Today, interest in retro video games is drawing buyers across the world back into the gaming market. While enthusiasts have collected titles for years, even casual gamers are now snapping up cartridges and CDs, as well as gaming machines that they haven’t played since childhood.
Considering this, we have produced a new report that looks at the increasing demand for retro tech, the factors that have led to the retro gaming revival, and insight that reveals just how much some of the classic games from the 80s, 90s and noughties are now selling for.
UK interest over time, 2004 - present in ‘Retro Gaming’ (source: Google Trends)
Many classic game titles have been officially revived and revamped for contemporary platforms. With just a quick search on Google Play and the App Store you’ll come across re-releases of the game(s) you once used to play, now on mobile. The above graph reveals how the launch of retro gaming apps has influenced consumer interest in retro gaming as a whole.
November 2003 saw the launch of Pac-Man on mobile, leading to a spike in searches for retro gaming at the start of 2004. It was a similar story for the release of Tetris in September 2006, which created another spike in online searches. The graph also highlights how the release of retro gaming apps such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario Run in 2016/17 correlates with the surge in online searches.
Stephanie Staszko, Co-founder of non-profit video games community Manchester Gamers Unite said: “Sonic is huge at the moment; games that are celebrating a big anniversary generally get some hype too. The hype for the Crash Bandicoot remaster was insane, it was as though it was an entirely new release. Old Mario classics are also getting some love.”
UK interest over the last 12 months in ‘Super Nintendo Entertainment System’ (source: Google Trends)
UK interest over the last 12 months in ‘Nintendo’ (source: Google Trends) We have also identified Google searches for ‘Retro Gaming’ in the UK in the last 12 months.
UK interest over time in ‘Retro Gaming’ (source: Google Trends)
Searches for ‘retro gaming’ peaked in late 2016, a trend we’re beginning to see repeat itself this year, indicating that consumer interest is continuing to grow.
Retro gaming: a brief history
The first video games appeared in the 1960s1 and we have since witnessed the market boom with a variety of different arcade, home and handheld portable consoles. In July 1983 Nintendo launched the 8-bit home video game console, Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The device was primarily developed for home gamers as opposed to arcades and has had a total of 61.9 million global sales2.
Six years later, April 1989 saw the launch of the 8-bit handheld game console ‘Game Boy’, developed and manufactured by Nintendo. To date, the Game Boy has had a total of 118.69 million global sales3. In December 1994, Sony launched the at-home video console, PlayStation 1, to compete with the likes of Nintendo and Sega. The PlayStation 1 has seen a total of 102.49 million sales4.
The successor of the original Game Boy, the Game Boy Colour, launched nine years after the original and has seen an incredible 118.69 million sales thanks to its colour screen and taller features5. In March 2000 Sony launched the PlayStation2, the first console to offer backwards compatibility with PS1 games and controllers. The PlayStation2 has seen a total of 155 million sales6.
One that many of us will be familiar with, Nintendo’s seventh generation home video console, the Nintendo Wii, has seen 101.63 million sales since its launch back in November 20067.
What the retro gaming landscape looks like now
Have you kept your retro gaming classics? With many passionate players looking back in time to find their retro fix, now is the perfect time to get up into the attic - as you could be sitting on a gold mine.
Here’s how much some retro gaming classics have been listed for recently on eBay:
*prices correct as of January 2018, according to eBay.co.uk
What has led to the retro gaming revival?
Michael Cox, the owner of Konbo Arcade Café in Edinburgh, explains why retro games have become so appealing again. Michael said: “For those who experienced the games when they first came out, there’s a level of nostalgia that makes retro games initially appealing. But, it goes beyond that as nostalgia is short lived. So, it’s only the true quality games that have lasting appeal – that and the charm - you remember what made the game so enjoyable in the first place”.
Jack Waller, a 28-year-old retro gaming fan from London, said: “Retro games are so appealing because you can’t help but smile when you’re dusting off the old SNES cartridges. Not to mention the challenge of old retro games too. A lot of current generation games tend to want mass appeal so have a lot of support to help you learn to play. But, back in the 80’s/90’s that wasn’t the case. You would just put the game in and off you went, and if you weren’t very good, after three lives you’d have to start all over again! There was a massive replay value that pushed you to get better every time”.
What does the future of retro gaming look like?
Gaming has changed significantly since the days of the original Nintendo Entertainment System, yet with the current and growing demand for retro consoles, the market appears to be heading back to its roots, with Nintendo planning on launching the Nintendo 64 Classic Mini following the success of the NES Classic Mini8.
In the meantime, we have the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) Mini Classic to enjoy, which launched in September and has the original look and feel of the 90s home console, only smaller, as well as coming fully loaded with 21 games. The fun doesn’t stop there though, as we enter 2018 we will see Atari make its comeback with the launch of its new Ataribox, which will pair classic retro games with modern ones so you get the best of both worlds.
We will also see the launch of Nintendo’s C64 Mini in 2018 which will come equipped with high-definition output via HDMI, a classic style joystick and 64 built-in games including the good old classics like Uridium, Paradroid, Hawkeye, Nebulus and Monty Mole.
Stephanie Staszko said: “There's been a lot of push for a Spyro remake following the success of the Crash Bandicoot remake. I wouldn't be surprised to see some arcade classics revamped for VR either. People want a mix of sparkly new technology and the familiar, pixelated faces of the characters from their childhood.”
K.G. Orphanides, Technology journalist and games preservationist added: “I think retro gaming is here to stay; with each generation seeking out the classic titles of their own past, as well as older games that they were too young to appreciate first time around. Studios such as Night Dive, Beamdog and DotEmu are doing great work on the PC front, and I hope we'll see more re-released retro titles across all formats in the near future.
“I think the trick here is being able to bring a true sense of the original to modern systems. Remakes can include HD-compatible or even fully upgraded graphics and support for modern control systems, but there should always be the option of turning all that off and getting a feel for what it was really like to play the game as it was.”
Today, your smartphones touchscreen is a great way to relive your gaming phenomenon. Retro games have been redesigned to run on your smartphone, so all you need to do is download them. These updated versions are also likely to have redesigned controls that better suit a touchscreen, or work with Bluetooth controllers, making them easier to play and enjoy.
Smartphones have given us the ability to access some of our favourite childhood games immediately, right in the palm of our hand, which has in turn helped to drive demand for the originals. Apps like Pokémon Go are a perfect example of this, where we’ve since seen Pokémon Cards come back into circulation, with the originals becoming much more valuable now.
Retro gaming is becoming more mainstream, and our research has revealed that many owners of classic games who have built up vast collections are potentially sitting on hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds.
Gaming is an industry that moves quickly, and it’s this quick pace that creates a vast history of memorable titles. Many of us will remember awesome games like Doom, GoldenEye and Donkey Kong that we used to play as kids, and revisiting these now; whether we’re on a smartphone, PC or SNES console; is just as fun as it was the first time around. Maybe it’s the simplicity that makes us feel happy, or just a sense of nostalgia. Whatever the reason, the retro movement refuses to die, and we’re pretty glad about that!