Classic games prove lucrative in a wave of nostalgia

Heidelberg Castle has endured more than its fair share of disasters over the centuries. Partly destroyed by lightning in 1537, it was looted twice by the French during the Nine Years’ War before lightning struck again in 1764 and it was destroyed by the resulting fire. By the time Mark Twain arrived there in the 1870s, it was “abandoned, discredited, beaten by the storms, but still royal and beautiful”.

It is therefore an appropriate place to hold a tournament for Age of Empires II, a game in which battles rage and castles fall with alarming regularity – but a game that will stand the test of time. When the 16 players participating in the sixth edition of Red Bull Wololo: Legacy enter the castle in October, they hope to take a little less damage to their own defenses than Heidelberg has.

That a medieval real-time strategy game first released in 1999 can still attract a tournament with a $200,000 prize pool is testament to its timelessness: the game was so beloved for its easy-to-pick up but devilishly hard-to-master mechanics. that came first and HD Edition in 2013, when Final Edition in 2019, not to mention countless expansions, the most recent of which was released in April of this year.

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

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

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

We live in an era of pink remasters, and the apparent hunger for old favorites is so great that we see the release of updates for titles newer than the classics we still play. The two most recent not mapped 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 the PS4 in 2014 and again this month for the PS5, while epic open world The Witcher 3: Wild Huntwhich was released seven years ago, will be re-released later this year.

And it’s generally older titles – the ones that have had longer to build up a competitive scene and adjust their game mechanics accordingly – that dominate the most lucrative tournament rosters. dota 2 remains at the top of the list for esports prize money, with around $48 million up for grabs in 2021, eight years after its initial release. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (2012) and League of Legends (2009) players earned $21mn and $8mn, respectively. That’s almost a third of all the prize money from 2021, coming from just three titles.

But as a franchisee Age of Empires speaks particularly well to the penchant for nostalgia. Although the series spawned a total of four games, with Age of Empires IV released last year, the second game still has the higher player count on Steam. Still, the success of both says more than any competition between the two, argues Will McCahill of World’s Edge, the Microsoft studio behind the franchise.

“The vision for AoE II Definitive Edition wax to make Age II as people remembered it, not as it really was,” he says. “The purpose of Age of Empires IV was to build a modern take on the classic [formula].”

Heidelberg Castle is no stranger to refurbishments, as it was partially restored in the late 1800s; empty windows remain on the upper facade of the Ottheinrich building, a windswept reminder of what once stood behind it. The history of gaming itself is a little shorter, but those competing in Heidelberg will still hope to prove that while most empires rise and fall, some are eternal.

Red Bull Wololo: Legacy takes place October 21-30

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