If you love retro games, then there's a good chance you have a fondness for pixel graphics. Before technology progressed to the point where 3D visuals were viable, hand-drawn 2D images were the only way in which video games could be represented – and despite the advancements made in recent years, there are still plenty of games out there that adopt pixel-based graphics to good effect.
However, recent comments made by Sonic Team boss Takashi Iizuka have cast some doubt upon the long-term appeal of such imagery, at least when it comes to Sega's mascot. Speaking to Speaking to GamesRadar at Gamescom, where he was showing off Sonic Superstars, Iizuka voiced the opinion that pixel-based 2D games might not be viable in the near future:
"We look at the pixel art - it's great - but when we think about 10-20 years in the future, we don't think it's going to be a viable art style or presentation for our players. And in order to advance and really step things up, we did want to make sure that we're presenting something that 10-20 years down the road we're still evolving and creating new content for."
To clarify and give context, it's worth noting that Iizuka isn't talking about all 2D games ceasing to be viable (Sonic Superstars is essentially a '2.5D' game), but rather 2D games that use hand-drawn pixel visuals rather than 3D models.
It's also worth noting that other franchises, such as Street Fighter and King of Fighters, have already made the shift from hand-drawn 2D to 3D models in a 2D environment. There are clear advantages to this approach; drawing art for 2D games is time-consuming as each frame must be created to produce smooth animation, something that isn't the case with 3D models. 3D games also benefit from additional visual effects, such as realistic lighting and other graphical flourishes. It's easy to see, then, why developers might favour them over 2D art, especially as projects become larger and more complex.
However, hand-drawn games boast a unique quality that simply cannot be replicated by 3D models. Some of the best 2D games from the '90s and 2000s still look impressive today, which cannot always be said of 3D games from the same periods in time. Like any hand-drawn art, 2D games boast a timeless quality, and that's why we're continuing to see a great many modern-day titles adopt this approach.
It's also worth pointing out that Sonic Mania – a 2D, pixel art take on the character – is one of the most highly-rated entries in the entire Sonic series, whereas his recent 3D outings (such as Sonic Frontiers) have struggled to gain the same kind of critical acclaim.
Do you think Iizuka's comments hold weight? As the industry grows older, could we see a time when 2D art simply isn't viable for a project of this size? Or do you think that 2D and 3D will coexist forever, just as they have happily done for the past few decades? Vote in the poll below and let us know your thoughts with a comment.
Do you think there will be a time when hand-drawn 2D art ceases to be viable for video games? (742 votes)
- Not sure6%