Retro games have been an indelible part of a whole generation of young gaming enthusiasts, right from their childhood to their teens and formative years.
People can still remember the countless hours they have spent on titles and characters like Mario, Sonic, Snow Bros, Mr. and Mrs. Pac-Man. Even in the 2nd decade of the 21st century, taking a nostalgic plunge down the retro games lane is something that many 80s and 90s kids are excited about.
Antstream Arcade makes this very nostalgic experience highly possible. In an interview with Sportskeeda Esports’ Abhishek mallick, Retro Gamer Boy, Mike Rouse, who is also the Production Lead for the platform, shared some things that retro games fans can expect from Anstream Arcade.
He even talked about the importance of cloud gaming, and how with the advancements in technology, it will soon replace expensive hardware-driven gaming devices like PCs and consoles.
Here is an excerpt of the conversation.
Q. Mike, you have had an incredible career in the video games industry, from working for Microsoft and Sony to having your own retro video games channel, and now, becoming the production lead at Antstream Arcade. Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself and what the journey has been like for you so far?
Mike: Video games have always been a big part of my life. We had the Magnavox Odyssey, the first home games console when I was a young boy growing up in South Africa during the early 80s. As I grew up, I spent my time either in arcades or training for national level Judo competitions.
In the late 80s, we returned to the UK and, unfortunately, I developed severe Asthma. My steroid medication prevented me from competing at the highest levels and so I turned to gaming. Not only to cope with my illness but as a direction I wanted to take my life in. It became a singular focus for me, and it made making decisions in life a lot easier knowing what I wanted to do. Like every journey, it has had its high points and low points, but it still remains my passion, my hobby, and my focus.
Q. You were integral in creating the trophy system for the PSN. Can you talk us through some ideas that went behind making it and what you and your team were expecting out of it in the long run?
Mike: I was working on a new project called PlayStation Home. We were a small team looking to create something that would disrupt the console gaming experience. It was during this development period where I was thinking about a system that would reward you for your progress through a game, a system that sat on top of the natural sense of achievement you get from playing. It was at this time that Xbox released the Achievement system.
I was an instant fan as it was doing something I had hoped to do, but with all games on the Xbox 360, Phil Harrison, WWS President at the time, asked us to build a similar system. The first design that came from our team was a copy of Xbox Achievements. It was a solid design, but I felt it could be so much more. This is when I came up with the idea of different trophies that could be awarded based on how hard a challenge was. The simple challenges would be bronze trophies, the slightly harder ones would be silver, and the difficult challenges would be gold.
This way you could see not only your own but other gamers’ accomplishments and know what type of gamer they were. I also wanted gamers to feel a different sense of achievement with each trophy they earned during a game.
Q. Antstream Arcade, the world’s “first and largest retro game subscription service,” has recently brought you on board to lead their production team. What will be some of your bigger responsibilities on the platform?
Mike: I’m very happy to be part of the Antstream team, my passion for gaming and retro gaming is encapsulated in this amazing platform. My first big job will be to help build a roadmap that introduces features, services, and state-of-the-art tech, which will make Antstream a big player on the world stage. We have some extremely exciting plans and features coming to our community over the next 12 months. And beyond this, well I can’t say just yet, but it is the most excited I have been in my career about the future of a gaming company.
Q. I would love to get some of your insights on cloud gaming. Do you feel it makes competitive games more accessible?
Mike: Cloud Gaming greatly increases the audience funnel for developers. By eliminating the need for expensive consoles and PC hardware, a studio can bring competitive games to the largest possible audience.
At Antstream, we can run global tournaments with ease and be wherever the gamer is. This flexibility means that a player in the Philippines can compete for the top spot with a gamer in Germany without any hardware restrictions.
Q. However, cloud gaming, or “gaming on-demand,” as many like to call it, comes with its fair share of negatives. One of the biggest being latency, which is pretty much absent from hardware-driven gaming devices like PCs and consoles. So can cloud gaming be fit for professional gaming, especially after keeping competitive fairness in mind?
Mike: Being in the gaming industry for over 20 years, I have seen things that were once seemingly impossible, or if it were possible, would be detrimental to the experience. I remember when online competitive and co-operative gaming was considered a short-term novelty and limited to simple games, and downloading entire games was something for the distant future.
