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You may have heard of open source software but the GCW-ZERO handheld gaming system is an open source gaming platform.  It was launched as a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 and is now available for $150.  I had a few weeks to test it out.


The GCW-ZERO is what you would expect in a portable gaming system.  It has 4 gaming buttons on the right, a directional pad and an analog stick on the left as well as two bumper buttons on the top corners.  The 3.5″ screen has a somewhat low resolution of 320×240.  It packs a capable 1 GHZ processor and 512mb of RAM.  These specs won’t power the latest and greatest graphics intensive games but that’s not really what the GCW-ZERO is designed for.  The 4:3 screen is a good indication that retro gaming is going to be a big focus for the GCW.


GCW-ZERO runs a version of open source Linux.  It’s developed by the community so expect regular updates.  There are about 70 games included with the GCW when you first power it up.  These include original games as well as new takes on classic games.  OpenSonic and MiniSlug are great examples of that.  They are fun and simple.  If you miss the days of “easy to pick up and play” Atari, Sega and Nintendo games, you’ll love what’s included on the GCW-ZERO.

Installing new games, apps and emulators isn’t complicated but it’s also not for the novice user.  You have to download the files from the GCW site and then use the PC software to copy those files over to the GCW-ZERO.  It took me about 5 minutes to install the software and copy over a few apps.


The GCW-ZERO is cool.  It’s also not for everyone.  It is perfect for retro gaming.  It’s also perfect for people who want to tinker with the OS or even create their own games.  If you’re looking for the latest and greatest in 3D gaming, you’ll probably want to stick with the mainstream portable gaming systems.

The GCW-ZERO is available online for $150.