Two Justins, Scerbo and Chou, are the heart of EON Gaming. First meeting in college, the two devout gamers bonded over their love of GameCube and Xbox, hooking up the latter to their school network to host huge Halo 2 matches across the whole college campus.
For the two Justins, this era of gaming is unmatched. From Chou’s days of rival school gangs competing in Halo to Scerbo’s childhood of Super Smash Bros Melee on the GameCube, the sixth generation of gaming is something truly special, and it’s something that has enabled EON to create some of the best HD adapters for classic consoles the world has ever seen.
Starting in 2018, Scerbo and Chou vowed to combat the slew of poor quality adapters, and great-but-complex hard mods led the two to collaborate on the GCHD adapter - a plug-and-play solution to bring perfect, lag-free playback to Nintendo’s little cube-that-could on modern displays. Now, five years later, the two are releasing their fourth product: XBHD, the first plug-and-play HDTV solution for Microsoft’s iconic Xbox.
“When we were in college, around 2009 to 2011, the entire modding space was a lot more fragmented,” Scerbo tells us. “You’d be searching forums to see what was possible and there's a lot of people doing at home solutions… but when you’re in college space is very limited. You don't have space for a soldering station and all this stuff [to get the most out of your console].”
Scerbo’s fascination with hard mods eventually led to the conception of EON. Working on his GameCube, Scerbo showed Chou just how good games from that era could look when properly displayed on native hardware.
“I was like, ‘Dude, you'll never believe how good this looks.’ And I showed him and he’s like, ‘Oh my God, is this on original hardware?”
From that point on the stage was set, the two Justins got to work on their own solution for bringing the GameCube up to snuff. Using their knowledge of how hard mod adapters worked, the duo worked together to build an adapter that piggybacked off Nintendo’s Digital AV technology to output the crispest visuals with the highest amount of compatibility possible, and they did it.
For both Justins, one game was the benchmark for everything to come: Super Smash Bros Melee. Unabashedly one of the most important GameCube games of all time, the EON duo needed to create the best, lagless Melee experience possible.
“The threshold for acceptability was Smash. [Justin] brought it over and he was like, ‘You won't believe how amazing this looks.’ I've played Smash Melee for like two decades of my life. I've played it on HDTVs and they've been laggy, they’ve been a mess. The converters are always so terrible. I'd gotten used to it, but then I started playing it and I was just like, this is amazing. This is outstanding. This is completely lagless.”
Following Chou’s glowing response, the two immediately took the tech to friends who owned retro game shops, letting local pro Smash players try out the prototype. Impressions were immaculate as classic Fox v Falco matches were played in glorious quality with the same quick inputs you’d expect from playing on a chunky old CRT. It was nostalgia evolved.
Tapping into that feeling is exactly what EON strives to do with each of its products. After working on the GCHD, and its Mark II improvement, the team designed the Super64, an adapter that aimed to improve the notoriously crummy video output of the Nintendo 64. Another integral console to the two’s childhood, the Super 64 has been heralded as a must-buy accessory for the system.
“The N64 was a no-brainer because that was also one of the landmark consoles of our time,” Chou explained. “You want to bring that out, a lot of people were asking for it. It was the most requested thing after the GCHC.”
Scerbo and Chou describe the Super64 as a one for them, one for the market project. Starting off, the two wanted to make the GCHD for them, it was their dream to get the best plug and play adapter for the GameCube. After that, they responded to fans’ overwhelming requests for a Nintendo 64 solution. Now, the two are doing another project for them, bringing their love of the original XBOX into the modern world with the XBHD adapter.
“We approached the GameCube GCHD adapter basically almost strictly as a passion project,” Scerbo us. “It was something that we really wanted to do and we knew we could do it and we knew we could do it well. That’s what allowed us to make that first jump. It wasn't necessarily to service the market. With the N64, I mean, obviously we're massive fans of the N64. I [have] a pretty embarrassingly large N64 collection, but it's also the kind of thing where it's like people really wanted that and because it was asked so strongly, we went ‘Okay, we did the thing that we wanted to do and now we'll do the thing that you guys want.”
When it came to the XBHD adapter, Justin Scerbo and Justin Chou took everything they had learned from the creation of the GCHD and the Super64 to rebut the conception of their relationship. With the foundations of EON rooted in that chunky original XBOX, the two wanted to revive the classic beast with all the bells and whistles it was known for.
Tapping into the console’s early HD game support and its LAN capabilities, the XBHD adapter is more than just a HDMI-out for the system. As well as building on the back of EON’s stellar video tech in the past, the XBHD includes four CAT-5 network ports to relive the glory days of Halo LAN parties and building-wide Crimson Skies battles.
To prove themselves yet again, EON took prototype XBHD units to conventions around America, hooking together massive Halo 2 Slayer matches with stunningly crisp, lagless playback. Unlike the 2000s, it wasn’t just sun-deprived teens hurtling across the rolling hills of Coagulation, taking up roost in Zanzibar’s Camp Froman or strafing through the tight corridors of Lockout. It was entire families playing together on a console reaching its 22nd birthday.
“We’re appealing to both the older generation and almost also their daughters and sons playing the same stuff,” Chou explained. “You have parents that are like introducing this old console from way back when to these kids who only know Fortnite, right? It's amazing that they're enjoying this old game in such a fascinatingly fresh way around people. It’s social and so much more interesting, it’s just so fun. I totally forgot how amazing LAN parties were.”
The short-lived days of LAN parties are unfortunately gone, but EON is bringing them back little-by-little. For the two Justins, and for us, this is a period of gaming that has never been beat, with a vibe that can never truly be matched again. It’s an era of discovery where genres where 3D gaming was just starting to be mastered, and was still rife with experimentation. However, for EON, if they can even bring back a smidge of that excitement to gamers, that’s good enough.
“There’s part of us that wants to really retain that [era] and make that accessible because these are our childhood consoles,” Scerbo explains. “These are things that made us happy then and a lot of us still hold on to them and want that sort of experience. So to be able to essentially create an HD remastered version of an entire library for a console that meant something to you is really appealing to us.”
With the XBHD launching later this month, EON is already working on its next console adapter. While the team hasn’t told us what plans are next, they’re working on a console that may have a much smaller, and more difficult to work with, design than that of Microsoft’s Goliath.
“We’re staring down the barrel of a couple of – we're not going to say which – really thin consoles that you would need an adapter for. Then we have to come up with a cool, clever solution that still fits within the EON philosophy,” Chou revealed. “Justin and I keep asking, ‘Well, what's the next console? What other console would you want to play with next?’ And now we're just testing and playing around with a bunch of other things just to see what would be most fun for us to mess around with.”
Whatever the next EON HD adapter is, it would be a surprise for it to not hit the exceptional level of quality seen in the company’s past products. From the original GCHD to the Super64 and now the XBHD, EON isn’t just the company to trust with your childhood console, but the only one for the job.
For more XBOX-centric features, check out our interview with Western Digital on the making of Xbox Expansion Cards. Also, keep your eyes posted next week for another article on EON Gaming’s XBHD adapter.