Inicio |  Foro | HistoriaCatálogo / ReviewsDosieres | Glosario | EntrevistasLista de precios | EnlacesCréditos 

(march 15, 2012)


Give a brief personal presentation.

Greetings! My name is Billy Pitt and I was born and raised in the city of Miami, Florida in the USA. I work in the coin operated video arcade industry, and have been doing so since the early 1990’s. My interest in playing and collecting video games began when I was a young boy. I have also always enjoyed working on puzzles. When I solved the Rubik’s Cube, for example, I felt a great sense of accomplishment from it. I find puzzles & games to be very entertaining. The first time I saw and played an original Atari home game system, I immediately noticed that the game cartridges had product numbers. It made me very curious as to which product numbers the other cartridges had, and most interested in discovering how many more of them existed.


Do you consider yourself a fan of Neo Geo? Are you a collector? What do you collect?

Of all the game systems that I collect for, the NEOGEO has always been special to me. Yes, I do consider myself a very big fan of the NEOGEO, as I have been an owner since its release in the early 1990’s. I would best describe myself as a “cartridge collector” since I only play & collect games for cartridge-based game systems, from Atari cartridges to JAMMA boards. I do not collect CD games.

When and how did your love of protos begin?

It actually began when I was very young, long before the NEOGEO. I would look through catalogs & magazines for pictures & information on upcoming games and I started to notice that I could not always find the games at the stores. So I began writing down product numbers in sequential order on papers and documenting the missing numbers on lists. I would look through catalogs (new & old) for announcements of upcoming games and I would find that often times the companies assigned and displayed the product numbers in these catalogs before the games were even released.

When I was in high school, in my 9th grade class, I made friends with a student named Carlos who was from Puerto Rico. One of his family members had a job working at an Atari Service Center there. When the video game market crashed and these service centers closed, many things were thrown away and discarded. The employee there had found some Atari computer boards & chips and given them to Carlos to play on the Atari. They were bare boards with no cartridge shells, but they worked just fine and among the games was an unreleased proto!



Which was the first proto you ever had?

It was that game that Carlos gave me! I was about 14 years old and it was 1986.
There were about 20 cartridge boards in the box and among them were 3 prototypes. The game was Donald Duck’s Speedboat for the Atari 2600. This was my first proto! I still have it and play it to this day.


Are you a group that searches for protos? Or is it only you that searches for protos on your own?

I have always given credit on my website to those who have helped me over the years with information, contributions, & leads. And I have always worded many of my articles and reviews on my site using the terminology “we”. However, it really has always been just me and nobody else! I search alone!


Do you think that it would make sense for anyone to begin to collect protos nowadays?  

I think that searching for and collecting only protos is a waste of time, and absolutely no fun at all. One of the biggest things which make collecting games a fun hobby, is watching as your collection slowly grows and expands. Protos for any system are extremely rare and do not turn up often. So if you only collect them, you will have a very small collection and it will be quite boring.

I would also like to add that proto cartridges for the NEOGEO are the most difficult to find of any game system. The reason is that unlike the other gaming companies, this one was based 100% in Japan. The USA offices were mostly just a redistribution center. All of the cartridges were produced, manufactured, and assembled by SNK of Japan. SNK was also much stricter with regards to the chain of custody of sample cartridges.


There are some protos like Treasure of the Caribbean, Zupapa! Etc. that from the beginning you could tell were good games, with quality resembling a Neo-Geo product, so why do you think that a good quality product does not make it to the marketplace?  What did SNK see in those titles to make them decide to cancel them?

There are many reasons why a prototype for a game never makes it to the general marketplace. Sometimes the programming takes too long and by the time the game is ready, the market trend has shifted away. Other times the game is completed, but initial testing does not go well and they decide to cancel the release of the game. But sometimes these decisions can be mistakes because some bad games actually get released and some canceled games were actually quite excellent.

Some prototypes are very early betas and they may have only a few of the game play elements implemented into the game. These can be incomplete and quite buggy with lots of glitches and errors. Others are actually finished, totally playable with introduction & ending sequences fully programmed. As a side note, one of the jobs I held in the past was as a video game beta tester for a computer software company. As a result of that, I am experienced at play testing betas and looking for bugs & glitches within game programs.


Do you believe that there may be protos that we do not yet know exist?

