SEGA confirmed that next June 23 will arrive sonic origins, a compilation with the first four games (remastered) of the blue hedgehog for PC, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. So far, everything normal. After all, this release had been announced in May of last year and since then the news had been conspicuous by its absence. However, when the prices were known, it did not take long for the criticism to appear, and with good reason. Is that the packs will be available only in digital format, and to get the “full experience” you will have to pay 45 euros for the Deluxe version. Thus, the question becomes unavoidable: To what extent do companies have free rein to profit openly from nostalgia for classic video games?
Unfortunately, in recent years this has become an increasingly common thing to see. What at first seemed like the ideal way—or the perfect excuse—to celebrate the legacy of titles, characters, and consoles of yesteryear has quickly become in the new goose that lays the golden eggs of the video game industry. And that is not good because it is not only played with the players’ pockets, but mainly with their feelings.
There will be those who say that my approach is naive or innocent, but what is nostalgia without that share of naivety or innocence? What is the point of yearning with reliving the experiences that made us happy during our childhood or youth, then? It is more than clear that everyone does with their money what they want; And those who consider that it is not worth paying a significant amount for this type of relaunch have a point as valid as those who do choose to do so, even though they know that what they obtain will surely not differ too much from what they could experience with an emulator like the MAME on any PC.
What the public is looking for is the added value that — at least in theory — only the original developer can give a historic game remaster. The problem is that many times this added value is scarce, poorly focused, or does not exist at all. And when that happens, not even nostalgia as such is enough to avoid discomfort.
Nostalgia for classic video games is the new goose that lays the golden eggs
Let’s take the case of Nintendo, to analyze one of the most recent. In September 2021, the Japanese company announced that would add titles of the mythical N64 to Nintendo Switch Online, your subscription service. Among the video games there were classics like mario kart 64, Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time Y Star Fox 64, among others. However, the big impact was the inclusion of a selection of games from SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive -with Sonic 2 Y Castlevania: Bloodline to the head-; as well as the launch of new controls for the Switch inspired by those of the aforementioned consoles.
But the prices of this so-called Expansion Pack many did not like them. It is that those who wanted to enjoy Nintendo 64 and SEGA Genesis games on the Switch had to pay from 30 to 45 dollars on top of your existing annual subscription. And to that they added another 50 bucks for each allegorical command that is desired to obtain.
As I indicated before, it is clear that this is a business and that everyone is free to be part of it or not. Nintendo and SEGA, the companies involved in this case, are free to charge whatever they see fit for their intellectual property. And if they put such high prices it is because they know there are enough nostalgia-hungry people interested in paying themregardless of the reviews.
The problem appears when the experience with the final product is severely different from what is promised to the users. As soon as the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack was released, social networks were plagued with complaints because the emulation was simply a disaster. The graphic section did not even resemble that of the original games (the most emblematic case was that of the absence of fog in The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Timewhich triggered a separate debate), and in some titles it was practically impossible to play without the controls that were sold separately.
And worst of all, some of these bugs were only fixed in February of this year; that is, four months after Nintendo released the compilation. So there is no nostalgia that is worth to reverse the bad initial image.
Hard to swallow prices
Not all retro game re-releases have glitches like the ones exposed by the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack. But on many occasions it happens that the prices are so high that they have a negative impact on the desire of the players to relive the experience with some classic proposals. We are talking about remasters that can cost practically the same (or more) than a new PS4 or PS5 title.
What we mentioned at the beginning about sonic origins it is a complete demonstration of it; although we also saw a more extreme case earlier this year with the expected landing of Kingdom Hearts on the Switch. The most complete pack of the franchise it was sold for 90 dollars and it was not a native port, but a version available via streaming. How not to think, then, that publishers and developers have jumped on the nostalgia train for classic video games just for the money.
If the economy becomes the cut-off variable to officially re-experience what has given us satisfaction for years, it is clear that something is very wrong. Especially when they are the same companies that have historically persecuted those who developed free emulators or shared ROMs of titles that are 20 or 30 years old.
And if it is not yet clear that nostalgia is no longer an instrument of celebration, but of profit, the new PlayStation Plus also does its part. The classic PlayStation, PS2, PS3 and PSP games will be available only in the Premium plan, which will cost no less than 17 euros per month.
It is clear that this is not going to change in the short term. Major companies in the industry have found a very attractive commercial vein to exploit, whether we like it or not, and they will try to get as much juice out of it as possible while it is profitable. Thus, Nintendo continues with its plan to bring its classic video games to the Switch under subscription; and even Atari has released an expensive emulator for which it even charges an extra $100 to include the controllers.
Despite everything, let us not lose hope that the biggest names in the field gamer one day they will see the nostalgia again as more than a business opportunity. It doesn’t matter how naive you seem.