It only seems like not so long ago when I was watching the slow dwindling death of the great Commodore 64, but it is sadly just over 10 years now since the machine's last commercial magazine breathed its last (Commodore Format – 1995). Although I had an Atari 2600 and Vic 20 way after they were commercially obsolete, it was into 1996 that still being a C64 user classed me as a "Retro Gamer" (Or "Sad Tosser", as many were affectionately known in the early beginnings).
Having grown up playing many classic games on this machine, I didn't really want to part with my childhood memories and hoped that someday there would be a revival of somekind for the classic 8-bit wonder. For many years I watched as the Playstation, N64 and larger scaled consoles came and went again. I have always enjoyed the delights of modern gaming, but also keept firm hooks into the games which originally set my gaming passions alight. Why?… Well, going off a tangent I can't give a 100% answer, but as well as moving forward in life, I like to look back fondly on the past… and gaming has been a big part of a poor upbringing. I started out on machines obsolete because we couldn't afford the latest consoles at the time. Really I was a retro gamer at the age of 7 without realising. Because i've always been around 5 years behind the times in the games world, i'm very open minded on games in general. Although i'm impressed by visuals on the Xbox 360, it always boils down to simplicity and gameplay… so my Xbox version of Project Gotham Racing to me (IMO btw..) is the same game deep down than the 3rd game on the 360. But then maybe I just have a pair of rose tinted specs firmly fixed to my face… or i'm just not normal? 🙂
Not many people have really understood why I continue to play games from all ages. Games which were once played so much that the disk was worn out, and hailed as the best ever, are now being classed as "old tat" and not in the same league as modern games. How a great game can transform into a festering turd is beyond me… but each and everyone to their own I guess.
Anyway… Regardless of the ever evolving games industry, there had been many dreams and wishes to see a commercial Retro gaming magazine on the news stands, featuring our long gone (but not forgotten) games machines. Never did I expect to see such a thing with Imagine publishing bringing out a dedicated Retro Gamer magazine in 2003/2004. Although this was the first commercial Retro magazine produced, Retro had already began taking a rather spectacular rise in popularity…
It was originally around 1997/98 that little retro columns began to pop up in some of the more modern games magazines, when 8-bits had practically died out and there was a whole generation of old games and machines to cover. CVG had its own retro section each month, and was proof at least to myself that I wasn't the only sad git out there. As the next few years passed, and way into a new decade, the internet grew, retro sites appeared and interest grew. Many gamers were starting I guess to get fed up with everything being in 3D and complicated, and just wanted to go back to something simple. The Gameboy Advance was the closest retro gaming device at the time which was actually commercial, and a success it was.
Companies have even began to realise that 3D isn't always the answer, and today companies such as Sony have reverted back to 2D for new conversions of Worms and Lemmings (Psuedo 3D I think is the term for the graphics), and the games have been much better recieved than their 3D sequel counterparts a few years back. In the meantime, another generation of gamers have started to miss games from their beloved Megadrives, Snes' and Saturns etc, and have been buying them up just to relive their childhood memories once again… It is a pattern which has been emerging fast in recent years, and has helped the new Retro Gamer magazine to exist.
Of course, i'm happy that finally this sad hobby is now a popular trend with many people. It's more accessible now, and I can have more discussions about old games than I used to. Even few of the people who slagged off old games, have jumped on the bandwagon. Having a SNES sitting next to your Playstation 3 isn't a bad thing these days.
But is all of this good?… I've seen a relaunch of the Commodore 64, and many other consoles in recent years… so yes, it is… But there is the danger of it being seen more as a business opportunity, and already companies have seen a gap to make money. Some companies have done this very reasonably with game compilations, but others have put crazily high prices on products. As an example, i've seen more gaming stores now feature a Retro section… but I rarely come away with anything.
I'm used to picking up games for peanuts, which doesn't happen much these days… but I would still pay the price for a Megadrive game if its reasonable. Some shops i've seen selling copies of Sonic 2 for £14.99, in a tatty box and no manual… with the infamous "Rare" words written on a little hand written label. At most you shouldn't really pay more than £4… but sadly this is becoming more common. Maybe Ebay is part of the cause?…. I think it is. Although I love ebay, and its helped me pick up a few titles i've been looking for, occasionally the odd game gets into a crazy bidding war, and pushes the final price up to something laughable. Then you get your everyday seller coming onto Ebay to use it as a price guidance, and they see that Sonic 2 has just sold for £20 (For some crazy reason) and hence price it in that kind of range. It's becoming quite common.
With new commercial releases, there has been some over pricing, with classic compilations released at full modern price, with only a handful of titles in some cases. One particular example is when Nintendo decided to do a Classics range for their classic NES titles on the Gameboy Advance. These titles were almost exact ports of the classic game, but for pretty much full price you just got a standard NES port, when you could have probably picked up the original cartridge for far less. Surely two or three of the games could have been bundled together into a compilation?…. Sadly not.
I really hope that with Retro gaming becoming a popular trend, that business opportunities do not ruin what could be something enjoyable for gamers.