Hyper-realistic, high-tech games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and Battlefield 1 are among the most wanted this winter season, which marks the most lucrative time of the year for the video-game industry.

Yet retro games and consoles, such as the smartphone debut of Super Mario Run and Nintendo’s NES Classic Edition, a mini version of the tremendously popular game console released in the 1980s, are also gaining popularity popularity. Newzoo projects in its Global Games Market Report that the industry will generate about $99.6 billion in revenues by the year’s end.

“This is the pre-manufacturing of nostalgia.”

“Recycling content is a well-established media business technique,” says Judd Ruggill, associate professor of Africana Studies and co-director of the University of Arizona’s Learning Games Initiative Research Archive. LGIRA is a collection of more than a quarter of a million items, including games, gaming systems, publications, memorabilia, and other game-related artifacts.

Just as Walt Disney Co. periodically re-releases some of its most prized films and collections, the gaming industry also plays on nostalgia to help drive profits, Ruggill says.

“New technologies not only permit the remastering of content, but provide an opportunity to remonetize that content,” Ruggill says. “With re-releases, companies are essentially able to resell their products to a new audience, with parents, for example, purchasing a childhood favorite for their own children.”

Such is the case with Disney’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which is part of the Star Wars franchise and had earnings estimated at nearly $300 million after its weekend release. Another recent example is the RetroEngine Sigma plug-and-play console, which can play games originally released decades ago on Atari VCS, Sega Genesis, and NES, among others.

Marketers know we’re suckers for nostalgia

“This is the pre-manufacturing of nostalgia,” says Ken McAllister, an English professor who co-directs LGIRA with Ruggill. “Sometimes marketers plan for the future by capitalizing on the past.”

By Ruggill’s and McAllister’s estimation, we probably will see more special-edition games, collector’s editions, and retro releases at the same time that streaming capabilities and virtual reality, among other advanced technologies, are projected to become far more accessible to consumers.

McAllister and Ruggill say they are intrigued by the growth of Twitch, a live-streaming video platform, and the continued development of games promising emergent play. Such technologies are shifting not only how people interact with games and other users, but also how the act of gaming itself is understood.

“Some types of games are good about telling stories and putting players on a trail where the narrative unfolds as they play. This gives gamers a sense that they are helping to drive the narrative forward,” McAllister says.

“It’s particularly interesting when games do this in augmented and virtual reality,” he says, pointing to titles developed for Google Cardboard and the Vive virtual reality system as examples. “Commercially, we are going to see more and more of this, mainly because we now have lots of pathways into experiencing augmented and virtual reality through our smart devices. This is becoming big business.”

The gaming industry is also becoming more cross-generational and accessible, in part due to technological advancements and also to improved consumer access to the tools used to make games.

“While we live in an era of conglomeration and concentration in all kinds of industries,” Ruggill says, “the game industry seems to be opening up in some ways. It’s an exciting time to be a game developer, a game player, and a game scholar.”

This text is published here under a Creative Commons License.
Author: La Monica Everett-Haynes-University of Arizona
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