The golden age of PC gaming is showing up on the iPhone and the iPad one game at a time, and the gamers who own these devices are eating them up. But mobile devices are seen as platforms for playing ultra-casual games like Angry Birds Space, not sophisticated hardcore experiences that make even modern console games look simplistic.
Why are old-school PC gamers gravitating to a platform that is, in many ways, the very opposite of what they once enjoyed? The answer has to do with age and lifestyle as much as it does with nostalgia for the games themselves. Let’s take a look at why hardcore games from the 90s are doing so well on iOS, and what that tells us about people who love to play games.
The classics at hand
Which classic PC games are iPad and iPhone owners playing? Well, apart from modern, mobile games inspired by those old titles (like the ones featured in our list of classic RPGs for iPad), there are a ton of games from the late 90s and early 00s.
Sid Meier’s Pirates! was just released for iPhone, and it’s been out on the iPad for some time. Though it’s rooted in a game that was originally released in 1987, it’s actually a mobile version of a total reboot of that game which hit the PC in 2004.
The RPG classic Baldur’s Gate — a precursor to modern hits like Mass Effect 3, Dragon Age 2, and Star Wars: The Old Republic — is due for both iPhone and iPad this summer, with all the original features intact and totally new content added.
Hardware in sync
These old games sometimes require software or hardware that isn’t easily available or configurable for modern users — especially given the flock of personal PC users to Macs over the past few years. Computers are far more powerful now than they were in 1999, and they’re running completely different software.
On the other hand, the iPad and iPhone’s graphics hardware has only recently passed the power with which the classics were made. PC games from 10 years ago are a great match for the resources iOS devices currently have available. They can’t quite produce the graphics and sophistication that we see in modern PC games or on the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, so revisiting older games seems like a good idea for publishers and developers.
The selection of games and the technological reasons are important, but here’s the biggest reason: gamers are getting older, moving into new life phases, taking on new responsibilities, and losing free time. We already touched on this side of the issue on Tumblr, but it bears repeating.
Gamers who enjoyed hardcore PC games when they were teenagers or college students in the 90s or early 00s are facing growing adult responsibilities such as career and family. Those responsibilities have made it more difficult to find a good, solid five hours to sit down at a computer and get their game on.
While they might have once enjoyed the technical aspects of getting a game to work in MS DOS, they just don’t have the time to mess with it anymore. Apple’s App Store approval process ensures that those old games now just work. Furthermore, the game is paused (and not closed) when you switch apps on the iPhone or iPad. That means you can pick it up right where you left off.
If a 30-something gamer can’t find a long Saturday afternoon to play Baldur’s Gate or The Secret of Monkey Island, he or she can play for 5 minutes here and 15 minutes there, pausing and resuming the game as needed over the course of days or weeks. It might not be as immersive as those day-long gaming binges, but it’s the only way they can enjoy those deep gameplay mechanics.
Angry Birds Space is fun, but it doesn’t cut it for everyone — remember, these guys and gals are among the most hardcore gamers that ever played. The ability to play anywhere for as long as they’re able to, pausing and resuming as other responsibilities call, matches the lifestyle of the ex-PC gamer. The iPhone and iPad are perfect for that, so we’re seeing a renaissance of that type of gameplay on the platform.
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