Why Retro Games Are More Than Just ‘Here To Stay’

On my Android phone (yes, I finally got one) I'm playing an old-school JPRG/Legend of Zelda type game  and 80's shooter homage.

On the Kindle you can play old-school text adventures.

It seems our more advanced mobile technology is putting old school gaming back in people's hands (mostly literally).  Yes, now with the technology of the 21st century you can go back and play games just like you did 30 years ago.  I say this without an intense sense of irony because it's actually a trend with multiple factors we progeeks want to keep track of because it's more than retro – it's cultural and technical.

  • First, of course, some of this is retro nostalgia.  That's a given because some people using technology are hardcore geeks who remember and loved these games.  That's because some people were gamers and can now come back to their old pleasures.  There's always retro nostalgia, but now we have a lot more platforms to play it on.
  • Second there's Geek Chic.  Even people who didn't always care about these games may want to check them out.  Games are big and thus their history is big – as are games done in the styles of the past.
  • Third, some of this is due to development tools. This is because the tools in question we see can easily support some of these retro game technologies, but also because other development tools have advanced so fast.  People can construct games far easier than they once did, and the games that once took ages to make can be made quicker.  This means retro-style games are likely unspeakably easy to make as its leveraging new technologies (or improved old technologies) very fast.
  • Fourth, though many of these mobile devices are powerful, they're not the full-powered PCs or consoles.  Retro games, being simpler, are more suited for them – feeding back into the first three points.
  • Finally, and this is a point I cannot emphasize enough, some of the "retro" game styles may suit different audiences – and now they can reach audiences they may not have reached previously.  How many people with a Kindle might enjoy the interactive novel style of a text adventure?  How many people who might not play a gigantic RPG would enjoy a simpler one on their mobile phone?  More people are using mobile tech and gaming tech – which means these games may find players who are not interested in current games or gaming trends.

Retrogames are a complex trend with many possibilities and potentials for mobile developers.  Keeping aware of the above issues will help you make or market that successful game -  because when you step back, it's not as simple as it looks.

Steven Savage