In my time in the gaming industry, I have not seen a hurdle that could not be overcome. And so, while we are not there yet, we are very close to it, and I think Antstream will be one of the first platforms to offer this when it arrives.
Q. It’s no news that the cloud gaming market size and share have been growing rapidly over the last couple of years. Do you feel that this exponential rise in popularity will soon start playing an integral role in helping the existing gaming market reach a wider audience pool?
Mike: I think cloud gaming will change the types of experience people have. You will no longer be limited to the device or location. This will in turn increase the size of the audience a game attracts. Cloud gaming removes barriers to entry, which will naturally lead to growth, but it is hard to say how big it will get. Certainly, with Antstream, we are seeing continual growth and great engagement with our tournaments and player vs player challenges.
Q. Do you feel cloud gaming’s growth will reduce the value of the more expensive consoles and PCs in today’s market? Will they see a decline in user base and popularity in the near future?
Mike: Yes. Physical media is fast becoming a hobby rather than a viable way of distributing gaming software. We have already seen digital game sales overtake physical sales and all the major industry players are making big investments into cloud gaming.
We have also seen how comfortable people are with replacing their dedicated media devices (like Blu-ray players and MP3 players), with streaming services like Netflix and Spotify. This will be the next step for gaming, and Antstream Arcade is at the forefront of this change.
Q. Does cloud gaming have the potential to become the next powerhouse and dethrone the traditional forerunners as the go-to choice for the average gamer?
Mike: I think it will broaden the market. You can already see that Antstream is leading the way for retro gaming. Not needing to rely on retail or distribution makes us extremely agile. This agility to get games into players' hands with little logistical friction will give rise to some new leaders in the industry. I joined Antstream because I see us being the next EA or Take2.
Q. When speaking of Antstream Arcade, how exactly does the platform address the issues surrounding cloud gaming?
Mike: Currently, our strategy to start with retro games and asynchronous competitive gameplay ensures that we offer the best possible experience for players. Our challenge system, which allows players to compete against each other by setting a high score, is a huge selling point for us.
We are also continuing to invest in technology and features that will further improve the experience you have with Antstream. It is only a matter of time before your experience on the cloud is indistinguishable from the dedicated local hardware.
Q. Antstream Arcade is often described as the “Netflix of retro gaming.” How does the platform’s use of technology make it one of the best portals for retro video game lovers?
Mike: I think the key here is our business model rather than the tech. With Antstream, you can play any game from over 1000 in our library for free with ads or without ads on our subscription plan. We do not sell you an individual game.
Like Spotify and Netflix, you just choose a game and play. This is a real disruptor to our industry, where gamers are used to paying for a single game, they now have a games library at their fingertips. For us, this means that everyone on Antstream can be part of competitive gaming.
Q. With the advancement in technology and the growth that the video games industry has been enjoying in the last couple of years, do you see a world where some core IPs and titles make their way into cloud gaming?
Mike: I think that is almost certain. We are seeing some great tech like 5G being introduced which will be a game-changer for the types of experiences you can have on a low-powered but hyper-connected device. I think Antstream’s strategy to start with vintage games is very clever.
It allows us to engage with a huge community of gamers globally, not all of whom have fast connection speeds yet. As faster speeds become more commonplace, we will have the audience and the platform to bring them new and bigger gaming experiences and IP.
Q. Can you shed some light on new applications or experiences that are integral to driving mainstream adoption of the technology behind cloud gaming?
Mike: Unlike VR, where developers are still experimenting with what makes a killer game or app, cloud gaming is just a way of delivering great experiences that are already being crafted. In fact, cloud gaming could fully unlock the potential of things like VR. My suspicion is that we are seeing the twilight years of gaming consoles as mainstream entertainment devices.
All the big players are gearing up for cloud gaming, and gaming companies like Antstream Arcade will be a big part of this as the games industry undergoes its next big transformation.
Q. What’s the future like for Antstream Arcade in the coming months? What can fans of the platform expect in the near future?
Mike: I wish I could share everything we are doing right now, but we are still in the early implementation phases with our new features. Needless to say, we will be bringing you some fantastic and new ways to experience the classic games you love, as well as implementing popular requests from the community and growing the huge library of games we have, including some of my most favorites games of all time.
Antstream is free and I would encourage everyone to come and play, challenge, and compete with gamers across the globe.