Absolutely! Yes! To begin with, we are still missing 2 games from the NEO-GEO product code list. They are believed to be very early titles from circa 1990/91 time period. We have speculated that they could have been “Super Athena”, “Ikari Warriors 4”, or “Iron Tank 2” Of course they may have just been original SNK game ideas too! Also, there may have been games that were so early in development, that they had not yet been assigned a product number. And lastly, there are games that were probably assigned a number, and then suffered delays and/or were canceled, and then their numbers were re-assigned and given to other game titles.

If you can tell us…, which is the most exclusive item in your collection?

Well, this is a question that I cannot answer! I will make more comments on this later in the interview, but for now I will only say that it is one of the unreleased & undumped NEOGEO proto game cartridges that I have in my collection.


Do you like to play the Neo Geo games?  Which one in particular?

Yes! I do actually play many of the games. Most of my favorite games however are older titles, among the first & second generation of software that was made for the system. Some of my favorites include: Nam 1975, Magician Lord,  Puzzled, Last Resort, Fatal Fury 1 & 2, Art of Fighting 1, Viewpoint, Pulstar, Puzzle Bobble, & Puzzle de Pon. I tend to like puzzle games and space shooters the most. I used to be able to 1CC the above mentioned fighting games! I am not sure if I can still do that today, but that should show you how much I enjoyed playing these games.


What is your opinion of the current Neo Geo collections? Do you think the prices have shot up in the last few years?  What is the reason for the considerable increase in prices?

I think that the NEOGEO is the most unique home game system ever made. It was a dream for gamers like me to finally have an arcade perfect game system at home. Because of the advanced technology of the time, the system & games were very expensive and most gamers could not afford them. They have not only kept their value, but have managed to steadily increase in value over the passing years. The main reason is a short supply & high demand. In addition, the “harvesting” of games as sacrificial lambs or “donors” as we refer to cartridges that are destroyed in order to make conversions, has also caused prices to go up. Lastly, the higher end games do not change hands very often among collectors.


Have you been in contact with Xacrow?  What is your opinion concerning his way of thinking?

I sent Xacrow several emails in 2005 & 2006 and only a couple of them actually received a reply. I dismissed him for many years as a waste of time, but I am in the process of trying to re-establish a communication with him again now. I can discuss this in more detail later, but for now, I will simply say that it has to do with what I mentioned earlier.

In regards to his way of thinking, I don’t have a problem with collectors who choose to remain private about their unique items. However, he came forward with pictures & information, and then went back into hiding and refused to answer questions about them. But my biggest concern and source of disdain for him is in regards to his reluctance (or perhaps inability as nobody knows for certain?) to divulge the product code numbers for the protos that he claims he has. This information would be extremely useful to us, and it would take him less than 2 minutes of his time to document it.


Do you believe that a proto should be exclusive to its owner or should its ROM be “freed” so that everyone may enjoy the game?

This is a controversial subject. And I apologize in advance, but my answer will be very long! But I do have a very good explanation for why both schools of thought can be seen as correct, so I think it will be worth your time to read it. I truly believe that if the community had the same perspective on the subject, we would all benefit from it.

The first issue is that, in reality, anyone who has a proto is not technically the owner of that proto. They may in many cases be the legitimate owners of the actual physical proto cartridge itself, but not of the actual rom data contained on the eproms. The programmers and/or the companies that they were employed under are the true owners. However, in most cases the companies are out of business and the programmers cannot be located.

The second issue is in regards to how the owner obtained the proto. We all know that these protos are extremely hard to find and/or are extremely expensive to buy from whoever is found to be holding them. We have also seen that they lose their perceived value once the games rom data has been dumped and has been made publically available.

So a proto holder loses his games value and his games trade ability when he decides to share it with the community, but he gains the praise and appreciation of the community. However, a proto holder who keeps the game locked away and unavailable maintains its elusiveness and high end trade value, but he is ridiculed in the community and is called a “rom whore” (rom hoarder)

Usually, when a proto is found in the wild, or is in possession of a casual collector, it will eventually find its’ way to being released. The reason for this being that money becomes the motivating factor for the owner and the community eventually provides it.

The problem is when a proto happens to be in the hands of a high end collector. Since money is NOT a motivating factor for them, the only approach is a trade. In addition, trading with a high end collector is at the absolute highest level. It is not something that can be negotiated easily because you have to bring to the table something that they do not have! In most cases, the only thing that qualifies is the same thing they have, an unreleased proto! So trading protos is a high stakes poker game which not everybody can play.


