Without exception, the Virtual Console has been touted as a digital distribution channel for new games and "classic" games from vintage consoles. But the Virtual Console suggests an application for serious and independent games that no one has yet discussed: independent publishing of new games on classic platforms.
Nostalgia has so strangled game developers and game consumers alike that we fail to recognize platforms like the NES and C64 as viable targets for new video games. So mired are we in technological progress that we quickly condemn earlier platforms to the status of cult relic.
But just as the daguerreotype, the sonnet, the Super-8 film camera, and so many other constrained forms from other media remain valid modes of expression, so do games for the NES, the C64, the TurboGrafx. These computers enthralled millions of people, people who were not merely biding their time waiting for better technology.
At the CES this week, Microsoft announced their own take on the Virtual Console, the Game Room, offering arcade and classic console games. Among the 30 games announced for launch (to grow to over 1,000) are coin-op games, Intellivision games, and Atari 2600 games.
Given that I make new Atari 2600 games (including the recently announced IGF finalist A Slow Year), I find myself once again hoping that Microsoft might open this channel to sell new games made for old systems. I stand by what I said about the Wii three years ago:
Like all platforms, these classic consoles endured premature sunsets as they made way for their predecessors. The very idea that a platform like the SNES has been fully explored should make you bristle as much as the idea that the novel has been fully explored. Today, hindsight and historical distance can help us create experiences that went unexplored on these systems.
If nothing else, the addition of XBLA Achievements to the Game Room would offer new players a strong incentive to try unusual and creative new takes on old hardware. But I'd guess players would be interested in them for other reasons too.
(cross-posted from Bogost.com)