The announcement of the Retro Video Game System, a cartridge-based console, is the latest case study in the debate of whether gaming should continue evolving beyond its roots.
What’s Happening to 2D Platformers?
It doesn’t matter what generation you’re from. If you consider yourself a video game fan you enjoy a good 2D platformer every now and again. They might not be your favorite genre, but there’s a sense of respect you should have for classic series like Mega Man and Super Mario Bros.
The problem is these games aren’t in as big of demand as the next Halo or Elder Scrolls game. The popularity of the genre is declining because they don’t have the flashy graphics of storylines of the blockbuster hits. Besides, there is a profit margin to think of, and who in their right mind is going to spend $60 on a puzzle platformer?
It’s no longer profitable for big companies to spend lots of money making this classic game type. Sure, we get a couple every year, like Mario which continues to come out, but not very many. It seems like the responsibility of creating new 2D puzzle platformers has fallen onto indie developers. The success of games like Limbo, Fez, Braid, and Super Meat Boy prove that players are still craving at least some 2D plaformer action. These were some of the bestselling Xbox Live Arcade games of all time.
Indie developers can create 2D games with success because they’re easier and cheaper to produce and take less time than 3D games. $20 is a fair price for an indie game and a platformer. And it still leaves a good profit margin for indie developers.
Big companies deciding to move away from 2D platformers is actually a good thing. The constraints that come with working for a corporation can limit creativity. If Nintendo wants to make a new platformer they are going to have to make a Mario game. It’s an established franchise, and Nintendo knows it will sell well, whereas a new 2D platformer is a huge hit or miss.
Indie developers can take more of a risk. Like Xbox Live Arcade’s Fez. It’s 3D game played on 2D planes was a very risky mechanic. It took years to produce a game that worked so well. Or Braid, which added tons of different timing mechanics that. These indie studios are bringing back the genre by adding new creative ideas to the old style.
The new 2D plaformers that are coming out from the indie community are increasing in creativity and popularity. Who knows, if more and more games continue to do well we could see a rise in the 2D genre once again. With more and more casual gamers, and a console like the Oyua coming out there is going to be a growing market for some 2D platformer action. The genre is making its comeback. I sure hope it lasts.