The Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) was one of the greatest features of the immensely popular Xbox 360. Even to the end of its run, around 2014, superb retro and indie games like the Pac-Man Museum were still being added for nostalgic gaming. There’s still a place for retro games, which is why so many storied developers are remastering classics and creating anniversary editions. One of the most famous video game series of all-time recently unleashed the Street Fighter: 30th Anniversary Collection across all consoles, and there’s even the ever-improving mobile platform to host revivals of classic and retro titles. However, XBLA was a major selling point of the 360, but faded from the Xbox One release – as did Microsoft’s hardware sales. So, is there a place for a similar program to return with the new title-less Xbox Series X|S console generation?
High demand for retro titles and classics
Gaming across all platforms has been around for long enough that there are plenty of much-loved older titles that people still remember. Due to how new hardware sometimes shuts out the previous creations, gamers are always happy to see revived retro and classic games. It’s why the stacks of legendary arcade creations brought back by the Arcade Archives – which includes Super Punch-Out!!, Penguin-Kun Wars, and Donkey Kong 3 – does so well on the Nintendo Switch. It’s also why so much of mobile gaming is centered around the vintage creations of the early days. A study into the appetite for retro games on mobile uncovered that Angry Birds, Tetris, and Candy Crush Saga stand as the most popular vintage titles. This is despite there being over 800 new apps uploaded to the Apple App Store each day, with most smartphone gamers often deferring to the old but gold games. The nostalgia and proven greatness of old titles drive a high-priced market, too. We may all remember being able to get second-hand Xbox games for a few bills, but now old titles sold online fetch hefty prices.
Should they bring back XBLA?
A number of indie developers create retro-inspired games for the Xbox systems, and the creators of Arcade Archives, Hamster, have released some classics to the Xbox One. The Neo Geo arcade cabinet is filled with classics for the Xbox, including Metal Slug and Street Hoop, but what was great about the XBLA was that the indie and vintage games were free or at least available to test via a demo. Sure, there are great older titles on the consoles through the Game Pass, such as Fable and Banjo-Kazooie, but there isn’t the concerted effort to culture innovative indie studios and revive much-loved retro games – regardless of how large the backward compatibility program has become.
Were the Xbox Series X|S to announce a revival of the XBLA, it would certainly help bring back those who enjoyed their time on the Xbox 360.