[dropcap size=big]W[/dropcap]hen Yooka-Laylee launched on Kickstarter and was fully funded in 40 minutes, people took notice. One comment kept coming up, too. Basically, it was something along the lines of: “See, people have been waiting for a new 3D platformer!” Apparently they have, as this campaign has continued to accrue thousands of dollars daily and my non-Kickstarter obsessed friends have practically all pledged. It’s a massive event on Kickstarter, and one which serves as a very happy moment for 3D platforming fans in particular. Although the genre never fully disappeared, as I can name a few modern 3D platformers off the top of my head, they definitely stopped being favorable in a commercial aspect.
But how did this happen? Obviously a huge amount of folks loved 3D platformers as they were produced in ridiculous quantities during the 90s before petering out in the early 2000s. So, why only now have they returned to an apparently super favorable position? My take on the matter is that nostalgia plays a big part. After all, just take a moment to consider the timing. Folks who were children in the 90s and playing PS1 and N64 are adults now. Adulthood typically brings some degree of spending cash with it, and a heavy affection for those games played during our youths.
It’s not only game players who experience this sense of nostalgia. Many of those kids grew up not only wanting to continue playing great games, but to create their own. Given the timing, we’re on the cusp of a new generation of indie designer. Why do you think so many indie games up until now have been pixelated and heavily inspired by 8 and 16-bit classics? It’s not because it is “easier” (in fact, pixel art can be a massive challenge in and of itself!). It’s also not because everyone accepts those types of games as great – many modern gamers have never played a retro console and have no interest in doing so. The main reason for so many pixelated retro-like games was due to the fact that those were the games the creators grew up with.
And so, here we are in the era where 90s gaming children are creating games from what they knew and loved back then. 3D platformers! I really feel that Yooka-Laylee is the most obvious signal of this shift, although it certainly was not the first Kickstarter project to play on this nostalgia. Although of a different genre, 90s Arcade Racer definitely hit upon that mid-90s arcade racer vibe which people miss out on today. Similarly, games such as Drift Stage exist because of people’s urge to return to the simpler racing times they remember instead of digging in with more serious titles like Forza. Enough of that though, as those aren’t platformers at all!
Back to 3D platformers, we’ve seen a few jump onto Kickstarter in the past. A Hat in Time advertised itself as a “3D collect-a-thon platformer” and made its goal to a massive degree back in 2013. While only asking for $30,000, the developers at Gears for Breakfast ended up with nearly $300,000. Much more recently, Happy Hell squeaked past its goal in March. Really, the reasoning behind this less-enthusiastic funding, to me, has little to do with the genre and all to do with the decline of Kickstarter funding in early 2015. If you want to hear more about that trend from an analytical perspective, please check out our series of monthly analysis posts. With that said, thanks to Yooka-Laylee, Kickstarter has apparently been kick-started. My point, though, is that 3D platformers have been slowly creeping onto the crowdfunding scene and finding an audience.
Yooka-Laylee just cements this whole incoming tidal wave, or changing of the guard if you will. Ex-Rare developers also happen to be about as “legit” as you can get as far as 3D platformers are concerned. Now that they’ve both brought massive attention to Kickstarter and the genre, there’s little standing in the way for other gaming genres thought lost in the 90s to come back with a vengeance (well, ignoring the logistics of too many Kickstarters cropping up at once, etc). As was mentioned earlier, we’ve already seen it with arcade-style racing games. Heck, we’re also seeing it with the Igarashi brand of Metroidvania thanks to Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. To be fair, that one was more an evolution of 8/16-bit design, but it still counts.
The most exciting thing about all this is knowing that there will only be more developers entering the fold in the coming years, poised to create products which 90s gamers are all too excited for. Heck, do you remember Strafe which was funded earlier this year? That took on the whole 3D FPS era and 90s “extreme” gaming culture to a whole other level. As you can see, there are so many examples to pull from because it’s really happening. It’s not just some wistful dream of mine. Developers are creating what they love most – games from their youth. Of course, it doesn’t end at the 90s.
I expect we’ll see a great nostalgic wave continue to drown Kickstarter for the foreseeable future, but it will not destroy other types and eras of games from coexisting. After all, all the existing developers didn’t suddenly disappear! And after about ten more years we’ll very likely start seeing games inspired from popular titles of the 2000s as well. Sure, if you’re reading this you probably don’t find something like Call of Duty of Gears of War nostalgic, but time keeps trucking along so there’s no doubt this is an eventual trend for indie games too. I, for one, can’t wait to play any and all new awesome crowdfunded games that cross my path in the future.
Are you excited to see more 90s-inspired games make their round on crowdfunding services? If so, which types of games would you love to see return? Is there anything worrying about this upcoming trend in your opinion? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!