All Signs Point To...
I've wanted to post for awhile now. And during the course of the last couple of weeks, I ran into a lot of situations that inspired blog topic ideas for me to write about. See, even though I've been busy, a lot of what I've been busy with still involved games because, well, there's always time to get in some games! And what's even more curious is that, even though there may be about 5 or 6 incidents that inspired me to write a new post, all 6 incidents ended up reinforcing one main point. So, over the course of the past few weeks, I have:
1) Completed New Super Mario Bros. completely.
2) Been getting more mileage out of my PSP than my DS all of a sudden.
3) This PSP usage has rekindled my love for Lumines.
4) Street Fighter II Turbo was released on XBox Live Arcade.
5) Decided to go through and play a whole mess of old arcade games at random with my friends on emulators.
6) Read a post on Joystiq stating that platform games are no longer en vogue.
And these 6 incidents have helped me determine one thing:
(Note: Though my one main point will be covered in this post, these incidents have also inspired a couple of side articles I'd also like to also get posted: my full review of New Super Mario Bros. (now that I've played the entire game and collected everything in it) and a discussion on the proper way to deal with unlockable content in games (grrrrrr.... Lumines). But the main topic I'd like to discuss is:)
Arcade games need to come back.
And no, this is not your typical declarative statement from me. Arcade games aren't "better" than what we have on consoles today. They shouldn't replace what we have now. What we have currently isn't bad or the sign of gaming demise. No, it's nothing like that. The reason I think arcade games need to make a comeback is much more innocent than that: I miss them.
I should probably clarify on what I mean by arcade games. I'm thinking along the lines of what arcade games used to represent. An old arcade game was a good, simple diversion for players to play. You never needed more than a day to enjoy the game. There was no long-term goal. You popped in a quarter and played it and, for the free time you had, you enjoyed it. But you could then go a whole week or two without playing it again, and there would be no feeling of a need to go back and play it more to "finish" it or advance the story. This is the type of game I am referring to when I say arcade games need to come back. This is the type of game I'm missing. This is the type of game that I'm craving.
But here's the kicker: I don't think I'm the only one. In fact, the trends I see seem to support the idea that the general public craves arcade-styled games as well. The signs are all there. I mean, every time I ask someone to give me reasons why I should own the XBox 360 right now, the one main reason I get is indelibly to play Geometry Wars. And the general feeling I'm getting is that people are enjoying having things like Pac-Man, Frogger, Joust, Uno, Bejeweled, and such available to play on XBox Live Arcade. And they want more games like this, such as the 4-Player arcade Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Konami. And when people talk about how the PSP hasn't had any real breakout hits, they always have to add the caveat of Lumines being the best PSP-only game. And then, Eric Williams writes a post craving for a pick-up-and-play game for the DS.
Speaking of the DS, I have a few games on my DS that I haven't played through yet, such as Trauma Center and Resident Evil. I want to complete these games, but as I went on my vacation in the East Coast for Evo East, I found myself only playing my PSP on the trains and buses and subways and planes that I took when I traveled. And it was pretty apparent why: I just wanted to find games I could pick up and play. I didn't feel like playing anything that involved advancing or finishing or save points, which were the only type of games I had slated to play on my DS. So the games I ended up playing most were Gradius Collection and Lumines, two games that are easy to pick up and play and enjoy. And even after returning from my vacation, I find myself popping in and playing Lumines more than any other game right now because, not only is it a very enjoyable game, it's easy to just play it for an hour before bed. The only other game taking up my time is an import copy of "Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan" that I recently got for my DS, and it is yet another simple pick-up-and-play type of game.
And recently, a few of my friends were just playing a bunch of random old arcade games through an emulator. And it was surprising to see just how innovative some of those old games were. Admittedly, the majority of games we played were garbage, and the innovation rate was low, but there were a few really good standouts that, I think, would even make great fun XBox Live Arcade games today. But the main point is that, despite technical limitations of older games, the creativity and fun factor were still there, particularly because of their ability to be played on a whim. And it was just really fun to see just how creative game-makers tried to be back then, coming up with very cool and hugely innovative ideas for games.
I honestly believe people do want these types of games still. There is definitely an audience for it. As I stated earlier, I don't think game designers should focus on making these types of games only. They shouldn't make these types of games instead of the games that dominate the market currently. Obviously, there will always be room for long-term single-player games such as Grand Theft Auto, Legend of Zelda, or Final Fantasy. But the fact that there doesn't seem to be any real reliable source for new arcade-style games seems to have created a void for many gamers. I think there is a great case to be made that both types of games should happily coexist with each other because both types of games have a strong audience.
I mean, how else could you explain the love for New Super Mario Bros.? People have been craving another "arcade-style" Super Mario game for so long. In fact, I think the recent dearth of good platform games, like the original Contra or the NES Bionic Commando, has fueled this desire. People have become so eager for anything resembling this type of game that New Super Mario Bros. ended up being so well-received, garnering high scores from many reviews and selling a huge number of copies, despite the fact that it's really only a very mediocre game, one not even particularly designed well at all. And even more strangely, it turned out to not be a good pick-up-and-play type game either, unlike the original Super Mario Bros. on the NES. That game, you could just pop in every so often. Easy Warp Zones brought you to pretty much whichever world you wanted, beating it really took around 30 minutes, and you could fiddle with the game as you saw fit.
Also, recently, there was huge anticipation for Street Fighter II Turbo on XBox Live. I doubt anyone wanted the game because they wanted to beat up on the CPU. No, I suspect that they wanted it because it would be so nice to come home from work or school and unwind by playing a few games online. Or to just wind down the day by playing a few games before going to bed. And had Capcom been able to deliver on the game properly (I haven't played it myself, but I've heard numerous criticisms, particularly in the lag department), it probably would have been a huge success and hit for XBox Live Arcade.
Back in the old days of arcade gaming, people almost haphazardly made arcade games, trying various gimmicks and variations of popular genres. Some of them caught on and became huge successes. Others faded away into obscurity because they were terrible. A few became good, quiet hits. Though it may have been expensive to make these types of games in the past, I can't imagine it would be hard or expensive to make arcade-style games anymore considering technology today. So why hasn't anyone decided to start a small game company to just try to only make arcade games? In the XBox Live Arcade, you have a perfect forum for this type of game. If you make 10 flops, it'll probably cost you less than watching one Viewtiful Joe game fail. And if you end up making just one Geometry Wars (which I can only imagine sells almost on a one-to-one basis for those who own a 360 and have XBox Live) every 10 flops, that'll easily make up for the cost of those flops. And if Nintendo and Sony follow suit with their own versions of XBox Live Arcade, you'll only have more ability to be successful.
So yeah, bring back the arcade games. I miss them. We miss them. We miss them a whole lot. We've all just been subconsciously waiting for them. The audience is there. I really believe it is.