It’s a big time for game anniversaries. 2020 saw Mario (as well as his brother green Mario) turn 35. 2021 has already seen anniversaries for The Legend Of Zelda (35) and Pokemon (25) while Donkey Kong (40), Lemmings (30), Quake (25), Halo (20), Jak And Daxter (20), and Star Wars: The Old Republic (10) are among the franchises celebrating milestones later this year. Hell, Pong turns 50 in 2022.
My point is there’s a lot of anniversaries coming up. So, so many. And they come with a weight of expectation. A properly executed anniversary can reignite the love of the characters and games, but poor celebrations will leave a bitter taste in fan’s collective mouths.
Just look at Mario’s 35th anniversary. Yes 2020 was a shit show and was incredibly hard for game development, but what did we get? Not a lot. Highlights included a sub-standard, time-limited port of some 3D Mario games (you might be lucky enough to find a physical copy now as it has disappeared from the Nintendo e-shop), the also time limited Mario 35 battle royale game (no longer available as well), some Mario events in other games, a real-life Mario Kart that requires a Switch to play, along with some clothing and other nick-nacks. It feels like they tried to do too much and ended up stuffing it anyway.
OK, so this example probably doesn’t hold too much weight. Mario is Mario and will be popular until the cockroaches have taken over. Even then he’ll probably just be replaced by a bug with a red hat. But look at Commander Keen. The intergalactic hero had his 30th anniversary in 2020, and the last announcement about the series was that terrible mobile game at E3 2019. A game that was so poorly received all official mention of it has been wiped from existence. While not technically an anniversary it still shows how bringing back old franchises must be handled with care.
Pokemon did a much better job of their 25th Anniversary. Rather than use it as an excuse to release stuff, they used the date as an announcement for upcoming Pokemon titles. It wasn’t the anniversary that fans were excited for, they were pumped for the future of Pokemon. The franchise was shown some love and gamers loved to see that.
In the end does it really matter when games are released though? Who really cares about game anniversaries? Are they worth the pomp and circumstance? I think I have an answer, but that’s a story for another day.