Crash Bandicoot and PlayStation Nostalgia
The early 90s were a fun time. Cereal was made to resemble cookies. Viewmasters were our virtual reality. And the only thing shot was a Nerf Gun or a Super Soaker. Some of our biggest problems consisted of finding Waldo and Carmen Sandiego. Until my father brought home my first gaming console, the PlayStation. My Furby and Doodle Bear were quickly replaced with new friends, including Crash Bandicoot. With big ears and spiky orange hair, the insectivorous marsupial quickly won me over. Brave and courageous, his traits were admirable to a shy and cautious child. The successes of Ratchet and Clank and the Crash-themed Easter eggs shown in Uncharted 4, have a lot of individuals hopeful for a new game. Yet, we have heard that Activision holds the rights to franchise the beloved bandicoot. With their focus on releasing the next Call of Duty, would it be worth their time to make money on nostalgia?
In 2011, another game tried to sell me on a childhood character I loved, Spyro. Having become the face of Skylanders, I gave the game a try. I found myself annoyed with Activision for not capturing the dragon just as I remembered him. I also became frustrated with the other characters that I had no pre-existing attachment to. That is not to say that I did not enjoy them or that Skylanders was not a good game. It is stating that I would have liked a more Spyro-centric title after so many advertisements focused on him. Yet, this did not keep the game from selling.
This infographic by Activision Publishing shows they reached over $1 billion in sales with Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventures between its release in 2011 and the release of Skylanders: Swap Force in 2013. The game and its accompanying collectible toys were more profitable than each of Call of Duty’s World War II titles as well as Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. It is clear nostalgia sells well. But, when Activision worked on Skylanders: SuperChargers in 2015 they chose not to include a Crash Bandicoot figure.
The last game to star Crash was Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 2, which came out in 2010 on for the PlayStation 2. Having gone unused for the lifetime of the PlayStation 3, many hoped to see him once again when the PlayStation 4 launched. With that not being the case, we are waiting to see how Activision will use Crash Bandicoot to renew its trademark before it expires in 2021. Will it be the star of a new Skylanders game or pop up in a new PlayStation All-Star Battle Royale? Would playing a minor role after being gone for so long be a disappointment? Will he simply show up in a movie? Or will he actually get a new game?
Perhaps the better question is not where we will see Crash Bandicoot but how we would like to see him. Even Jim Ryan, Sony’s President, and CEO mentioned to the UK Original Playstation Magazine, “we’re certainly aware of the considerable affection–even reverence–in which the mighty Crash is held”. The original with colorful, challenging characters like Papu Papu and Ripper Roo, boss battles were memorable. And the other levels had a simple goal, reach the end. That took avoiding carnivorous plants, TNT and other obstacles with perfectly timed jumps. However, when they purchased publishing rights in 2008 they had little success.
Their first attempt was Nitro Kart 3D for iOS and the lesser known Brazilian game console Zeebo as well as the Nokia N-gage. The next attempt was only marginally better. Crash: Mind of Mutant had little variation in mechanics, the game was overshadowed by poor camera angles and there attempt to make it work on the Nintendo DS was futile. In 2009, they made a mobile game for BlackBerry phones called Crash Bandicoot: Mutant Island. Then Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 2 returned to iOS. Their push to make Crash mobile was perhaps their initial downfall.
Perhaps, the game should return to a PlayStation exclusive. Focusing on one platform would give them the time to capture the dynamic simplicity of the original Crash Bandicoot. With new atmospheres, monsters, box designs, music and level layouts, fans could get back to jumping with their favorite marsupial. As far as the story goes, Activision could shift the focus from the initial save the girl to a save the world concept. If well made and released with a new PlayStation, they could increase the sale of a new console dramatically.