Yookah-Laylee, and Using Nostalgia to Sell a Game

It’s no secret that Yookah-Laylee is among the most anticipated games of this year. Arguably right alongside the newest Zelda series installment, which in itself was hyped to the moon and back. But can this Return of the 3D Platformer possibly live up to the hype generated around it?

yookah-graphic

To look at the origin of the hype, you only need to glance at the Kickstarter page. The driving force behind the marketing of this game is nostalgia. Ahh yes, nostalgia. That potent cocktail that makes your brain release endorphins that make you happy with cozy comfort. Promising to be, according to the Kickstarter title, “A 3D Platformer Rare-vival!” Yookah-Laylee is certainly positioned to capitalize on the happy memories of sitting on a couch playing Nintendo 64, specifically with a certain bear and bird.

For those not totally or not at all familiar with Yookah-Laylee, the big deal is that the development team consists of the “dream team” of the original Rareware squad. Known for their landmark contributions to the Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 game lineup, they set the bar impossibly high with their unmatched game quality and finish, the genres typically 2D and 3D platformers, all of which boasted the signature Rareware vibe.

That “signature vibe” is where the hype train may get derailed, or at least that is my concern. For months, Playtonic Games have been leaking gameplay footage and sneak peaks at more and more content. The early adopters have already gotten to enjoy portions of the toybox, a spoiler-free world designed to let the players fool around a bit and explore some of the game mechanics.

As someone who grew up playing Rareware titles, I truly hope this game does fantastic – but the point of this post is to bring to conversation, is it a good idea to rely on nostalgia to sell a game?

Well, in terms of making money, you bet your ass it’s a great idea to use nostalgia to sell your game. The Kickstarter project set a few records, first in meeting their 175,000GBP goal in 38 minutes, as well as the 1,000,000GBP stretch goal in a mere 21 hours. They also became the first video game in Kickstarter history to reach a million pounds. They still sit at the top of the charts in terms of biggest Kickstarted video game of all time.

However, fast forward about a year and a half. Recently, Playtonic Games uploaded a video demonstrating one of the levels from Yookah-Laylee, and player feedback was less than stellar. “Lots of empty space with nothing to do” was the general feeling in the comment section, and it was tough for me to read through it, considering how hard I want this game to do well. Can Yookah-Laylee still harness what made Banjo-Kazooie so special. Time will tell.

yookah-casino
Screen capture from the Casino level. Honestly it looks pretty cool to me!

Yesterday, April 4th, marked the release on the gag order for releasing reviews, so naturally the floodgates burst open and reviews were released everywhere. They’ve been making the rounds and being compiled on gaming sites abroad. Scores are really all over the place, ranging from “it’s OK,” to “it’s the best game ever.” And herein is where I see the problem. When you use nostalgia as the main selling point, you isolate the audience into one of two groups:

  1. People who have a nostalgic connection from childhood.
  2. People who are “on the outside” and never played it, but are caught up by the hype train, driven by group #1.

The issue I see is that on one hand, you have a group of people who will do practically anything to feel that nostalgia again. They will typically be let down if it isn’t exactly how they remember. And let’s be honest, is anything from our childhood done in adulthood ever as good as we remember it?

The other group has been convinced by group #1 that it’s so incredible, but gameplay mechanics that resonated with group #1 might not have the same effect in group #2. In other words, it can feel old and dated.

My point is, spiritual successors need to be viewed as standalone games, otherwise you get a situation where every review is coming from a completely different place. You also have the side effect of either pissing off fans who were either expecting exact replicas of their childhood and instead got a “modern take” on it, or a “modern game” that just feels old. Yookah-Laylee, if it wants to be successful, needs to land somewhere right in the middle, and I think it has the potential to do that.

One of my oldest friends and probably the biggest Banjo-Kazooie fan on the entire planet is a high-tier backer of the Kickstarter project and has spent plenty of time messing about in the sandbox. When I asked him how he felt about the feedback on the casino level (linked above), he had only positive things to say from his experience so far. His opinion was that the music and vibe was true to BK, and assured me that Grant Kirkhope, who’s handled the music for Banjo-Kazooie and Yookah-Laylee alike, “is just that awesome.” Let’s hope he’s right on the money!

I eagerly await the release of Yookah-Laylee, on the Switch in fact, which may take a long time.. But in the wake of the reviews, I still ask – is it a good idea to use nostalgia to sell a game? Do you plan on playing Yookah-Laylee? Any feedback on the videos released so far? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

8 thoughts on “Yookah-Laylee, and Using Nostalgia to Sell a Game

  1. Great thought-provoking article! I certainly don’t mind nostalgia as a factor for selling the game, but it’s up to the developers to make the game “as good as we remember it.” In Yooka-Laylee’s sake, this means not making it exactly like the admittedly less-than-ideal 3D platformers like DK64, but making it something that uses modern sensibilities to create a game in the style of the Rareware classics. It should be like those old games, but play like something playable in 2017. Shovel Knight is an excellent example of a game that uses retro visuals, sounds, and gameplay to sell itself. It’s nostalgic to play, but if you look at the game mechanics itself, it’s a much improved modern version of the classic NES platformer. I haven’t played Yooka-Laylee and only know what I know from reviews, but I hope that it can at least be a game that I would have enjoyed when I was younger playing those old Rare games.

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  2. Imtiaz Ahmed

    it can be a double edged sword, it’ll help build hype, funding and ultimately carry over to sales, but then again as we know, the internet is NOT a kind place for gaming most of the time, so it can easily lead to some very harsh backlash if it isn’t exactly like it’s predecessors. But that’s the risk you also run when simply making sequels to, you have to adhere to the older audience who loved the previous entry but also have that game stand out as it’s own. Not any easy thing to do whenever a franchise is as beloved as something like Banjo and Kazooie.

    Either way I think I’ll pick it up at some point once I’m through a lot of my backlog. I’m not looking for exactly the same game, but I would love the relive the charm of Banjo Kazooie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All very true. I’m with you on this one – holding off until my backlog lightens a little bit, and hoping for a physical release in the process! Pretty sure all of us have enough games in our backlog to keep us busy for years anyway lol

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nostalgia can make people do funny things. I’ve backed a few Kickstarter projects simply because I have fond memories of the original games they’re based on – before even watching the campaign video!

    Maybe it’s time to take of those rose-tinted glasses and put away the credit card. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to do that more easily!? 🙂

      One of the things that makes it difficult is that in a lot of cases, if I don’t buy the game _now_, I really can’t buy it later because it won’t be available, and/or the prices will skyrocket. You can probably guess what I usually end up doing!

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