Skip to comments.Video Game Industry Embraces Retro Classics
Posted on 08/14/2004 12:47:49 PM PDT by qam1
The video game industry is on alert. A challenger is gobbling up players -- and her name is "Ms. Pac-Man."
Yes, the classic games of the 1980s are making a comeback, from the beribboned pink Ms. to those "Super Mario Bros." and the one-and-only "Donkey Kong." Vintage and reissued video games are the hottest trend in the usually forward-thinking $7 billion-per-year gaming industry. Gamers are expected to spend an estimated $250 million to $300 million on retro games this year.
"They're huge," says Lee Eisenberg, owner of game hub Fun City in Parma, Ohio, and a retro gamer himself. "Our older stuff is outselling our new stuff. I've never seen anything like this."
Eisenberg carries both vintage and reissued games and systems, but says the old ones outsell the new products. He has a hard time keeping those big, clunky two-decade-old Nintendo, Atari and Intellivision systems ($40) and games ($3 to $10) in stock. Fortunately, he has a warehouse supply of no-longer-manufactured consoles and cartridges acquired from trade-ins, garage sales, Web sites and other sources.
The flashback started with nostalgic thirtysomethings, says Eisenberg, 39. But "younger kids are really getting into them now, and not just with their parents."
He says the appeal is simple.
"The newer games are really really violent and expensive. A lot of people want to go back to their childhood. They want younger, simpler games."
The nostalgia factor was one reason behind game giant Nintendo's June relaunch of eight '80s classics, including "Super Mario Bros." and "Donkey Kong," all for Game Boy Advance.
"Many of us grew up playing Nintendo and have a fondness for some of the great games from our original console, the Nintendo Entertainment System," says Beth Llewelyn, public relations director for Nintendo of America.
"With the 15th anniversary of Game Boy this year ... we thought it would be fun to go back to our '80s roots and release some of the classic NES games."
Sales have been very strong, she says, already hitting the 500,000 mark. The company is also selling a Classic NES Limited Edition Game Boy Advance SP ($100) that re-creates the look of the original NES.
Nintendo's not the only company thinking retro. Toy maker Jakks Pacific recently launched a series of plug-and-play hand-held systems called TV Games, featuring classics such as "Ms. Pac-Man," "Galaga," "Pong," "Centipede" and "Asteroids" from Atari, Namco, Capcom and Activision. The $20 battery-powered system looks like a joystick and plugs into your television.
Radica Games Ltd. will release its own classic system this fall. The $30 console, dubbed Arcade Games, also plugs into your TV and features reissued Sega-Genesis games such as "Sonic the Hedgehog."
And the revival isn't limited to the home-tech world. "Pac-Man" bleeps and blurps are sampled in new songs by hip-hoppers Lil' Flip and Beanie Sigel, and game sounds and images have been used in ads for Hummer and Saturn autos. T-shirts with "Space Invaders," "Pac-Man," Atari joysticks and classic logos are a trendy urban retro-kitsch look.
Namco has even launched a "Class of '81" series of arcade machines.
Many fans aren't content with reissues, however. Vintage Intellivision, Sega-Genesis, Nintendo and Atari games and consoles are hot commodities at the eBay online auction site. A recent search on Intellivision turned up 492 games and systems. A "classic Atari" search yielded 219.
There's even an annual get-together for retro game fans. The seventh Classic Gaming Expo is set for Aug. 21 and 22 at the San Jose Convention Center in California. Last year's expo in Las Vegas attracted 1,500 people and caused organizers to move to a bigger venue, where they expect even more attendees this year, says expo spokesman Jayson Hill.
"There's a huge nostalgia factor to classic-game appeal," Hill explains. But he says the interest has grown beyond sentimental Generation X-ers. He was "shocked" by the number of kids and teens at last year's event.
But are these kids shocked by the primitive graphics and sounds of 8-bit classics, compared with today's 256-bit games?
Hill doesn't think so.
