Activision, Hasbro Interactive and Microsoft Games are among the software publishers resurrecting popular videogames of yesteryear, updating them or keeping their seemingly outdated looks and game play intact.
TURNING TO '70S MILIEU
In other cases, marketers are setting games in the cool cultural milieu of the 1970s or '80s.
Activision's TV advertising budget will support four titles, one of which will be Asteroids, the old Atari classic. Marking its debut for Sony Computer Entertainment's PlayStation, Activision's Asteroids will advance the b&w 2D of the arcade game, adding 3D and color and new weapons for blowing up the space debris.
Ground Zero, Santa Monica, Calif., Activision's new agency, will handle the multimillion-dollar ad push, being launched in late fall.
A PC racing title called Interstate 82 will be set in Las Vegas circa 1982, capitalizing on the emergence of '80s chic popularized by movies such as "The Wedding Singer." The game is a sequel to Activision's Interstate 76, set in 1976 and steeped in bell bottoms and disco.
Hasbro Interactive, which scored a hit last year with the 1980s arcade classic Frogger, made an aggressive move into retro earlier this year by acquiring industry pioneer Atari, whose library of games can account for nearly the entire trend.
RETURN OF CENTIPEDE
This fall, Hasbro Interactive will support a multiplatform launch of Centipede with a $3.5 million ad campaign from Griffin Bacal, New York.
Microsoft Games this fall will finally issue a sequel to its best-selling Return of the Arcade collection of games, which featured Atari's Pac Man. (Activision's and Microsoft's Atari licenses predate the Hasbro acquisition.) Revenge of the Arcade will mark the PC-game debut of Ms. Pac Man.
"Retro is really `in' in the pop culture right now. The games are really fun and they're easy to get into; you don't have to read a manual to learn how to play them or install them," said Beth Featherstone, group product manager at Microsoft Games.
Another new Microsoft Games title, Pinball Arcade, includes seven classic arcade pinball games from decades past. The PC title is noteworthy for successfully re-creating the physics of a real-life pinball game.
Like most PC games, Revenge of the Arcade won't benefit from the level of ad support afforded console games. In fact, like Activision's Interstate 82, Revenge of the Arcade will get no consumer advertising.
"Household PC penetration is at about 40% . . . and until [PC games are] something that's had by a majority, [consumer advertising] is hard to justify financially," said Ms. Featherstone.
Instead, the marketer will support the title with extensive point of purchase and is currently in talks with retailers about merchandising the products at locations visible to consumers willing to make impulse purchases.
Games such as Ms. Pac Man appeal to the mass-market consumer, especially women and moms, because of their familiarity, said Ms. Featherstone.
The titles are priced below $30, and that also makes them a more easily justifiable impulse buy.