Why the Heck Wont Company X Release their 20 yr old Game on Android already?
A while back I wrote a story about emulation and the fact Nintendo and others are leaving money on the table by not adopting emulation or porting their retro library out to Android, iOS or other mobile devices. In a discussions I’ve had with a couple friends in colleagues I’ve begun to question this again. How difficult is it to get the port of your favorite retro games into the Google Play marketplace? Why are companies so willing to just leave money on the table, especially in a gaming industry where development companies are constantly accused of being “money hungry”? As Seinfeld would say “What’s the deal?”
Look on the Google Play store for emulators and I guarantee you will come across a whole cornucopia of them, both paid and unpaid. For reasons pretty obvious, I’m not going to tell you what they are, nor how to obtain games for them, but the fact so many exist is evidence enough that consumers want to see retro and classic games on their mobile devices? And why not?
Many gamers today, present party included, grew up with the Atari, Nintendo, Sega, Amiga, list of retro consoles, blah, blah, blah… (you get the point). Even those who haven’t may be interested in exploring the origins of some of their favorite games. I’m sure there are people who enjoyed New Super Mario World on the Wii but give you a blank stare when you ask their speed run time on Mario 1 on the NES. (Mine is about 10 mns if you were wondering, I believe the world record is like 4 or 5 mns.) If anyone remembers from last year, when someone put out a phony Pokemon Yellow game for the iOS, it quickly rose to #3 on the iOS charts, until Apple struck it down with the mighty hammer of Steve Jobs.
The numbers don’t lie here: People want ports of these older games. A quick search through the Google Play store for emulators put some of these in the range of 10 million to 50 million downloads over their lifespan. Even paid emulator apps, which I prefer because I’m not crazy about adds, are ranging in the sphere of 50 ,000 to 100,000 downloads. To put this into perspective for you, the first set of numbers I mentioned are also the same ones for apps such as Pinterest and Instagram. In other words, high demand.
Sadly, Nintendo has already said on numerous occasions no dice on trying to get anything from Ice Climbers to Toobin’ on your Android tablet or phone. Instead, they’ll force you to have to utilize their Nintendo products like the 3Ds or Wii, which would be fine… if that’s what consumers were buying. Sure, the 3Ds sold roughly 5 million units in 2012, but the Galaxy S III sold 10 million that same year, not even accounting for the sale of other popular Android devices, like the Nexus series or Droid series. 10 million plus users, some of which, like myself, don’t own a 3Ds, instead willingly giving their money to Google and smaller developers. Good win for small devs, yet another bad move on Nintendo’s part.
Mobile gaming is becoming increasingly popular. Much like the home console killed the arcade, portable devices and handhelds are quickly putting a dent in the armor consoles have long worn. This is not a proclamation that the PS4 or NextBox are DOA, but with a rough economy worldwide ahead, the appeal of $5 games versus $60 could really begin to make waves in how consumers act. This isn’t speculation, this is human condition: when were broke, we buy cheap things, its natural to be thrifty. This is why hipsters rummage Goodwill and drink PBR while LeBron James wears Gucci and drinks fine Champagne.
If the argument is that “we just don’t have the time to code for it, or can’t” then that is a big fat lie. The emulation craze pre-dates even the existence of portable smart phones and tablets. Therefore, those ROMs and games have had time to adapt, be coded and developed for anything from the PC, to consoles, to now your phone or tablet.
Some of you remember how easy the Dreamcast was to mod, right? The eventual downfall of Sega’s 2nd best console (in my opinion) was in large part due to the fact that it was used as a emulation machine along with the fact it was easy to burn games for it.
Let’s take a game example: Grand Theft Auto III. GTA came out on the Android marketplace a year or so, in celebration of its 10th anniversary. To date, it’s downloads are in the range of 500,000 to 1 million. It continues to be amongst the most popular games for download in the Google Play store, along with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. These are games, mind you, that have been around for 10+ years, gamers have had their opportunities to play on a number of new and older consoles and don’t contain the most stellar graphics in comparison to a lot of the HD games in modern times (though Rockstar did clean them up a bit for the Android). If Rockstar could make a million downloads on ONE game, imagine if Capcom released Mega Man 2 for your tablet, or Nintendo gave us The Legend of Zelda, WB Games (who owns the Midway license) released Mortal Kombat 2, or any number of classic favorites became available for download, legally, tomorrow? Yeah…
What other excuses do these companies really have? They don’t have a mobile development team? ORLY? But EA, Rockstar, Take Two, Capcom, Activision and a number of other well known console/ PC developers have dabbled into the Android marketplace. EA has even ported over popular titles such as Madden, Fifa and Need for Speed over to the Google Play store. Activision even ported over the Nazi Zombies part of Call of Duty over to Android users as well. Clearly, companies KNOW these are worthwhile, they make money, and they keep doing it. So my question, again, becomes, why not the older games?
This wouldn’t even be as strong of a question from me if Nintendo and Sony weren’t already porting their older titles to their various consoles. On the Wii and 3DS exists a collection of old Nintendo and Sega classics spanning almost the entire history of their consoles. Sony has ported a good chunk of PS1 and PS2 titles to the PS3 as well as the PS Vita. That’s awesome and kudos to them, but why not expand the love to Android? Google isn’t developing games and they aren’t direct competition to either Sony or Nintendo. Microsoft yes, the other two, not so much (unless Google decides to get serious with Google TV or starts making TVs and Blu Ray players…). Microsoft hasn’t really been in the game long enough to have “retro” games either. So why couldn’t these two gaming giants simply create apps for consumers to buy their games in the Google Play app store?
Most of us are aware that those exact ports exist in every major console and on PC as well. New ports of classic games come out all of the time, rejuvenating interest in those IPs of old. Myself, for example, by the time I had sold my Wii, I had downloaded some 20+ classic Nintendo and Sega games as well as purchased 15-20 GameCube titles used to play on that console. Brilliant, but this leads me into another point…
YOU CANNOT MAKE MONEY ON IDLE IPs. Companies want to whine and moan about how used game sales are hurting their bottom line. Yet, they fail to capitalize on the cash cow that collects dust or float around in used game stores. Nintendo, Sony, Capcom, Atari, and whoever else doesn’t make a dime when you go quench your retro gaming thirst and buy that copy of Saturday Night Slam Masters or Echo the Dolphin from Bills Used Game Emporium. Therefore it would be in their best interest to capitalize on the “retro is cool” craze along with the capabilities of smart phones and tablets. Mobile is the future and those who fail to adapt to the future tend to get left in the dust.
Sure, I admit, I may be asking for a perfect world when I ask Sega to give me Streets of Rage on my Nexus 7 or Nintendo to cough up WCW Nitro for my phone, but is it really that big a task? The programming is already in place, probably by people who aren’t on Nintendo’s payroll. There clearly is a demand by consumers (the numbers back it up) and Companies who have ported their classic games to Android have been met with great success. Even those ports to other consoles have seen a large number of purchases and interest on both PC and consoles. So really, developers of games of old, what is your problem? Give the people what they want? Retro is cool now afterall and if record companies have cranked out vinyl like it’s 1988, why don’t game companies give us the games that made us drink Surge soda and play until our fingers hurt?