Classic games turn out to be lucrative on a wave of nostalgia

Heidelberg Castle has suffered more than its fair share of disasters over the centuries. Partially destroyed by lightning in 1537, it was sacked twice by the French during the Nine Years’ War before lightning struck again in 1764 and it was devastated by the resulting fire. When Mark Twain came to it in the 1870s, it was “deserted, despised, storm-battered, but still real and beautiful.”

It is an appropriate place, then, to hold a tournament for age Of Empires Ii, a game where battles rage and castles fall with alarming regularity, yet still stand the test of time. When the 16 players competing in the sixth edition of Red Bull Wololo: Legacy enter the castle in October, they will expect to take less damage to their own defenses than Heidelberg.

That a medieval real-time strategy game first released in 1999 can still attract a tournament with a $200,000 prize pool speaks to its timelessness: the game was so beloved for its easy-to-learn yet fiendishly difficult-to-master mechanics. who first spawned a HD edition in 2013, then a Definitive Edition in 2019, not to mention numerous expansions, the most recent of which was released in April of this year.

Age of Empires II he just struck the perfect balance,” says professional player Ørjan Larsen, better known in the community as “TheViper”, who hopes to defend his Red Bull Wololo title. “Even if the 1999 game was released now, it would still be a decent game, which is the most impressive thing.”

‘Age of Empires II’ has a winning formula that continues to attract gamers

Age of Empires II is far from the only title that attracted both love and money long after it was first released. Its continued success speaks to a certain nostalgia among gamers, or perhaps simply the fact that a winning formula can’t be easily improved upon. Of the 10 most played games on the Steam PC platform last week, half were first released in 2013 or earlier, including the top two.

We live in an age of rose-tinted remasters, and such is the apparent appetite for old favorites that we’re seeing updates released for titles that are newer than the classics we’re still playing. The two most recent Unexplored the titles, released in 2016 and 2017, have already been enhanced and repackaged for PlayStation 5. The last of us (2013) has been remastered twice, first for PS4 in 2014 and then again for PS5 this month, while the open-world epic The Witcher 3: Wild HuntReleased seven years ago, it’s slated for a next-gen re-release later this year.

And it is generally the older titles, those that have had the most time to build a competitive scene and modify their gameplay accordingly, that dominate the most lucrative tournament rosters. dota 2 continues to top the esports prize money table, with some $48 million up for grabs in 2021, eight years after its initial launch. counter strike global offensive (2012) and League of Legends (2009), meanwhile, earned players $21 million and $8 million respectively. That’s nearly a third of all 2021 prize money coming from just three titles.

However, as a franchise, age of empires speaks particularly well of the penchant for nostalgia. Although the series has spawned four games in total, with Age of Empires IV Released last year, the second game still has the highest number of players on Steam. Still, the success of both speaks volumes about any competition between the two, argues Will McCahill of World’s Edge, the Microsoft studio behind the franchise.

“The vision of AoE II Definitive Edition was to do Age II how people remembered it, not how it really was,” he says. “The objective of Age of Empires IV was to build a modern version of the classic [formula].”

Heidelberg Castle is no stranger to reconstructions, having been partially restored in the late 19th century; empty windows remain on the upper façade of the Ottheinrich building, a breezy reminder of what once lay behind. The games’ own history is a bit shorter, but those competing in Heidelberg still hope to prove that while most empires rise and fall, some are eternal.

Red Bull Wololo: Legacy takes place from October 21-30, redbull.es

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