There is one question that I get asked a lot by people at work, friends and family members. I hear it over and over again… So, I thought that it would make a really good blog post if I were to sit down and answer this particular question. Also, to be honest, it will also make my life easier as I can just direct people to this post whenever I am asked again.
So, without further adieu, here are the reasons why I prefer retro gaming compared to the current generation of games.
This is probably the biggest point to make, so I wanted to start off with it, because it is also the biggest problems with the gaming industry (in my opinion). I have grown tired of seeing the same games repacked and recoloured over and over again, each and every year. These yearly releases are really just cheap (in relative terms) ways to get as many games out there as possible to make as much money as possible.
The constant new “versions” of Call of Duty, FIFA or even WWE (I’m a huge wrestling fan) have really started to grate on me. The development cycles are so short that the developers can’t really add anything amazing or innovative. Instead, we basically get the same game each year with a very slight change and improved graphics.
Now, I know a lot of people would probably get annoyed at me saying that, but that’s just my honest opinion. The lack of time afforded to the developers means that they just have to upgrade what was already there. This, in turn, means that there isn’t really any room for experimentation when it comes to game design and theory. I mean, we do still get some cool new ideas coming out, like Horizon Zero Dawn, which I absolutely love, but the large majority of the gaming industry these days relies on these yearly releases.
That wasn’t quite as prevalent during the older generations of consoles. Yes, we did have some yearly releases and quick turn around times, but it was no way near as common as it is now. Instead, developers had time to think up some interesting new ideas for storyline, gameplay and graphics. This gave us the birth of The Legend of Zelda, the creation of Resident Evil, Fatal Frame & Silent Hill and the mixture of genres in games like Koudelka.
These games, each great in their own right, were created through the ability to experiment. This is also the reason that we got games like Shadow of the Colossus and the aforementioned Horizon Zero Dawn. Experimentation is incredibly important for the growth of the gaming industry, and it has been largely lost outside of modern indie games. Big, blockbuster AAA games typically stick to the same gameplay formulas with slight modifications, rather than completely changing things up and giving us something truly new to play.
That’s why retro gaming has such a huge pull for me. I never managed to play all of the games that came out before. I mean, that would be nigh on impossible. But that means that there are thousands (yes, thousands) of games out there to play, each of which can have a different gameplay style, storyline idea or graphical style.
Another thing that annoys me about the modern gaming industry is the sheer reliance on Downloadable Content. Now, I don’t mean to say that all DLC is bad. The likes of The Witcher 3’s Blood and Wine, as well as Horizon’s Frozen Wilds are great examples of what DLC should be. These are more like expansion packs, adding deep and expansive storyline additions.
However, when so much Downloadable Content just features extra characters or moves (or horse armour in the case of Oblivion), I find it to be somewhat disgusting. I’ve already paid full price for a game (coming in at £40+) so, really, I should have that full game playable. Maybe this is because I grew up at a time when Downloadable Content wasn’t possible, but I expect to get a full game for my money… I don’t expect to then have to pay for a few new characters that, really, should have just been available to begin with.
Also, the growth of DLC has also led to the next two points growing in precedence as well… So that’s even more reason why I don’t like it.
Older generations, from the PlayStation 2 and earlier, didn’t have the option to utilise Downloadable Content. Internet connections weren’t even available on consoles until the Dreamcast came about, and even the PS2 only really used it for Final Fantasy XI. This meant that, when you get the game, you get the full game!
This comes hand in hand with the Downloadable Content… Everyone knows the debacle that was the Assassin’s Creed Unity launch… Or indeed, many launches of games these days. You go out and buy the latest Gunman Super Shooter Explosion Simulator 3000, feeling really excited to play it, only to find game-breaking bugs and unfinished content. Faces would vanish, leaving floating eyes. Horses in Skyrim were pretty much broken. There have been so many games that were full of bugs at launch.
These games were obviously unfinished. Sure, people will say that they were finished because the rest of the game was great, but that just isn’t the case. If these bugs still exist, then the Quality Assurance process wasn’t completed, which means that the game was released unfinished. Then, the developers make use of the internet connection and hard drive of the current generation consoles (and the previous generation as well) to create patches and fix the game after release.
So many people have been vocal about the paid Early Access games on Steam… But effectively, in my opinion, we are getting the same thing on consoles… The only difference is that we are paying full price for it. We are acting as the Quality Assurance for these games, finding the bugs that can be fixed in patches, and we are paying for this “privilege”. That drives me crazy!
Before the PS3 era, games consoles didn’t feature hard drives (bar the PS2, which was only really used for Final Fantasy XI again). They also, as mentioned earlier, didn’t have an internet connection setup until the Dreamcast introduced this feature. Because of that, patches weren’t an option.
Instead, the developers had to build and create the game completely. QA had to be done during development so that when the game was released, it was actually finished. Sure, some bugs would always make it through, but not to the horrific levels of modern game launches. When you went out and paid full price for a game, you got a finished and tested game!
The final thing about the modern gaming industry that pushes me away from current generation games is actually the second biggest thing, after the lack of experimentation. That’s why I wanted to leave it until the end, to start on the biggest and end on the second biggest. It also relates to the DLC issue… As I said early, with the older games, you got the full game when you have paid for it. There isn’t anything locked away behind paid loot boxes or other such items.
In modern games, microtransactions have become worryingly common practice. What started off as a way for free to play Mobile Games to earn some cash to cover their development costs has now become a way for full price console game developers to gain more profits out of you after you have already paid for the game.
Various shooters use them in the multiplayer aspect as a way for you to get new weapons or customisations, whilst other games lock characters or special items behind them. These loot boxes are also randomised so that you have to spend more and more money on them to get what you want. This is a huge problem with the gaming industry, as it devalues the games in my opinion. Why should I pay full price for the game only to have to pay to randomly unlock the rest of the content? Instead, I’d prefer to either buy it and not see that content, or wait until it becomes stupidly cheap as a preowned game, and then debate spending a small amount of cash on microtransactions.
In both of those scenarios, the developer loses out on the money. Either they don’t get the extra revenue from the microtransactions, or they don’t get the initial boost of the game’s sale.
With older games, coming back to the lack of internet capabilities, you didn’t get any of these microtransactions. Again, when you paid for a game, you bought the entire game and every piece of content within it. This meant that you, the end user, actually got full value for money. And for those out there who try to argue that microtransactions help to keep the game industry going… Well, we got through decades of great games and consoles without them…
And That’s All Folks
Those are the major reason why the current generation of games doesn’t pull me in as much as retro gaming. I grew up during the generations where games were released when they were finished, and you didn’t have to pay more to access content that should already be accessible. On top of that, the developers were able to try out more unique ideas, giving us some truly awesome games that don’t seem like they are just reusing the same game over and over again with graphical upgrades. Because of all of these aspects, retro gaming is just far better in my opinion.
What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments below!