Resident Evil remake signals growing digital market for nostalgia

When we announced January’s top-selling games on digital console, many were surprised to see Resident Evil on that list. Originally released in 1996, the remastered version was the top-selling game for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. The resurgence of classic console games is a growing trend ushered by the low entry point of digital gaming. The lack of backwards compatibility in consoles has inadvertently created a stockpile of quality content and a wave of vintage games is bubbling to the surface as publishers and studios figure out how to distribute and monetize yesterday’s biggest hits.

Xbox Arcade pioneered the nostalgia market before running out of content

With the launch of the Xbox 360, the Xbox Live Arcade became a popular platform for vintage titles like Bionic Commando and Earth Worm Jim. However, Xbox had few original franchises and had to depend on third party developers who were often struggling to stay afloat. As studios faltered and licenses expired, Xbox Live Arcade shifted its focus to popular indie titles like Braid and Fez. Microsoft has since discontinued the Arcade for the Xbox One, grouping all digital games together in its online store.

Nintendo is slowly opening its vault

After launching the Nintendo DS, the console maker re-released a small number of older games for the new device. However, it was not until the Wii U and the launch of the eShop that the Japanese giant began to ramp up their digital catalogue of retro games. During the 2015 Nintendo Direct broadcast, president Satoru Iwata, announced Wii U users will be able to download digital copies of old console titles ranging from modern favorites like Super Mario Galaxy 2 to the 1987 classic Punch Out!!!

PlayStation lets you rent your childhood

Aside from a handful of digital remakes like The Last of Us, PlayStation’s approach is centered around PlayStation Now. The streaming game rental service offers single rentals as well as an unlimited monthly subscription. The rental model is particularly fitting, allowing players to relive their favorite childhood experiences without having to commit to a full purchase.

Console as a time machine

Porting games from an old console to a new one is, however, not easy. The underlying architecture makes it difficult to simply plug-and-play and, instead, requires undergoing an expensive process. This will ultimately focus the attention on a narrow selection of titles to mitigate risk.

But while technology marches on, so do other forms of innovation. Crowdfunding, for example, has proven to be an effective way of resurrecting games that wouldn’t stand a chance against the day-to-day rationalization of most publishers. The warm fuzzy feeling we get when we play games that take us back remains a core driver for many of us, regardless of whether we’re gamers, work in the industry, or both.

Now let’s get that next gen version of Toejam & Earl popping!