In a world where nostalgia drives humanity to recreate films and video games from the past in brighter, shinier forms, that retro-style pixel art platformers are a dying breed comes as no surprise.
In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, J. Kyle Pittman of Minor Key Games (Eldritch, Gunmetal Arcadia) spoke of the struggles facing indie developers who enjoy employing gameplay and graphics reminiscent of the NES in the modern-day gaming industry. Stating that he is, in all likelihood, done with pixel-art platformers, Pittman said, “Mostly there’s just no money in it anymore, if there ever was.” In further comments, Pittman went on to say that he shipped three commercial games in the last three years, “but none have been big successes. And it’s getting harder and harder to survive in the indie space without a big success.”
Though the genre has a somewhat higher level of popularity among console gamers, for Pittman, the difficulty inherent in porting his platformer titles to console compounds an already harsh reality. “We haven’t yet shipped anything on console,” he stated. “It’s something we’d like to do at some point, but the limiting factor there is we write all our own technology, so there’s not an easy solution…” In a return to his earlier point, Pittman added that while he suspects retro pixel-art platformers sell better on consoles than PC, he is averse to taking the risk, as money from sales may not exceed or offset the cost of development.
An allusion to the imminent demise of the pixel art platformer genre as a whole, Pittman’s comments may dishearten players who remember spending hours enjoying these types of games in their youth. The gaming industry has evolved in leaps and bounds since the early 1980s, and many of the most popular titles of that time continue to progress alongside it. Updated to more modern 3D graphics and gameplay, long-running franchises appeal to both old fans and a new, younger crop of gamers. With the original members of the Nintendo generation now reaching their forties, that nostalgia may not be enough to save the 2D platformer is a sad but unavoidable truth.