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TheStreet Open House

Even Sony's Playstation Now Can't Kill Retro Video Games

For now, that leaves gamers with options including the Playstation Network, Xbox Live, the Nintendo eShop's Virtual Console and Valve's Steam -- none of which include streaming among their functions. All of them, however, require a console -- or in Steam's case, a computer -- to store and play downloaded content and to access and play cloud-based games.

None of that has posed any real threat to retro gaming, despite tons of older titles being available in their original and upgraded high-definition form on those various networks. If retro gamers wanted versions of Konami's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles In Time for arcades and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Capcom's Duck Tales for the Nintendo Entertainment System or Technos' original Double Dragon, they had plenty of online access to them through various consoles and devices.

But that assumes the games are all that old-time gamers value, and that's a gross underestimate of their dedication. There's a reason arcades are not only flourishing in some parts of the U.S., but making a comeback in both their original incarnations and as beer-and-cocktail-fueled adult playgrounds. There's a reason grown human beings still scour eBay, Goodwill, Craigslist, garage sales and pawn shops looking for old favorites and rare titles. There's a reason gamers still find ways to keep their old Sega Genesis and Nintendo 64 consoles up and running.

Nostalgia, you say? Eh, maybe a bit, but even that isn't enough to keep an entire niche alive in the face of continued digital and online encroachment. Carmen Nobel, an alumnus of TheStreet who now writes for Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge, this month called attention to Harvard Business School professor Ryan Raffaelli's research on the Swiss watch industry. Foundering amid the "quartz crisis" of the 1970s, when Japanese watchmakers including Seiko and Casio nearly drove high-cost mechanical watchmakers into extinction, Swiss watchmakers redefined their product as a luxury item to survive.

As Nobel notes, Raffaelli's Swiss watch model is but a "recent resurgence of independent bookstores, a renaissance of streetcars in numerous urban city centers, and the revival of several seemingly archaic products including the fountain pen and the vinyl record." That last example continues to find success not only as a nice seasonal or regional product, but as one of the few areas of the record industry that continues to thrive.

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