Why Nostalgia Can Be A Dangerous Thing

Nostalgia is awesome, it allows long-time videogame fans such as myself to go back and play through some excellent retro games. Take Earthbound as a recent example of nostalgia working in my favor. Game companies like Nintendo have been making millions off of gamers’ nostalgia for retro games. It’s one of the main reasons why the Virtual Console has been such an international hit, because people always hold certain vintage games in a certain light because of the nostalgia associated. This article isn’t about the pros of nostalgia though, no instead this article looks at how certain publishers are using nostalgia to cash in, when in fact their product is actually garbage. Case in point…

Say hello to Contra: Evolution, which is a complete reworking of the original NES classic by Punchbox and Konami. This is a perfect example of a publisher simply cashing in on players’ nostalgia of one of the best NES games ever released. This game is absolutely horrible as it is, yet looks awesome and is currently one of the highest selling apps on Apple’s App Store. It has sold well over 2 million units already, since being released in late June. So what gives?

For one thing, Konami knows if they price this thing at $0.99 people will buy it based purely on nostalgia, and that’s exactly what people are doing. The comments say it all.

“This game plays like complete crap, but for a buck why the F not.”

“I can’t even survive the first minute, but come on its an NES classic!”

Doesn't this look awesome?  Shame it plays so awful that you won't want to play for more than five seconds after purchasing it.
Doesn’t this look awesome? Shame it plays so awful that you won’t want to play for more than five seconds after purchasing it.

The list of comments like these go on and on for pages. So what kind of a message are gamers telling publishers when they purchase games like this? Well for one, that there’s no real point to put any effort into making a videogame based on an existing property. To make matters worse the in-app purchases are a complete joke. You can pay real-world money to purchase extra lives, continues, and even weapons. I mean, really?!?! What’s sickening is that the game is making millions for Konami!

Don’t think for a minute it’s just Konami either, oh no, all the big console and PC publishers have learned that people buying these games are completely clueless. Capcom released an all but unplayable version of Marvel vs. Capcom 2, EA released Battlefield 3: Aftershock which just might be the worst app ever released on the App Store, and the list goes on and on. So why are these smart AAA publishers doing this, because people are buying these dollar games like wildfire, which constantly pushes them to the top of the charts and as a result gives these companies no incentive whatsoever to try and make better products. In the end, they’re using our very memories of these classic experiences, or famed franchises against us.

As awesome as it sounds to play a classic game completely remastered, without having proper and precise controls there’s no way these games can hold a candle to their original versions, however people overlook these “minor inconveniences” thanks to the incredibly low asking price. This is one of the major reasons why dedicated portable gaming devices like the 3DS have been so successful, because publishers know they have to put a thoughtful product out there or no one will pay $40 or more for it. Dedicated gamers know this, and as a result are playing significantly better games.

At the end of the day people are to blame for what’s currently happening to the mobile gaming market, and I fear that one day this could spread to the rest of the industry. Once prices go low enough, and people start buying games without even thinking about what they’re buying, publishers stop caring about releasing a quality product. As it is now, I’ll gladly go buy Contra Rebirth on the Wii eShop for a few bucks more, knowing at the very least I’m getting a much better product in the end.

6 thoughts on “Why Nostalgia Can Be A Dangerous Thing”

    1. Yeah Steven and that’s what ultimately scares me a bit. What if console publishers decide that it’s ok to charge people real world money for extra lives and stuff that should be included with the regular game, so long as they charge $1 for it. Know what I mean?

  1. I think part of it is that touch controls really are horrible for a lot of games. It just is. You can’t just port a game that was designed with a controller in mind and expect it to work the same as it did with the original play style. I think a game succeeds on the touch platform if it’s built with that platform in mind well (like Infinity Blade) or on the rare chance that the concept works well regardless of the controls (Ghost Trick didn’t need buttons on the DS, so touch controls work). I love my iPad and I use it all the time, especially for work. And there are some games I like to play on it, but I still prefer my 3DS for gaming.

    1. Yeah Tim I enjoy my iPhone and iPad tremendously, but this is a very dangerous message we’re sending game publishers. We’re basically saying it’s perfectly fine to give us what amounts to a crappy-playing videogame so long as it’s based off a series we all enjoy. Imagine an exclusive Mega Man game on iOS. There’s virtually no way a traditional MM would work on iOS because of the touch controls. They will never be as precise, ever. Sure there are other games that work exceptionally well, but these sorts of games like I talk about above are selling based solely on the fact they’re based on franchises people grew up with/or very popular to begin with. The fact Konami is making a killing off of this is a little scary in the greater scheme of things.

      1. I’ve tried to play Mega Man on my iPad. It just doesn’t work. Mega Man X is horrible on the iPad, which is really sad, because it’s an amazing game. It’s just not meant for touch controls. So people who do play it get the wrong idea about what the game is. I think that the worst thing about this is that newer users, people who aren’t familiar with the classics as they originally were, will hear about the hype, download the game for touch devices, and then find out it’s garbage. Then they’ll think the classic games are probably garbage, because they may not understand the difference is in the controls. They need to make different kinds of games for it, or at least port the games that work well. Ghost Trick is amazing on iPad. It looks crisp and vibrant and benefits from the added space on the screen. And it was meant for touch controls. Phoenix Wright is fun on iPad too, although I think the updated look could use some work to be honest (it seems a little…weird). But the games are still as awesome as ever. And Square-Enix’s Chaos Rings is great fun and seems built for touch devices, so it works. And they ported over The World Ends With You, a game designed with a touch interface, so it works.

        I think that the app market for games still has a lot of growing to do. Publishers can easily get away with the $1 game and have it be generic and crappy, but it’s a $1, so people don’t tend to care. If your game is $10, suddenly it’s way too expensive for mobile. And if it’s more than that, then it’s insane. I don’t get that. Why are we willing to pay a premium for games on consoles, but on a mobile device, our expectations suddenly shift and they all should be cheap? I think it’s because the way those markets developed. I’d rather see a list of better $5~$10 games that are actually well-designed for mobile than a slew of $1~$2 games that I’ll only play once for a few minutes. I think it was awesome that Bastion came to iPad for a cheap price and I’ve also downloaded some shoot ’em ups like DoDonPachi, which has been surprisingly fun.

        1. Yeah Tim I agree that this is indeed a market that has a ton of growing to do. I think the #1 reason why people complain about anything costing more than a few bucks is because that’s what everyone is telling them is acceptable. The vast majority of people playing games on their mobile device likely never owned a console before, and/or played on a console before. For these people it’s normal to buy a game for a dollar, because that’s all they know. It’s a real shame when games like Contra, Metal Slug, Mega Man and other games that require precise controls leave a bad impression on these people because they have no idea how awesome these games really are. The developers should use the brands but create new and exciting games that work perfectly with touch controls, but instead they take the easy way out and are making a killing off the brand alone. I hate that because it tarnishes these brands.

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