The Good Old Games: Millennial Nostalgia and the Software Market

2 min read
Aug 23, 2017

The software industry is a rapidly developing climate of new and cooler technology. As revolutionary hardware like 3D printers become standard, software designers are tasked with building user-friendly interfaces, allowing for full use of newer and more complicated gadgets. Until recently, selling software has always been about selling a ticket to the latest and greatest technology, complete with cutting-edge graphics and immersive experiences. So it may come as a surprise that one of the most anticipated software releases in the last year was a game created for elementary school students in 1996. Successful software isn’t just about good programming anymore. The Millennial generation is here, and what they want is a blast from the past.

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Forbes estimates that “there is +$600 billion up for grabs every year in the US alone as Millennials (or 18-30-year-olds) fast become the biggest demographic on the planet.” Marketers simply cannot afford to ignore the trends and tastes of young people, particularly in the realm of entertainment. Gaming software is in competition not only with other games but also with cinema, Netflix and a myriad of other entertainment experiences available to Millennials with disposable income. With the stakes higher than ever, the key to unlocking the Millennial wallet seems to lie in nostalgia.

The Pull of the Past

Whether it’s adult colouring books, Lisa Frank’s new clothing line, or the instant popularity of Pokemon Go, this generation is clearly hungry for anything reminiscent of their neon-coloured coloured childhoods of the ’80s and ’90s. The same trends are apparent in the gaming and software industries, and the good news for developers is that “video games may have the potential to elicit more nostalgia than any other medium,” according to psychologists.

Crowd-Sourcing a Classic

Perhaps the best example of this trend is the re-release of the ’90s educational game “The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis,” retitled simply “Zoombinis” in the updated version, available for mobile platforms. Paste magazine’s review of the new game “remains more or less the same game it was in 1996,” including the original soundtrack and characters. Included in the re-release are mobile ring tones featuring iconic sound bites from the classic game. 

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Perhaps most interesting about the re-release of “Zoombinis” is that the project began, not in a large software conglomerate, but as a Kickstarter campaign. According to an article in USA Today, the campaign doubled its goal, raising a total of $101,716 primarily from small individual contributions. Originally released for mobile platforms, the new “Zoombinis” has successfully added Windows and Apple editions and has received a “very positive” rating on popular gaming site Steam.

Coming Soon…

While “Zoombinis” has been especially successful in its re-release, many other 20-year-old games are ready in waiting to become the next big thing if financial backers can be found. Simply take a look at popular websites such as GamesNostalgia or MyAbandonware, which host thousands of older games with 8-bit graphics for that floppy-disk feel. Popular games on these sites include 1990s editions of “Oregon Trail,” “SimCity,” and several Disney games released alongside animated features like “Aladdin” (1992) and “Hercules” (1997). The popularity of these websites, along with the financial success of games like “Zoombinis,” suggests that there continues to be a lucrative market for the re-release of classic software. For once, the hottest new thing may actually be the oldest.

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