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FB2 Article in USA Today

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Nice article! Reposted below in flagrant disregard for publisher's wishes!


Old-school video games move to the head of the class

By Justin Dickerson, USA TODAY

You might not get much use out of your old Betamax video player or cassette recorder anymore, but if you hung onto your first video game console, you could be the hippest gamer on the block.


Atari Flashback 2 will feature early classics.


As developers tout "next-gen" technologies, many enthusiasts are returning to the joy of a humbler joystick and decades-old games. Manufacturers have taken notice of the growing appetite for the simplicity, personality and instant gratification of such vintage fare as The Legend of Zelda.


Many of these Donkey Kong devotees will head to the eighth annual Classic Gaming Expo this weekend in San Francisco for a nostalgic kick and a reminder of friends made thanks to positive experiences while partying with Princess Peach.


"If a game is fun, it's fun," says Troy Gorda, 34, a corporate travel agent in Springfield, Ill. "Some of the earliest games didn't have the graphics but certainly inspired your imagination."


Last year, Atari rolled out its Flashback Classic Game Console, which came loaded with 20 sensations of the '80s for about $30. Flashback 2, which is due this month, will add 40 of the earliest hits, such as Pong, Asteroids and Centipede, plus unreleased games.


"We are continuing to mine our vault," Atari's Wim Stock says. Atari shipped half a million units of the original Flashback and expects to ship 1 million units of Flashback 2.


Previously, Atari games were part of Jakks Pacific's line of battery-operated joysticks with games built in, which sell for less than $20. The bargain price appeals to many who can't afford expensive systems, and the unit is sold at stores that don't traditionally sell game hardware, such as Urban Outfitters.


"It resonated with so many ages," Jakks' Anson Sowby says. The company also sells Activision, EA Sports and Namco joystick games.


Other companies such as Midway are introducing the old to the new with eight racing games in a package called Midway Arcade Treasures 3, due for PS2, Xbox and GameCube at the end of September. The original Arcade Treasures, which arrived in September 2003, has sold more than 1 million units, and Arcade Treasures 2, out last October, is on track to do the same, says Tom McClure, director of marketing for Midway.


It's not about "how many gazillions of polygons can be rendered per second," McClure says, but rather about delivering truthful versions of the originals.


"All of these games are still great games even if their graphic content leaves something to be desired."


Arcade Pong, the tennis simulation game, was popular in the 1970s.


Similar collections are out or on the way from Namco (home of Pac-Man), Sega (Sonic) and Capcom (Street Fighter).


And Nintendo will introduce "backward" compatibility on its new Revolution system next year. The technology will play the oldest games on the newest machine, connecting to the Internet for downloadable access to many of the staples of the original Nintendo Entertainment System, the Super NES and the Nintendo 64.


"While it's not likely that every old game will be available for download, we're working to make sure that fans get as many of their favorites as possible," Nintendo's Perrin Kaplan says. "Great characters never get old."


Even if the players do: According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average game player is 30 years old (43% of gamers are female) and has been mastering his or her craft for about 10 years.


Some of the oldest and most loyal fans of video games have found each other on the Internet through online organizations such as the Video Arcade Preservation Society (vaps.org), where users compare their exhaustive game collections.


When people were growing up, games were "almost a social thing — you play games, you meet people," says Jay Gallagher, 37, a computer programmer from Nashville. He keeps about 230 arcade games, many in classic large cabinets, in his three-story townhouse and in storage. "I kind of lost count."


Many classic games also have been exposed to new audiences in recent years through cell phones and the Internet. The classics are playable online in Shockwave format (in some cases legitimately, in others not), and a number of cell phone carriers have adopted Pac-Man and other old standbys as part of their standard game sets.


Whether via phone, PC or game system, consumers feel a strong nostalgia for the characters and games that built the industry. "Those older games just satisfy a different urge," says Adam Sessler, co-host of X-Play on cable network G4. "They don't require the same devotion of time (as new games)."

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