8BitDo pivots to PC nostalgia with C64-style mechanical keyboard and external joystick

In brief: Although most of 8BitDo’s products are designed to support PCs, the company’s main appeal is its affection for retro console gaming. Months after releasing a Nintendo-themed keyboard, 8BitDo has unveiled a new variant that marks its first attempt to evoke an old-school home computer.

Commodore 64 fans can now pre-order a mechanical keyboard from 8BitDo styled after the classic computer. Shipping in the US is expected to begin on March 28. The device supports Windows and Android.

Like the NES-themed keyboard the company released last year, the new model combines fairly standard 87-key mechanical keyboard functionality with a color scheme that recalls 80s hardware. It supports N-key rollover, features ABS double-shot keycaps, comes in a top-mounted orientation, and includes retro-style knobs for volume and wireless connectivity. Users can switch between Bluetooth, a 2.4GHz dongle, or a wired USB connection.

Although the keyboard comes with Kailh Box White V2 Switches, the PCB is hot-swappable, allowing customers to easily insert whichever mechanical switches they like. Additionally, 8BitDo includes software for keyboard mapping and macros.

The massive programmable “super buttons” that the NES keyboard included also make a return. However, the C64 edition adds a matching joystick to evoke the feel of joystick gaming on the original home computer. The new accessory might be behind the price hike to $109.

8BitDo gained prominence by providing PC users and retro console collectors with convenient ways to use controllers on various devices. Entering the keyboard market and selling products for nostalgic PC users could signal a new strategy from the company. At the very least, it would be interesting to see new color schemes based on other 80s computers like the IBM or ZX Spectrum.

Customers willing to spend extra money on a more varied selection of sturdier keyboards (or those who can’t give up a number pad) might want to shop at Model F Labs. The project offers accurately reproduced IBM Model F keyboards in multiple form factors.

Originally released in 1982, the Commodore 64 became a popular gaming platform. It sold 17 million units, making it the world’s top-selling home computer. The easiest official way to accurately revisit the C64 is to purchase the full-size re-release Retro Games Ltd launched in 2019, which includes 64 pre-installed games. Last year, a dedicated fan built a fully functioning unit almost entirely from new parts.

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