Now almost a meme in its own right, the newspapers’ use of millennials as a scapegoat for a whole range of things is, thankfully, dying off. But blaming this group for certain trends and products taking a nosedive nevertheless highlights just how unprepared many industries were for the appearance of this particular demographic.
For example, according to the press, golf, diamonds, napkins, cruises, running, sitcoms, and bars of soap are now all irrelevant courtesy of the millennial demographic, yet, of course, that isn’t even close to true. Many of these industries simply couldn’t be bothered or didn’t know how to market their products to a group that values things like transparency, environmental responsibility, and nostalgia. That latter point, nostalgia, has grown increasingly important to capturing millennials’ interest as the group ages into their late twenties and early thirties.
With regard to technology, people born between 1981 and the mid-nineties experienced a huge range of advances. Vinyl became cassettes, CDs became MiniDiscs, and eventually MP3 players like the iPod in its many versions.
Video games evolved from the most basic of forms to almost photorealistic titles such as Forza Horizon 4 and Red Dead Redemption II. Meanwhile, mobile phones were invented, got smaller, and then got bigger again all in the space of about two decades. Of course, TV almost died off altogether as Netflix took over as the most popular way to access series, documentaries, and movies.
Inevitably, nostalgia has become a powerful marketing trick. In video gaming, this trend is encapsulated by the ‘mini’ range of consoles, which now includes the Commodore 64, PlayStation, Mega Drive, and both the NES and its more powerful successor, the SNES.
However, Masayuki Uemura, the creator of Nintendo’s second home console (after 1977’s Color TV-Game), insists that the ‘mini’ aspect of the remade version wasn’t really necessary at all. People would still be happy to buy the NES in its original, larger form.
In the United States, independent games stockists such as Retros in New Jersey have attempted to buy into the nostalgia craze by stocking classic games and consoles from the 80s and 90s. This might seem like a risky gambit in any other fandom or industry, but games that found popularity in the past tend to be immune to the passage of time.
Although, rose-tinted glasses definitely help preserve memories of stellar graphics and gameplay. Once met with the reality of what these beloved games are like in comparison to the games on offer today, older games usually have to be remade or rehashed to retain their appeal in the modern era.
Outside conventional gaming, casino websites have successfully incorporated retro IPs and stylings into slot games, too. This is a worldwide phenomenon, as Oddschecker’s list of NJ casinos online reveals that bet365 hosts the Miami Vice-inspired Hotline, as well as the original title Infinity Synth, which borrows heavily from 80s graphic design.
PartyCasino, another site that operates in New Jersey, carries a fully licensed Street Fighter II slot game and one based around the Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure franchise. Meanwhile, there is a global market for retro games, both online and physical arcade games, across Europe, the UK, and Japan.
The question that needs to be asked is, what makes nostalgia so appealing to millennials? At first glance, this group is still too young to be lamenting the loss of their youth but reliving positive memories can feel almost meditative. After all, the carefree nights spent playing Super Mario Bros. in the radioactive glow of a CRT TV simply don’t happen anymore.
Overall, nostalgia marketing leverages emotion to create a bond with a product. This technique obviously works much better with things that millennials already have a connection with, such as the SNES or Sonic the Hedgehog. Just look at how upset even non-cinema fans were with the first design of the Blue Blur in the 2020 Sonic film, for example.
However, simply using aesthetics from the 80s and 90s can attract people who remember those eras fondly. Netflix show Stranger Things is a good modern example, as is the entire synthwave genre of music, which gets its cues from movies like Blade Runner.
Retro-inspired media may be a bubble that could burst at any moment, but it has already done a great job of capturing the interest of millennials.