How long can it be between the time you find out about the existence of a proto, and when you finally find it?
Does this also entail an economic expense? (traveling, telephone calls, etc)

It usually takes several years to track a real proto down. And even though the majority of the leads I get yield little to no results, I have to chase down every single one. I cannot take any chances. Time & money are the two biggest investments I make. So by the time I locate and arrange the acquisition of one, I tend to prefer to conduct the transaction in person. It is faster and safer for both the buyer and the seller.


Why do you think there are collectors who still defend the idea that there should be no sharing?

It is usually a split right down the middle. It is easy for those who do not have any time or money invested into tracking down & acquiring a proto to demand that it be given to the community for free. They have no understanding or appreciation for the personal & financial loss that the collector suffers as a result.

In the Atari, Sega, & Nintendo communities, we have what are called “controlled community releases” The collector is compensated for his game through a direct initial payment which is paid for by making a small production run of cartridges which are sold at a cost per unit that offsets the cost of buying the rom data and/or the proto cartridge from the owner.

However, much like a collector with a rare coin, painting, or manuscript, owning a one of a kind game that no one else in the world has can be quite a thrill and give a sense of euphoria. It has the power to manipulate your thinking. Allow me to share from my personal experience.

In February of 2003, I acquired my first NEOGEO proto game, Ghost Lop. At the time, I was very naïve and inexperienced. I had spent quite a bit of money to buy the game, and I was anxious to recuperate it. While I enjoyed some of the attention, I was nonetheless foolish. I was manipulated and rushed into making a bad trade decision with the game, and as a result Ghost Lop  lost its’ status as a high end trade. Immediately after this all happened, I promised myself that I would never again make the same mistake with the next one that I acquired. So specifically in regards to NEOGEO protos, my policy is a trade-only policy. They are not for sale, not at any price. Only an even exchange with another high end collector for another unreleased proto will even qualify.

Sadly, the only way that they will ever see the light of day, will be when all 172 numbers are 100% accounted for. And the only way that they will ever be dumped or released, will be when the other holders do the same. It is a stalemate. A Mexican standoff!


Just up to how much can an exclusive proto be sold for?  Is there an established price?

There is absolutely no limit to what these extremely rare protos can sell for. Nobody really knows for sure. They are worth as much as the highest bidder is willing to pay. However, there is a very logical way to establish a more stable price for these games.

The value of the rarest “released” game can sometimes be slightly more or slightly less than the value of the rarest “unreleased” game. The reason for this phenomenon is because in both cases, nobody really ever knows for certain if “another” sample may someday be found! So in both cases, the item is really in essence a “hot potato” or as I call it, a ticking time bomb! And for the high end collectors, you are forced to walk a tightrope between priceless & worthless.


Have you met any SNK “key people”?

From 1992–1996, I attended several arcade conferences and shows where I specifically met and spoke with several SNK employees. But other than Chad Okada, the famous SNK USA employee known as the Game Lord, I have not kept in touch with any of them, nor have I ever really tried to contact them.


Is there any proto of any unfinished game still in existence even after the closing of SNK?

I strongly believe that among the final remaining unfinished projects that SNK had in the pipeline before they closed shop, were Last Blade 3 & Garou Special. In addition, I also believe that an earlier (completely different) prototype of SNK versus Capcom was also left unfinished. At position NGM-258 (game number 158) it was originally intended to be released simultaneously with the Capcom version (Capcom versus SNK) in the year 2000 at the arcades. Lastly, we have evidence that suggests that NGM-273 (game number 173) may have been the REAL final SNK NEOGEO game. That game was to be called Samurai Shodown Special Final Edition, and it was location tested at one of their test arcades. We even have pictures of the game running in the machine.

There has been a lot of talk about Garou 2…What is the real truth about this game?  Isn’t there even an image available in-game?

Yes. I am fairly certain that some work was done on a Garou 2 or Garou Special game. There are two in-game screenshots which surfaced for this game about 10 years ago. The shots were taken relatively close to eachother but they are not very good quality. Nobody has ever been able to confirm or deny wether the shots are indeed of a prototype of the original Garou, or perhaps a Garou 2.


