The Power of Nostalgia
Due to blog posts by Wilhelm Arcturus and Bhagpuss, I discovered that the MMORPG EverQuest has recently reached its nineteenth anniversary. That’s quite a prodigious feat, all things considered, that a genre title can endure so long. Especially when other similar titles have gone to the wall after far shorter life cycles. The games current owner, Daybreak Game Company have just launched a new progression server, proving that EverQuest is still making money and thus is worth investing in. Beyond this, I can’t comment any further specifically about this game as it’s a one I’ve never played in the past and its highly unlikely that I ever will. What I want from a game and what this one has to offer are two very different things. However, a story such as this will often instigate a debate regarding the key to a video games longevity. One of the most common explanations is nostalgia and many gamers urge to try and recapture the halcyons days of a much beloved, prior experience.
Nostalgia is a double-edged sword and it often polarises opinion. In certain quarters it is pooh-poohed and even sneered at but from a business and marketing standpoint, it should not be underestimated. Take the NES and SNES Classic Mini consoles for example. Their merit and viability were questioned by some game pundits, yet they went to sell like hot cakes, proving that people like updated version of stuff they use to have. The thing is nostalgia is far more than just revisiting something from your past. It’s a far more emotional experience. It’s about reconnecting with a trusted product. It’s about the comfort of familiarity and the feeling of being in control with something you know inside out. It isn’t a threat, it doesn’t flummox you by asking you to learn new things and you don’t have to take a gamble on the end results. This is the appeal of the old console or an ageing MMO such as EverQuest. They’re both the gaming equivalent of a comfortable old pair of slippers.
Two other things have crossed my mind of late that are tangentially relevant to this discussion. The first is my Dad at 88, still watching old episodes of Quincy M.E. on TV. I was surprised to find that this show that ran from 1976 to 1983 has been digitally remastered and reframed from 4:3 to 16:9; all of which are an expensive undertaking. Yet some bean counter somewhere obviously did a cost analysis and determined that the price of retrofitting an old show such as this to modern broadcasting standards, was a worthwhile investment when offset against global back catalogue sales. The second point is the buzz around the MMO Project: Gorgon that has just launched on Steam early access. Having watched numerous videos about this titles merits, it is clear that it is aiming to tap into older gamers sense of nostalgia and fill a gap in the market. Judging by my twitter timeline and the chattering of my peers it looks like its working. Hence, once again we must conclude that nostalgia is a powerful force and that it should be underestimated.