Let’s look at Nintendo first. They started out well. They, along with other developers, released a lot of retro games for the Virtual Console. Gamers saw the classics from the N64. There were great games from the Sega systems, the Neo-Geo, Turbografx, etc. The biggest problem here was Nintendo didn't market these games very well. Most Wii owners who were interested in these games had to to hear about it from other sources. Part of this was due to the target audience of the Wii. Soccer moms and casual gamers do not care about replaying Super Mario 3 or Mega Man 2. Nintendo did do a fair job of pricing most of the content for $5-$10. Some of the Wiiware games are also retro like, but Nintendo requires a healthy investment if developers want to get their game up and downloadable on the Nintendo Channel. Although Nintendo started out well, the interest in the Wii has dried up, which means no more new VC games.
What about the Xbox 360? The 360 has some focus on Indie games and there are some retro titles that made their way to XBL. Geometry Wars is a great example, a modern classic with a retro twist. Microsoft tried to push retro games with the Game Room. This was supposed to make it easy for gamers to get onboard and enjoy the classics from the Arcade, Intellivision, and Atari. Some of the games included Asteroids, Lunar Lander, Missile Command, and Millipede. But the pricing was terrible, these games should have been free or at the most cost $1. Instead, the games were priced at $3, which doesn’t seem to be a fair price. Due to the pricing structure and lack of support it seemed as if Microsoft wasn’t really interested in promoting and supporting Game Room. As for the Indie Library there continues to be some great examples of retro games such as Retro City Rampage and Double Dragon Neon, which are both available on PSN. There is a catch to success on the Indie Library as Microsoft uses the Indie showcase to highlight games from big developers. As with Nintendo, this means some of the great, retro-like games are passed over and not promoted. Honestly, out of the big three, Microsoft doesn’t seem interested in reliving retro gaming.
Sony is the last of the big three to cover retro games. Sony made a big deal about backwards compatibility for the PS2 and PS1 with the PS3. Almost a year after the PS3 launch, Sony pulled the hardware backwards compatibility out of their systems and replaced it with a software emulator to handle backwards compatibility. Eventually, with changes to the PS3 design, this was phased out as well. Sony in the last few years has done a fair job of getting classic games up on PSN. Many of the original Playstation games are available for download, are priced fairly, and are compatible on the PSP and PS Vita. Some examples included Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Twisted Metal, several of the mind blowing RPG’s from the Playstation 1 era as well as a lot more games. Personally, playing these games on portable systems may be the biggest draw. There is also the Playstation 2 classics section where gamers can download the PS2 games they loved and play them again. Sony also put together HD collections of its popular PS2 franchises for gamers to purchase and play on the PS3, such as The ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection, God of War, The Sly Collection, and a few others. Other examples of retro gaming that were not tied to certain systems, included Sonic Ultimate Genesis Collection, Silent Hill HD Collection, and Metal Gear Solid HD Collection; all three are great buys for fans of the series.
The overall verdict is that this generation was very good to retro gamers. For some gamers it was much cheaper to buy games on the Virtual Console or PSN than it was to track down the physical copy. Sony and Nintendo probably had the best support for retro games and in a distant second place sits Microsoft. The bigger question is what will happen with the next generation?