What do you think about the work done by NCI after having published the game Bang Bang Buster?  And after having published the game Treasure of Caribbean?  Do you think they did the same type of job?  Do you think this last game may be considered a proto or otherwise a homebrew game after having been tremendously modified

I want to be certain that I begin my answer by complimenting N.C.I. for their hard work and thanking them for giving us a controlled community release of the Bang Busters prototype. The way they handled the entire process from start to finish was excellent. However, I cannot say the same thing for Treasure of the Caribbean. As I have stated on my website, no, I cannot and will not classify Caribbean as one of the missing protos. At best, it is a hack of the original proto with homebrew programming thrown in to complete it. I have requested some supplemental documentation for Caribbean from N.C.I. for the purposes of trying to verify its product code number and confirm it as one of the protos.

N.C.I. is currently negotiating several future projects, and among them are a few possible legitimate protos similar to Bang Busters. I am optimistic that they will be able to bring forth at least one or two more of these protos and this will absolutely be of a tremendous help to me in completing the software product code list!


What is your opinión of the people from NG:Dev.Team?  And of their work?

I will say that their games are very impressive. As far as homebrew games are concerned, their work is absolutely astonishing. It is at the same level as the regular released games were. However, I do not own a NG:Dev.Team game, nor do I ever intend to purchase one, no matter how amazing they may ever be. This is not to say anything bad about NG:Dev.Team in particular, but rather as a general position that I have towards ANY homebrew developers.

When I was younger, I was a gamer first and a collector second. But as I grew older, I soon changed my priorities around. Now I am a collector first and a gamer second. And for me, unless it is one of the missing product code numbers, a new neo-geo game does not interest me in the least.


Do you think something like this was necessary in the NEOGEO scene?  In many other classic systems and from many years ago, there is an enormous scene that publishes homebrew games, translation patches, etc. Why do you think that Neo-Geo has taken so long in arriving at this point?  Do you think it is beneficial to maintain the system alive?  Or, on the contrary, do you see it purely as a business?

I do not think it was necessary for the NEOGEO to gather homebrew programming support. Yes, I do agree that it took longer for it to do so than most other retired classic systems did, but this was most likely because of the very small niche market that the neogeo has always had. The user base is simply not as wide as with Atari, Nintendo, & Sega.

As for my opinion on keeping retired game systems on “life support” through the use of homebrew programming, I am indifferent to it. Both as a gamer & as a collector, I simply have no interest in it. As a gamer, I feel that there are plenty of great games to play as it is, we don’t need any more! And as a collector, I feel that I simply would rather use my funds to purchase other items such as rare released games and prototype games. In addition, I simply cannot dedicate so much space in my collection.


What is your opinion of NGF?  Do you think they were beneficial to Neo-Geo or, on the contrary, were they one of the reasons that the product became more expensive and turned it totally elitist

NGF was the cause of a great many problems in the NEOGEO community. They were responsible for the spread of misinformation and the largest penetration of counterfeit items into the marketplace. The prices and perceived values of the real NEOGEO games would have gone up regardless, but the distrust within the community would have been far less.


Do you really think that NGF actually distributed the games Crossed Swords 2 and The Warlocks of the Fates for AES?  Have you seen any of these live or on sale?  It is said that 50 units were distributed although in reality we have never seen any…..

No. The two boxes that NGF displayed & photographed for these games are fakes. They were mock ups that anyone of us could also do on our computer paint & picture programs. Take for example The Warlocks box. On the back of the box are 4 screenshots. All four of them can be found among the magazines and materials that have surfaced over the years. If you had the game, and were designing a box for it, why would you limit yourself and only use the same grainy quality screen grabs, when you could make your own using any screen shots that you wish?


Of the prototypes you know, which would you like to see finished and available?

This is a very easy question for me. Alpha Denshi’s 1991 Mystic Wand. There are 3 reasons. First, this game is by far the oldest unreleased & undumped proto. Sun Shine is older, but it is already dumped. Xacrow’s 2005 emulated screen grabs proved this. Second, it is a first party proto. First party protos are always far more rare and difficult to find then those from third party licensees. (Alpha Denshi was an in house developer at SNK before they were granted an official license) Lastly, it is an action platform game, a unique genre that the NEO-GEO library was completely devoid of.

