Would anyone scoff at paying $5 for an enhanced version or collector's edition of Citizen Kane on DVD? If a piece of Shakespeare were released in a special hardbound cover with outstanding cover art, would $10 be too pricey? The likely answer is ‘that's a bargain.’ Both represent the upper echelon of the two mediums.
What happened to video games then?
While the comparison to literary and film classics may be dubious to some, why does the gaming community look down upon updated releases of historical gaming titles such as Defender? What caused the depreciation of what it undoubtedly one of the greats of the industry?
We posed this question to the forum members of Digital Press, a classic video game website that catalogs and tracks down obscure games in the best interest of collectors. Surprisingly, there was no debate on the positive aspects of these re-releases, with the thread particularly focusing on a recent Xbox Live Arcade release of Defender.
The re-issuing of the Midway title included updated graphics, online play for two players, leaderboards to compare high scores from everywhere in the world for around $5 in Microsoft Points.
Forum member DaBargainHunta made a point that "…grumbling over a $5 charge does seem a bit silly."
He was quick to point out that even with the extra features, many retro gamers already own these games, sometimes in multiple forms. Another $5 could lead to picking up a game they never played from a garage sale or flea market.
The next hurdle is the explosion of emulation. As of today, all of the classic releases to the Xbox Live Arcade are available for free and easily downloaded to your PC. While hardly legal, this puts the games in the same area as illegal music downloads. A recent study conducted by Toronto-based Solutions Research Group showed that only 38% of people found downloading a copyrighted song for free as a serious offense.
The gaming industry struggles in the same way, with both retro and current titles. Digital Press member T2Kfreeker made the obvious point that seems to hold true for piracy of any kind.
"Why would you want to pay for it when you can get it for free, right?"
The extra work spent to update these games is not enough to counter the free versions available elsewhere, apparently.
The final hurdle, which many members pointed out, is that these games are not on any kind of physical media.
Imstarryeyed said, "I think there is a level of tangibility that is present when you actually buy a game versus downloading one from these pay services."
From the standpoint a collector whose walls are lined with games from eras long past, this response is not surprising. Site moderator Lady Jaye took a different perspective.
"The thing is, the $5 downloadable games aren't targeted at hardcore retro gamers, but rather at the adult casual gamer who hasn't played those games for years and might not even be aware of emulation." She continued with, "Under that perspective, $5 isn't a lot to pay for a game like SMB, even if for us, it's an easily found game in the wild."
Lady Jaye also took note of the music industry with issue of physical media.
"As for the whole physical versus virtual argument… most people nowadays don't mind using MP3s without ever having the physical CD. Same thing here."
Other forum posters attributed the decline in value as a change in standards. Current video games are generally panned if they fail to last 10 hours, winding through a variety of locations and complex storylines. Older games were far simpler, confined to a few screens with the goal being nothing more than a high score.
"For some dumb reason, people measure a game's ‘value’ by how many hours it take to beat it. They believe since a typical Defender game only last 30 minutes, tops, it has less value than a game that last 40 hours," said veronica_marsfan.
He would go on to say that graphics play a role, with the simple, pixilated graphics of old having trouble keeping up with today's 3-D visuals created by processes even the hardcore sector has trouble understanding.
Could it also be the social stigma? Kaedesdisciple brought this to the discussion.
"Film is considered art in the mainstream. Video games are not (yet) considered art in the same way, so people wouldn't pay as much for a reproduction of what is, in the eyes of some, simply a nostalgic toy."
Regardless of the reasons, the response was universal. Paying $5 for Defender or Super Mario Bothers is unacceptable in today's gaming market. It's not that the game's fail to entertain or create excitement through their play. The majority of the games still hold up as intended when they were first released.
As Poofta! Would reply, "… these games sucked out countless quarters and hours from us before."
For many, apparently, that may be the last time they ever spend money on these classics.Powered by Sidelines