Retro gaming renaissance – Do you remember the first video game you ever played? The first console you ever owned? The first quest you ever fully completed? For many of us, our first taste of gaming holds a special place in our hearts. You can come back to the classics and remember how you felt when you were younger, experiencing it for the first time. Nostalgia is obviously not a new phenomenon, but the gaming industry clearly knows many of us are craving a journey to the past. Millennials are the first generation that grew up on video games. It makes sense then that there is an appetite to see contemporary versions of childhood classics and, of course, there is profit to be made by publishers.
A new trend?
Retro gaming has always had a loyal following. However, many of the games we used to love require hardware many of us no longer own which, even if you do, looks and sounds increasingly dated when using modern technology. This is changing. In 2020 alone, we have seen many classics reimagined or rebooted for the modern day. Tony Hawk Remastered, Final Fantasy VII, Resident Evil 3 and Super Mario 64 are all games originally released in the ‘90s which have been re-mastered and re-released in 2020. 90’s kids have a craving for the games that gave them so much joy when they were young. With Crash Bandicoot 4 also now released, the revival of our favourite games and characters is a clear industry trend. In a year when gaming levelled up to the new generation of consoles, the demand for retro, nostalgia-fuelled releases continues to grow.
But why do we revisit these games and worlds time and time again? You remember the first time you heard “It’s me, Mario” when you plugged in your N64 on Christmas Day. You remember the iconic Tony Hawk soundtrack. You remember how scared you were playing Resident Evil at your first sleep over. Retro games give players a feeling you simply do not get from playing the latest releases. But remasters and reboots need to be done right.
Respecting the legacy
There is nothing worse than seeing your favourite character, game or franchise ruined by substandard reboots or adaptations. This is why video games that have been turned into movies rarely work or generate the box office revenue that the popularity of the game would suggest. For example, Rachet and Clank were perhaps the most famous mascots for the PS2. However, when the Rachet and Clank film came out in 2016, it was a critical and commercial failure. Fast-forward to 2020, when Play Station announced that the duo is back for a new adventure on the PS5, the fan reaction was overwhelmingly positive. When tapping into gaming nostalgia, developers need to pay homage and keep the essence of the original, not try and make a quick buck by taking advantage of our loyalty to the games and characters that defined our childhood.
On top of this, it is essential that re-mastered games treat every aspect of the upgrade with love. As a minimum, gamers expect improved audio, graphics, and load times, but it is essential that the classics are not changed so much that they “feel” wrong to the fans of the classic versions. This happened recently with Super Mario 3D All-Stars. Mario 64 has remained relevant due to its hardcore fans who have continued to play the game throughout the years. Unfortunately, in the latest release of the game, Nintendo included the Japan-only version of the game which removed certain features and even glitches, gamers from other regions believe to be essential to play the game in the way they remember. Modernising a game while preserving what we originally loved is a difficult balancing act. Publishers need to satisfy a nostalgic crowd, while also trying to appeal to a new crowd with more modern gameplay expectations. One way publishers can try to satisfy both crowds, is with the soundtrack of the game. For example, in the recent reboot of Crash Team Racing, the game allows you to choose either the original soundtrack or a remastered version. Additionally, one of the DLC’s it offers allows players to drive the PS1 models for a handful of characters. Getting this right is the only way publishers can please both gamers coming back to a title they remember fondly and gamers trying a classic title for the first time.
Preserving the classics
Our love for retro gaming is not going anywhere, even with a new-gen of hardware now available. Indeed, many games from the previous generation will be enhanced to take advantage of modern technology. Whether the title is decades old or being remastered for the modern era, developers must do everything possible to preserve the purity of the games we love. We fell in love with the sound and feel of our favourite games, not flashy graphics, or needless expansions. Sometimes less is more. We have so many modern titles to play, but players always come back to the adventures that begun their gaming journey. We must not forget that retro games can also act as a good stepping stone for people who want to get back into gaming after years away. Studios know there is money to be made here, but they also have a responsibility to fans to preserve the classics in the way we remembered them when we were young.
Jessany Van’t Hoff, Head of Global Gaming Partnerships at HyperX