All of the other unreleased protos are either already dumped, (as emulated screen grabs have surfaced) or they are third party games. Therefore they will all eventually become available. The third party games are much easier to track down and release (as N.C.I. proved with Visco’s Bang Busters) and the dumped games are safeguarded. We may not have them, but at least we can sleep at night knowing that they are safe and that eventually they will be leaked or distributed to the world some day in the future.

I would like to mention however that Sunsoft’s Pair Pair Wars would be a strong second place contender for me! It looks like a great puzzle game and I think I would enjoy it. I would not trade as heavy for it, but I would surely like to have it someday.


Do you consider that there may be any “hacked” game that has been worth it?

I feel the same way about hacked games as I do about homebrew games. They can be interesting to play, and they can even be as fun to play as the official games, but they will never be part of the official collection. We had 10 King of Fighters and 6 chapters of Metal Slug on the NEOGEO. I really don’t think we need any more of them!


Let’s talk about something that is causing a lot of controversy on the scene, in reference to the game Aero Fighters 3 USA, do you believe it is authentic?  Do you think that it is possible that after so many years a new game may appear?  In case its authenticity may be finally demonstrated, what is the motive that could lead SNK to fabricate so few units of a game?  In this case, we are talking of about only 3 units, something totally irrational, even thinking that they may have been samples for distributors…They are compared to Kizuma and Ultimate 11 EURO, but these games were actually distributed and sold in Europe, even if they were ultimately retired because of their low success rate and, after having been sent to Japan, they were recycled to be converted into Japanese versions

Yes, I do believe that it is authentic. I am among the very few who have actually been able to see this game in person, so I can say this with confidence. I was not surprised at all when the story broke. Aero Fighters 3 is in the same club as Ultimate Eleven & Kizuna Encounter. A very limited, perhaps even sample, production run was made to send to a handful of retailers, and for whatever reason, demand was not high enough for SNK of Japan to manufacture a full production run. Some of them were sold or made it into the hands of collectors, and some of them may have been sent back to SNK and were simply recycled into Japanese versions. For the record, it would also not surprise me if someday Pulstar samples are found as well.


Would you like to share with us a particularly curious (interesting) happening or an anecdote experienced by you during these years that you have been linked to the Neo-Geo scene?

Ha, yes! I will never forget the Christmas Holiday of 1994. The much anticipated Samurai Shodown 2 was being released on home cartridge. I called my usual contact, who always reserved one copy of every release for me. I did not even have to ask anymore, he knew to always do it, and I always purchased from him! He had the best prices, and the best service! But when I called him on the telephone, he told me: “sorry Billy, but it is completely sold out!” I was VERY upset! I could not understand how this happened? It was also too late to get one from a different company because the game was sold out well before it even arrived. On the morning of the holiday I was very sad, and disappointed. My girlfriend at the time (who is now my wife!) gave me her gift. I opened it and was completely surprised. It was the Samurai Shodown 2 game! She had called my contact, purchased my copy, and told him to say that it was sold out when I called him so that she could surprise me! I of course later had to apologize to him for yelling at him! What an experience that was!


Any last-minute exclusive information you can share with our web users……

The newest information that I have to share at this time is in regards to some upcoming developments. To begin with, we are hopeful that sometime this year, the Crossed Swords 2 game will be released on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console, just like Ironclad was in November of 2009. Also, N.C.I. is working on several projects, but their next release, will most likely be Q.P. It will be fully translated into English, so it should make for an interesting game. Lastly, I myself have been pursuing a couple of leads for quite some time now, most of them usually lead to a dead end, but I always try to maintain a hopeful outlook.

However, I would like to share a few exclusive never before seen screenshots! I will eventually upload them to my site, but I decided to give you & your site the exclusive first look at these pictures. Enjoy!

To the left, a minigame from Last Odissey. To the right, one of the maps you can find in Warlocks of the Fates.

Many thanks for granting us this interview.  Let’s hope that people that don’t know you, be it because of the language or for any other reason, may now do so and that they may value the tremendous job you have done so that fans (collectors) may find out about the many games that remained in SNK or other company boxes.

Thanks to you as well! This was a pleasure and a great opportunity for me to get some publicity for this subject matter. I strongly believe that there are still many great treasures just waiting to be found for the NEOGEO, and getting the pictures and information out there increases the chances of us finding them.


  Regresar Subir
Inicio |  Foro | HistoriaCatálogo / ReviewsDosieres | Glosario | EntrevistasLista de precios | EnlacesCréditos