Newest Review: ... interesting about the products offered by Binary Zone Interactive is that they are published in their original format, rather ... more
Binary Zone: Twice as Good as the rest
Member Name: SWSt
Date: 19/05/10, updated on 20/05/10 (113 review reads)
Advantages: Fantastic customer service, easy-to-use website
Disadvantages: Very niche market, limited stock on some items, prices could be considered expensive
Binary Zone Interactive will be totally unfamiliar to many Dooyoo-ers, but it's a great little website that anyone interested in retro games should take a look at.
Rising from the ashes of the old public domain scene popular in the 1990s, Binary Zone Interactive's main market is to sell retro games which are published by Psytronik software. They also sell other retro-themed items, including game music CDs, retro gaming DVDs and posters.
So far, you might be thinking "so what? I can pick old games up from eBay dirt cheap, so why bother with someone else". The reason is that the games Binary Zone Interactive sells are mostly new. They might be written for old hardware like the Commodore 64, but they have never before been released.
At first glance the Binary Zone Interactive website looks a little busy, but in fact it is very easy to navigate, whether you are just browsing through their product range or looking for a specific item. Taking its lead from Amazon, you can browse items by specific categories, view popular items or just use the search box.
When you find an item that interests you, there's a great deal of information provided to help you decide whether or not to buy. Most shopping sites limit themselves to a couple of short paragraphs of product description; Binary Zone Interactive has a couple of pages full. These are interspersed with in-game screen shots help to brighten the site up and demonstrate exactly what you are getting for your money.
What's interesting about the products offered by Binary Zone Interactive is that they are published in their original format, rather than designed only to run modern emulators. If the game is a Commodore 64 game, it is produced on a C64 disk or tape. The odd game is written to run on a PC, but mostly, by retro, they mean retro!
Of course, this does mean that you need to own the original hardware to be able to play them. Some of the products are available as digital downloads, which I assume means you run them on a PC using an emulator, but I haven't tried this, so can't confirms it works. Anyway, if you're a real retro-bate, you'll own the original machines anyway, and will prefer things in this format.
Selling for such a niche market does mean that games can be a little expensive. Disks typically cost around £12.99, tapes £3.99 (free postage is provided on some items, but not all). Initially, this sounds a lot, but let's put it into context. It's no more than a Commodore 64 disk would have cost back in the machine's heyday - and how many other things have not increased in price in the last 20 years! Anyway, when you consider that most PC games cost £35-40, £13 is pretty good value. Sure, they might not be as advanced in terms of graphics or sound, but most of them still have it in the game play, where it counts. If you choose the physical version over a digital download, you get a proper box, with professional quality artwork. For your £13 you're getting a polished product, not a hastily copied CD-ROM carelessly thrown into a jiffy bag.
Because it is a niche market, many of the games are only produced in limited quantities (usually around 800-1000), so if you really want a specific title, you need to get in there soon after it's released to avoid disappointment. Presumably batches of popular titles are re-ordered occasionally but you might have to wait for it (or settle for the digital download version).
Ordering from the website is an absolute breeze. Again it follows well established conventions. Add the game you want to buy to your basket and proceed to checkout when you're ready. At this point Binary Zone Interactive makes things far easier for the customer than the websites of many high street stores. I hate websites which force you to register before they will recognise your order and clearly the people at Binary Zone Interactive share my frustrations. If you've not already registered it will allow you to place the order whilst a username and password is automatically created for in the background, with the details sent to your email address for future use (or for tracking your order).
Making life even simpler, you have the option to pay by PayPal (cheques are also accepted). If you do, the website pulls all the key information (name, email, delivery address) in from your PayPal account, rather than you having to type it all. You can change these details (to specify an alternative delivery address, for example), but the actual amount of information you enter manually is very limited. Ordering a game from Binary Zone Interactive took less than five minutes from start to finish.
What a great system! There's no faffing about filling lengthy registration forms, nor do you have to stop and think about what username and password to create. Everything is highly automated and well thought out and it's something a lot of bigger web-based companies could learn from.
Binary Zone Interactive have a similar focus on customer service when it comes to processing your order. I ordered a game from them at midnight on a Friday night. By 2pm the following day, I received an email confirming the order had already been dispatched. What was particularly nice was that this was not a generic, system generated auto-email, but a personal one from the website owner. This made me feel like a valued customer, not just an order number.
Just as impressive was their delivery record: the game I had ordered arrived on the Monday. In other words, from placing the order to receiving the game took just 2 working days. I've ordered things from far bigger companies that haven't even acknowledged my order within that time, let alone got round to despatching it.
Binary Zone Interactive might be a niche company and might only be small, but the way they do business is a real object lesson to far bigger names. If you have any interest in retro games, you should give them a visit and see what they have to offer. Interesting products, an excellent website and fantastic customer service make them a great company to buy from.
© Copyright SWSt 2010
Summary: A must-bookmark website for anyone interested in retrogaming
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