It seems increasingly possible that niche gamers who still have fond memories of watching a 2-D Sonic roll through strategically-placed, curving hills or rushing Mega Man through a course of robots in construction hats or taking Cecil and Rosa on one last quest against the Four Fiends might be in luck.
A new trend in the gaming industry is selling new adventures of old games on a level-by-level basis. This is seen in the release of WiiWare's Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, in which players return to the world of Baron following the events of Final Fantasy IV. The story revolves around the son of two of the main characters from the original game. The base price of the game is 800 WiiPoints and then the player can purchase additional levels (all which reveal the "what-is-happening-now" for different characters in the original Final Fantasy IV) for 300 WiiPoints each. Square-Enix released a level-per-month and then concluded with the last level in early September 2009.
Recently, SEGA announced a delay to their title Sonic The Hedgehog 4, which will be available on the Playstation Network, Xbox Live and WiiWare. The game was set to be released this summer, but will instead be released this fall. Like Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, Sonic the Hedgehog 4 will be sold level-by-level basis.
Similarly, Xbox Live and Playstation Network released the enormously successful Mega Man 9, which was based on the original 8-bit Nintendo Mega Man series. It was so successful that the sequel, Mega Man 10 (not to be confused with Mega Man X, the 16-bit SNES series) was released in March.
Unlike Final Fantasy and Sonic, the Mega Man games were released as a single package for about ten dollars each. However, to unlock all the features of the game, such: play as Proto Man and Roll, you had to pay extra to uncover the hidden levels. To play as Proto Man or Roll costs 300 Wii Points in Mega Man 9.
This trend is still small and focused on games that were popular in the late-80s/early-90s, but could be representative of a rising trend.
The gaming industry has discovered how to profitize on a narrow niche market--those who still love and desire to play vintage games.
Read what Game Informer's Tim Turi says about Sonic the Hedgehog 4:
I’ve been waiting to get my greedy mitts on Sonic 4 ever since it was announced. I was a huge fan of the Genesis-era titles, and the series’ return to glory is what I’ve been waiting for since the mid 1990’s. I finally got a chance to play it at Sega’s E3 booth, and the game is shaping up to be a fun homage to the classic titles...If you loved Sonic during his glory days, this game will immediately reel you in by presentation alone.You'll find similar reviews written about Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, Mega Man 9, Contra Rebirth and others. While titles like Mega Man and Sonic have continued, they have gone through gameplay transformation that are not always completely agreeable to brand-loyal gamers.
This is relatively untapped market which could be better profitized. Gaming companies have always managed to make money by repackaging old games for new systems but this is a way to add new layers to old games and present an entirely new experience. One could easily see applications for games which were beloved by players but don't translate well into higher resolution gaming: Contra, Ecco the Dolphin and Earthworm Jim are just a few that come to mind. Undoubtedly, it's games that were popular and remain popular that are going receive new renditions.