"Sometimes people don't want everything served to them," he says. "If you give a person everything, they get nothing from their imagination. It's not as much fun as if you have to fill in the blanks."
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Those Jakks Pacific things are the absolute coolest. The entire game system is the size of an old Atari Joystick. You can plug it into any TV set and recreate an entire 1980's Video Arcade. Back in the day, those games would have cost around $20,000 and now you can get it for $20.
Pong! I've spent many drunken hours in bars playing that... LOL
save for my son who is a heavy 'gamer' and will want to read this
I remember standing in a long line at the mall waiting to pay 25 cents to play a game of pong. The amazing thing is I remember.
Pac Man on my Atari computer in the late 70s.
I still have a working "first edition" (without any carts or paddles) BW pong game with the controllers being two wheels on the console itself.
I collect old video games consoles
Does this mean my old atari 2600
and old games might be worth a few bucks?
And to think my Dad said I was wasting money when I bought them!!
Depending on the game, some of those old 2600 carts can be worth major bucks. I kept my old Imsai 8080 just in case and now its quite a collector item.
My three fave games of all time were "tempest", "Banjo Kazooie", and "Final Fantasy X". :-)
Best thing since sliced bread.
I confess. I really, really liked Defender.
I'll have to check, I do have an old pac-man and Laser Blast, not sure about the rest.
Final Fantasy VII and VIII Bump! BTW, anyone remember Adventure on the Atari 2600 with the easter egg?
My other favorites are Asteroids, Haunted House(2600), Gauntlet, Robotron, Pac-Man and Q*Bert
I play Gauntlet 2 on my computer every day :)
So did I. :-)
Way cool. There are collector sites that can help. :-)
The cool thing is that you can play all these old arcade, computer and video console games on your P.C. using emulation.
That's what I do for my 5 year old, he loves Pac-man, Space Invaders & Mr Do.
OMG! THe 1980's are vintage!
Bet you are not too old. :-) I am pushing 50 myself. LOL!
Shhh.... don't tell ANYONE, but I never had kids and still loved playing Bajo Kazooie. :-)
Tempest (Atari) was a video arcade game in the 80's. It is now available on the PC as a retro Atari game.
Banjo Kazooie (Rare) was a really fun game that was made for the Commodore 64 around 1999.
Final Fantasy X (Square Soft) you can still buy in the stores today. It is for the PS2 system.
My first computer was a hand wire-wrapped home built S-100 interfaced to an ASR-33 Teletype back in about 1978. LOL
As an owner of a Ms. Pac-Man cocktail table, an original arcade Tempest and 4 pinball machines, I pronounce this A Good Thing.
I was so excited when I discovered Q-Bert as an available download for my cell phone.
Best thing since sliced bread.
I have them all, I might be an old fogie @34 but I think new games just suck, Yeah they are visually much better but they are just not fun. The end started with Mortal Kombat, Instead of making video games for the fun value, they went for the shock value.
I still say that Nintendo should start releasing all of it's old classics for the Gamecube, with 10-20 of them per disc.
Whooooops! ZORK/Adventure rates up there with my top ones as well. :-)
Adventure was the very first computer game I ever played. That was on an IBM-360 Mainframe. :-)
I remember one of the first out after pong was Space War (believe it was done with vector graphics). A ship that looked like the Enterprise fought one that looked like a Tholian. I believe that there was a 'black hole' in the center that would provide gravity.
I miss that one. Would love to find a decent port to the PC
The only vector graphic game console ever mass produced for consumers was the Vectrex. I have the game Asteroids on mine. :-)
I disagree. Nintendo is still making high quality games that are family-appropriate. In fact, very few games really go for shock value, the ones that do just get alot of attention. The thing is, though, as graphics have improved, more 'realistic' games have gotten more graphic simply because it fits better with the style.
I adored "Haunted House."
And Cruisn USA is now actually playable on a 1.8 GHZ...without sound of course.
Sorry, did not mean to post so much. I just am a fan of home gaming.
Yo Bacon . . . Zak McCracken ping!
Dont you mean the Nintendo 64?