While many bemoan the Xbox Live Arcade and to a lesser
extent, the Playstation store, for its lack of diversity and digital rights
management (DRM) issues, few explore the positive influence digital downloads have
had on console gaming.
Sure, some have stated that the Live Arcade has killed the
compilation disk. Gone are the bountiful treasure chests of retro gaming-
Midway Arcade Classics, Activision Anthology, Sega Genesis Collection and the
Taito Legends series. It is no longer economically feasible to sell a twenty
dollar collection of a dozen or so titles, when the going rate for a single retro
title hovers around six to eight dollars. With the exception of a few Neo
Geo-themed collections for the PS2 and PSP, no new compilations exist on the
Perhaps some have forgotten why these disks brought us so
much joy in the first place. If rumors are to be believed, SCEA from the launch
of the PS1 to the heyday of the PS2, made it quite hard for publishers to release
2D games. Perhaps, that is why the Americans
never saw the release of Gunner’s Heaven, a Metal Slug-like scroller made by
Treasure. Notwithstanding, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and the Street
Fighter II series, there was a long period where two dimension games were relatively
Today, we are seeing a resurgence in the popularity of the
2D game, thanks to the influence of the Xbox Live Arcade. While developer Capcom
is making a 3D update to the Bionic Commando series, most message boards are
abuzz with talk of the upcoming 2D remake of the original NES game, Bionic
When the 360 was first released, Geometry Wars: Evolved
reminded us of the power of the 2D game; we didn’t have to ‘think’ about a
complex control scheme. Absent was the need to move the ‘camera’; a current staple
in many three dimensional games. While the original Xbox saw the release of two
3D Worms titles; the aptly named Worms 3D and Worms: Forts Under Siege, the
franchise didn’t see success until Worms returned to 2D on the Live Arcade.
Clearly there is a market for 2D games.
Currently, the PS2 is seeing a surge in the amount of 2D
games; recently, critical favorites Odin Sphere, Grim Grimoire and Pinball Hall
of Fame: The Williams Collection were released. Upcoming are the aforementioned
Neo Geo compilation, SNK Arcade Classic Vol. 1, Heavenly Guardian, 2D fighter
Arcane Heart, and World Heroes and Final Fight Anthologies.
On the Live Arcade, Capcom is remaking 1942, it’s
WWII-themed shmup, and Super Street Fighter II Turbo Remix HD. While PS3 fans can
expect Soldner-X, a 2D shmup and more offerings from the Pixel Junk team.
Some may argue that the 2D market is relatively niche; but
with the huge install base of PS2 owners, and growing population of current-gen
console owners, publishers like SNK and Capcom don’t have to sell a million
copies for profitability. As budgets for 3D games are getting increasingly
large, 2D games may be an increasingly viable model. As the industry moves
toward casual games (with simple, intuitive control schemes) and digital distribution
(with relatively small file size), we expect to see a rebirth of 2D.