Every game wants to be like the yo-yo. Just when you think it has gone out of fashion, it wheels back into the picture. Sadly, too many releases end up on the scrapheap, never to permeate popular culture again. However, there has recently been an increase in retro titles making comebacks. The phenomenon is gaining momentum, leading to more and more gamers asking: why is it happening?
Adapt to Platforms
The simple answer is that some retro games adapt to the latest industry changes better than the competition. You only need to look at the success of bingo from 2010 onwards to spot the pattern. By the early 2000s, bingo was almost extinct in the UK, the region where the player numbers were the highest. Suddenly, the game focused on its internet presence, showcasing the benefits of online bingo such as speed and efficiency and the sheer number of games. As a result, a good bingo site will include everything from Slingos and jackpots to super slots and traditional bingo rooms, making the likes of Deal or No Deal and Slingo Starburst more accessible than ever.
Another game that has followed a similar strategy is Pokémon. When Pokémon became famous in the late 90s, the strategy centered on its TV show and accessories. However, advancements in technology meant that playing cards were quickly outdated, and once the series fell out of favor, the developers needed a new plan. The approach heavily invested in augmented and virtual reality software, something other gaming operators struggled to harness. Pokémon GO was, and still is, the exception to this day as 500 million people downloaded the service in 2016 when it was launched. Recently, monthly active users grew by 15% and spending skyrocketed by 49%, and this was after 2020 was reported to be the game’s most profitable year.
Finding a New Niche
A game doesn’t have to be much if a novel platform arrives and does the heavy lifting. Pokémon GO highlights this through the AR element of the game, giving it a new lease of life. However, very few verticals can compete with eSports, an industry with revenues of around $1 billion in 2021. Thanks to a CAGR of almost 15%, the figure is expected to increase further. For releases that fell out of favor, the sector has been a breath of fresh air. For example, Counter-Strike came out in 2000 and quickly lost a lot of the buzz of its initial launch. But by 2012, the developer released a follow-up called Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Why take the risk when the first game wasn’t overly popular?
It’s because of the impact of the eSports industry, which has led to an average of one million active players for CS: GO per month for a consistent period. World of Warcraft and League of Legends have similar trajectories. After launching more than 10 years ago, their player counts are ridiculously high, with LoL registering as many active users in November 2021 as Steam, despite having a release date of 2009. Steam had 120 million, whereas LoL had 180 million. As a result, these titles can piggyback off the success of eSports and remain relevant.
Dovetailing with Other Platforms
Sometimes, it’s about hitting the zeitgeist at the opportune moment. Where games developers are concerned, they don’t have to do much. Indeed, they might not suspect a revival is possible until they check the figures. Then, BOOM! They’re back in the game. Currently, this happens when games dovetail seamlessly with movies and TV series. Films and games have a close relationship anyway, yet producers and directors appear to be using the theme more often to turn a buck, to the point where they are going further back in time for inspiration.
Pixels featuring Adam Sandler is a prime example since it contains references to several retro games, including Pac-Man and Tetris. Sonic the Hedgehog is another old-school character that hit the silver screen recently. And there’s Doom: Annihilation, too, a sequel to the 2005 blockbuster Doom. Due to this, it’s easier for game developers to re-release the relevant services to feed into the demand, leading to retro games from several eras finding their way back into the limelight.
The trend won’t stop any time soon. With that in mind, which retro title do you think has a chance of blowing off the dust and reminding fans why it was popular in the first place?
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