The Future Of The 2D Platformer

The Future Of The 2D Platformer

I must admit something: I finally started Rayman Origins. I had intended on playing it back when it first came out, as the gaming press couldn't stop saying nice things about it. But that month—November of 2011—was an epic month of game releases, and Rayman kept getting shuffled to the bottom of my to-do list.

But here we are in March of 2012, and I've finally cracked open Rayman Origins. It's incredible so far, and any gamer with fond memories of the 16-bit era of platforming should do themselves a favor and pick this one up. It's a fairly cheap purchase these days.

Of course, playing the game brought to mind the 2D platformer resurgence we've been seeing. I mean, 2010 saw the release of Mega Man 10, which may not have been as glorious as 2008's Mega Man 9, but it was still a delight to get to experience more 8-bit Mega Man goodness. 2010 also saw incredible platformers like VVVVVV, Super Meat Boy, Donkey King Country Returns, and a brand new 2D Sonic game. (Well, technically part of a brand new 2D Sonic game.) The trend continued in 2011 with Sonic Generations (admit it, the best parts of that game were in two dimensions, not three) and a re-release of one of my all-time favorite 2D platformers, Sonic CD. And that brings us up to November's deluge, which Rayman Origins was unfortunately lost in.

The Future Of The 2D Platformer

Personally, I adore 2D platformers, and find it refreshing to be able to revisit this longstanding genre from time to time. Unfortunately, it's starting to look like it's fading into the background once again. I mean, the only impending 2D platformer of note I can think of off the top of my head is Sonic 4: Episode II. It's beginning to look a little like the genre is dying again, only a few short years after its glorious rebirth.

Adding to this trend is XBL's recent redesign, which makes great indie gems a lot harder to find than ever before. In fact, many indie developers have complained about this, understandably upset that it's becoming more difficult for users to purchase their games. It's a shame, because XBL was home to a number of delightful budget-priced platformers. (The Platformance series is especially delectable.)

But all is not lost, friends. There is a brand new trend in the gaming industry that makes future indie platformers not only plausible, but potentially profitable as well. I am referring, of course, to the industry's brand new love affair with Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a great program because it puts the fate of future video game projects into the hands of the fans rather than the publishers. This inevitably leads to more obscure niche titles finding life in the gaming world.

For example, Double Fine recently raised somewhere in the area of 3.3 million dollars for an upcoming adventure game. Yes, by "adventure game" I do indeed mean "old school point-and-click game." It would be hard to make the claim that the point-and-click genre is dead at this point in time, but it's certainly overlooked far too often in an era of Call of Duties and Skyrims. Even so, enough people were excited for this project that fans threw millions of dollars at it. And guess what? This game doesn't even have a name. It's not a re-emergence of a long-dead cult classic; it's a brand new IP that we know almost nothing about.

Even Beamdog is looking into using Kickstarter to fund Baldur's Gate 3. Who would have ever imagined that we'd catch wind of a brand new Baldur's Gate title in freakin' 2012? Well, Kickstarter could very well make it happen.

I say all this to point out the power of this type of funding to resuscitate dying game genres. The platformer may very well be one such genre, and Kickstarter could potentially be its savior. I mean, I'm pretty sure I'd throw heaps of money at, say, a brand new 2D DuckTales game. (Don't judge me. Go play the original DuckTales for NES and you'll probably wholeheartedly agree with me.) Of course, this might be a particularly bad example, as the DuckTales license rests firmly in the hands of Disney, a company that has enough money to fund whatever project they want. However, with the DuckTales comics now in the hands of Warren Spector, whose gaming credits include Deus Ex and Epic Mickey, I wouldn't say that a new DuckTales game would be completely off the table. In fact, Spector would be wise to fund such an endeavor via Kickstarter rather than have the suits at Disney breathing down his neck. Then again, there is still the problem of licensing, which I admittedly know little about due to the fact that I'm not a lawyer, and I find lawyerly things to be particularly uninteresting. (It's also probably worth mentioning that Spector potentially has his hands full already with the Epic Mickey sequel for the time being.)

The Future Of The 2D Platformer

My prediction: The 2D platformer needs to stay alive, and Kickstarter is currently an incredible opportunity for this type of game to find new life. Especially when so many classics have managed to maintain cult followings after all these years. I for one hope to see some new versions of classic platformers hit the Kickstarter scene, and I will definitely consider chipping in to these sorts of projects. And, if by some miracle we see a new 2D DuckTales platformer hit Kickstarter, with hand-drawn HD art (à la Rayman Origins), I promise to donate a pretty decent chunk of change. This pretty much needs to happen.

Yes, I'm drooling a little. Don't judge me.

Josh Wirtanen
Editor / News Director
Date: March 22, 2012

*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*

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