It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you nostalgia sells. Look at the numerous remakes of old movies coming out of Hollywood nowadays. Video games are no different. Look at Sonic Mania. Consumers are incredibly excited for the title despite the lackluster track record of the series. Given this, it’s bizarre when Sony’s global head of marketing Jim Ryan says he doesn’t understand why anyone would want to play old Playstation 1 and 2 games:
When we’ve dabbled with backwards compatibility, I can say it is one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much. That, and I was at a Gran Turismo event recently where they had PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4 games, and the PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?
Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy released on the Playstation 4 a few weeks later. The game saw immediate success, topping the UK charts two weeks in a row. While NPD data for June hasn’t released yet, Crash will most likely dominate those charts too. In Jim Ryan’s mind, the game succeeded due to the improved visuals (“fur K” as the advertising calls it). However, the reason Crash succeeded also answers his question: “why would anybody play this?”
Crash Bandicoot Series Sales
According to Gamasutra, the original Crash Bandicoot sold 6.8 million units. In the US, this first, second and third game sold 2.75 million, 3.85 million and 3.74 million respectively. For comparison, Super Mario 64 sold 6.80 million in the US and Banjo-Kazooie sold 1.85 million. Although Crash didn’t sell near the level of Super Mario 64, it sold enough to put it above many other platformers released around the same time. Moreover, breaking 6 million sales worldwide was no small feat in the late 90s.
N Sane Trilogy’s Success
Generally, quality games sell. If Crash Bandicoot was a subpar game, the sequels wouldn’t go on to outsell the original (at least in the US).
With this in mind, is it any wonder the Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy is doing so well. The developers faithfully recreated the original game, maintaining what made the original a success to begin with. Even the advertising plays off the original add, showing a contrast from the late 90s to now.
What is making Crash successful is not the “fur K” graphics but the quality of the first titles. If graphics were so important, why didn’t the Ratchet and Clank remake have the same success. Sure, the game ranked second on the April NPD charts but disappeared a month later (contrast this to Dark Soul 3 which stayed on the charts both months). Ratchet and Clank looked better but, as TheGamingBrit pointed out (in his over one hour long analysis), the game lacked the appeal of the original.
Quality over Nostalgia
There is this assumption from Game Industry types that nostalgia is the reason we love old games. This idea is predicated on “new is better.” If my job was to sell new titles, then I may think the same way. However, it’s not nostalgia that attracts consumers to these products like moths to a flame, but the quality of the games. Look at the NES Classic. Nintendo confirmed that kids were buying up the system despite not growing up with it themselves. It’s not the graphics that consumers seek but the quality of those games.
What the industry types never ask themselves is why consumers are nostalgic for these titles in the first place. See, nostalgia sells when we relive it, not when we are simply reminded of it. I can’t speak on Crash personally. It’s not a series I grew up with. But I know a friend who bought the system because his wife was such a huge fan of those games. Anecdotal sure, but I doubt my friend is alone in this sentiment.
These long lost fans drove up the sales of Crash. It’s why after years of poor performing games, Crash is seeing some success (or perhaps reliving it). Perhaps if the industry experts spent more time trying to emulate these games they’d see their profit margins go up.