Retrobution: Games from the Grave

Some of us have noted the big comebacks of some of our ancient game favorites. Companies have been re-releasing them in recent years with surprising success. Why are these oldies being relaunched and how successful are they?

They’re quite successful. Back catalogs must be treasure troves, games crawling out of the grave to reap new and improved profits for their publishers. As a gamer, I look at these old gems and realize that most people never even saw them, like Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger. As popular as those games were, they were nowhere near reaching the audiences they do today. There were fewer gamers back then too for all sorts of reasons (access to technology being the greatest). But today, anyone with a phone has access to THOUSANDS of games. It makes some sense to release the oldies ….because those games are brand new to millions of people.

Couple these facts together and this is what I’d call a perfect storm:

  • Pixel art is popular today, and most games were pixel art back in the day.
  • Mobile devices require small files, and the games of old are bits on the byte (pennies on the dollar, get it?!?!)
  • More gamers today than yesterday. Millions more. Old is new again.

So when I saw Chrono Trigger make it’s way to the Android shop after watching other classics like Contra be re-released for the same, I couldn’t help but wonder if these games were selling well. The answer appears to be yes.

To take CT as an example, it sold 2.3 million units on its SNES release in 1995. But once it was re-released for Nintendo DS, it sold more than 1.25 million units from 2008 and until now. That’s not a bad return on investment for an oldie! CT was also made available on Playstation and Wii, though I don’t know what the cost was to buy it.I’m really curious about how well it can do on mobile. It’s got potential, but if they over price it, they’ll harm their success. It’s currently over-priced at $10.

Other titles I’ve seen crawl back onto the scene is Baldur’s Gate, which is now on the Google Play store. The prices on these retro titles are usually pretty steep too, with BG asking $10 too. The Final Fantasy franchise has resurrected several of it’s sequels, with 1 to 6 being available starting at $8 a pop …except for FF6 which is going for $16!

I’m tempted to buy Chrono Trigger, but $10 for a game that old seems like highway robbery. It looks like Blizzard’s example isn’t being followed in this one case, which is odd since they’ve got to be one of the most copied game companies in history. They’ve released most of their 1990s library to users at no cost. You can download Blackthorne, The Lost Vikings and Rock n’ Roll racing for free. But I guess wherever there’s money to be made, we can’t all be Blizzard.

These are classics, so maybe they’re worth it to the hardcore fans. Still, seems like an opportunity to show these treasures to an audience who knows nothing about them. Whatever these companies decide to do, I’m pretty sure these mobile versions will sell successfully.

What retro game would you like to see re-made for a modern audience?