Can Retro Gaming Really Attract a Younger Audience?

Older gamers remember such experiences with great fondness but without nostalgia...

Older gamers remember such experiences with great fondness but without nostalgia…

A little while back, we produced a story that wondered about the average age of the I Am Setsuna player. Would anybody under the age of 30 even touch it? It seemed unlikely. But it brings up a larger subject: Given the huge trend of retro gaming that has exploded in the past five or six years, one would have to assume that such productions are successful. I mean, developers wouldn’t keep making them if they didn’t work out.

Of course, budgets are typically crazy low for such games and in fact, only two or three people (sometimes even one) could make the entire product. This makes it easier to pump out the retro goodness, and far more likely it’ll turn a profit. At the same time, it’s interesting to see who exactly is playing these games. Are they all over a certain age? That can’t be, right? There have to be at least a few youngsters out there intrigued by a generation of interactive goodness they never experienced.

Then again, given the drastic differences between then and now I’m not sure an 18-year-old could stomach the likes of Axiom Verge or Lone Survivor. It’s not just that the entire presentation is ridiculously outdated (which means the visual aspect thrives almost entirely on nostalgia); it’s also that the experience itself is just amazingly different. The differences go beyond the obvious facts that older games were a lot simpler and a lot harder. It’s how we played those games; i.e., what sort of skills we needed, and our state of mind when playing. It was all just…different.

Unless you can remember what it was like, unless there’s a preexisting appeal based on accumulated (and revered) memories, I fail to see how younger gamers would enjoy themselves. I’m not saying it’s impossible, of course, though I’m willing to bet that many youngsters tried such games out of sheer curiosity, but ended up being either disgusted or disappointed, or both. I think if a game sort of nods at the old days but has a modern core, it’s more likely to attract both older and younger gamers. Bastion might be a great example of that.

Would a younger player choose to play this over Battlefield 1?

Would a younger player choose to play this over Battlefield 1?

Then again, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there’s an entire community of young gamers out there loving the likes of Mega Man and other 8-bit-like titles. But would they really pass up the new games in order to play these retro offerings? Great games are always right around the corner and many avid gamers typically have a pretty big backlog, and I can’t imagine those under the age of 20 opting to play a retro game over Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, just as an example. Which leads to the final problem: Given the sheer number of available games these days, the competition is stiffer than ever.

Yeah, older gamers want a nostalgia rush every now and then. But younger gamers are just racing to keep up, right? How many of them are taking the extra time to see what games like Contra were like…?

2 thoughts on “Can Retro Gaming Really Attract a Younger Audience?”

Yes and no. Younger gamers have to try and wrap their minds around a completely different experience, which can be tough, but because it’s different and there’s no comparison, they MIGHT like it. “Old” doesn’t automatically mean “low quality.”

But I think for the most part, it’s still all about nostalgia.

I’m actually surprised at the sheer number of retro games available on digital platforms right now. I mean, they HAVE to be attracting some younger gamers because older gamers couldn’t be entirely responsible for this explosion, right?

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