During an interview with Dr. Greg Zeschuk, co-founder of BioWare (Dragon Age and Mass Effect) stated that next generation consoles PS4 and Xbox 720 probably won’t fix the “sick market for old-school gaming”. He also mentioned that the two new consoles aren’t really bringing anything new to the table that hasn’t already been seen. That’s debatable, but there has been a trend of new console = better graphics, online multiplayer, and hard drives. That’s it.
The more interesting thing here is: old school gaming.
There is a market for old school games, but no one is really courting it. Nintendo tends to take old school franchises—their Mario, Zelda, and Metroid—and add new spins to them. While the gameplay that brought them to the dance remain, these franchises are put in new settings or give new adventures. Old school turn-based RPGs (another favorite of mine) still get a ton of love from fans and there are still people who enjoy playing gamer-created titles made with RPG Maker software.
Let’s not forget about indie developers. A number of them tend to bring the 8-bit and 16-bit goodness in their titles that are put on name consoles’ marketplaces. These tend to run the gamut from side scrolling get to the right side of the screen action/adventure titles to turn-based RPGs.
There is even a subgenre of music that tends to dabble heavily with the 8-bit and 16-bit sounds of old school NES, Atari, Master System, and so.
So the question isn’t really is there a market for old school gaming now, but how big is that market? Is it big enough for the next generation PlayStation and Xbox to entertain it beyond a marketplace release or Steam? Old school gaming could see a huge comeback if a few 2D titles—8 or 16-bit—got a full console or even handheld release. It’s unlikely to happen, but if a title like Cthulu Saves the World or Retro City Rampage were released not just as a Live Arcade, eShop, or PSN budget game, but produced as a massive game that could be put on a disc, sold in stores, and had hours and hours of gameplay—there’s plenty of play in both games—old school could return en masse.
Of course that’s unlikely to happen. The current and future game market is dominated by first person shooters and blockbuster-grade titles. If old school-style games were to be put in stores it would likely be put on a disc for several others given the size of some indie developer titles and given a budget price. That means developers would miss out on cash. While some fans would buy the physical game, there is an even larger group that would want only the best graphics and titles that really push a console. It’s these fans that pretty much determine what gets sold.
How could you see old school gaming and old school gamers being better catered to? Do you think the market is sick for old school gaming?