Since the current console cycle began all the way back in 2005, all three systems have found increased success with the release of mini games straight to their online services. This is even more evident with the Playstation Network and X-Box Live. Although today we find ourselves in a place where the line between full retail games and arcade games is starting to blur. In the beginning there were games like Hexic and Geometry Wars. To be fair these were more like time waster games that one would find on their smart phone. Nothing more than general puzzle games to pass the time. That's not to say they weren't a big hit though as I remember dumping quite a few hours into playing Geometry Wars myself and even Uno when it was released. Because lets face it, who doesn't love playing Uno?
Indeed the early days were relatively basic in terms of what was being offered. But as time drew on we slowly saw what Microsoft and Sony could do with their respective online services. At one point nostalgia kicked in pretty hard and we saw classic games making a return to the forefront. Being these old games are so small in size they fit neatly into the original criteria for the arcade games and thus we saw releases such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game. I for one have the classic Altered Beast downloaded to my PS3 at this very moment. Frankly sometimes it's just fun to play those retro games and see the kinds of games we used to enjoy versus the offerings we have on shelves today.
Now while we had this boom in retro gaming, new arcade games were still being developed, along with even smaller indie titles. And as the indie games came around that's about when both companies saw fit to raise the file size limit on the arcade games. Thus, more developers began to embrace the arcade model as a place where they could create unique and in some cases niche games that will reach a wide audience. The risk in doing so is much lower than it would be for a full retail release.Games like Shadow Complex and Braid are just two examples that come to mind. On one hand you have Shadow Complex which is more a action platformer developed with the Unreal Engine by EPIC Games. It's got all the flare of a big budget title in a small package. Though while it's not a lengthy game, it is quite enjoyable for what it is and it showed that you can deliver a great experience to core gamers through the arcade. Braid on the other and is a title you'd be more likely to see pop up on Steam(and yes it is also available on Steam) where indie developers seem to get the most love. But that's the good thing about the arcade. There's plenty of love to go around for all kinds of genres. And as the file size limits keep increasing, the games become even better.
Currently X-Box Live is prepping for another big month of releases in February. We'll be seeing Ubisoft's long awaited I Am Alive along with a sequel to Alan Wake(oh and two other titles as well). I Am Alive is interesting because this a game that was being developed for years and was previously presumed to be a full retail release. It dropped off the radar for quite a while and reappeared recently being touted as an upcoming arcade release. Granted some of the game has been restructured but taking a look at the trailer, it doesn't come across as your average arcade title. It's reasons like this that people say that the industry is slowly moving away from a physical medium retail model and moving into the realm of digital delivery for content. I really think the arcade games will be a driving force in making that happen. With that, I'll leave you to view a video preview for I Am Alive and see just what companies are now capable of delivering straight to your console for a cheap, yet fulfilling gaming experience.