due to copyright claims.
All that, coupled with real life taking over for me, caused the site to receive less and less updates. The site was entirely made in HTML using Macromedia Dreamweaver. We’ve created the template of the site on Dreamweaver which made the site easier to update, but still it was too much of a task for only one guy.
The site was not designed to really make any money, since it was not possible to monetize that kind of content back then, so what were daily updates, became weekly and then monthly updates. By then there were many other websites offering ROMs and Emulators for download and the website lost relevance quickly by 2002.
Videogames Classics last update was on September 1st, 2002, and as BRFree was sold to “Oi”, a Brazilian Telecommunications giant that had other ideas for their content, so the contract for content providing lapsed, and the site was shut down in December 2003. The last time it was seen only was December 17th, 2003.
Now, 15 years after the site closed for good, it’s back!
Yes, I decided to bring it from the dead. The tools that exist today are much better than in 2002, and now it’s possible to have the site made in a way that it’s going to be a lot easier to have updates posted, and also have contributors that can also post help maintain the site.
I also own my own web development company based in the United States, so the moment is perfect to also bring it back as it was intended to be: In English and also with all the content we’ve ever dreamed of. We have our own server, so bandwidth will obviously not be a problem anymore.
We will cover some emulation, remaining faithful to the website’s origins, even though Emulation is not as hot as it was back then. Today tools like Emulation Station and Retropie makes it a lot easier to get into emulation than it was before, and as emulators evolved, also the need to a huge number of emulators for different systems updated daily faded, so our emulation coverage will not be as deep as it was before. Also, no ROMs or emulator downloads.
We want to do something a lot bigger this time. What we considered classics back in the late 90’s now is “really old”. Game collecting is a huge deal these days and a great past time. There are many sites with resources on all kinds of games and systems, YouTube channels and Facebook Communities. There is not really a “need” for what we are trying to do, but we like to think of this site as a dream coming true. Make Videogames Classics what it was intended to be originally with information on all classic systems and games ever made.
We want to preserve the memory of anything between “Pong” and the “SEGA DreamCast”. This is mind-blowing on itself: When Videogames Classics was being developed, the DreamCast was being released at the same time! Now it can be considered a classic system!
We are planning the site to be divided in 4 main big parts: 1. The “News” section, which will be the front of the site; 2. The “Encyclopedia” part with details on games, systems, developers, publishers and everything in between; 3. The “Forum” section, where we will have a message board and people can discuss everything about classic gaming; and finally 4. An “Online Store”, where we will offer gear and memorabilia and some classic games. We buy a lot of old games on eBay, Garage Sales and Flea Markets and we plan to offer some of our collection up for sale as well.
Finally, we might go into YouTube as well. We surely have the content to be able to pull it off, but we’ve tried a couple of times already and YouTube is very time consuming, so that will depend on how well this website performs and if we have the enough time to do it. Our focus right now is to offer as much content as possible right here on our website, right now!
In the meantime, we want to cooperate and work together with other content creators, publishers, historians and try to make this the biggest provider of classic gaming information in the World.
If you read everything, thank you for that, and I hope you enjoy the visit!