Tuesday 8 August 2023

FRGCB - 10 years and still kicking!


Exactly ten years ago today, I launched Finnish Retro Game Comparison Blog, without having a clear idea, what I was getting myself into. Sure, the basic idea was to give retrogaming enthusiasts "less biased opinions, more balanced reviews", but just how long a journey getting from relatively undetailed comparisons of games I thought would be somewhat simple to tackle, to the video-accompanied
ridiculously detailed comparisons they are now, has it been? And was it all worth it? Well, if anyone is interested in this sort of a thing, click on to read more about it, and look at some statistics while at it. Be warned, though, there are barely any pictures in this post, apart from the animated gif thing above.

Comparing different gaming platforms to each other was something I had mentally started doing in my earliest gaming years. Since I had a surprisingly good access to a few different platforms in the 80's, the shock value of seeing certain games on various different home computers, and sometimes the NES, never diminished too much, particularly when the different versions of games were so far from each other in terms of quality and presentation. I often wondered, why most magazine game reviewers hardly ever put any effort into comparing the different available versions, although in hindsight, one could hardly expect the reviewers to have all the necessary platforms at hand at the time - now at least, there's emulation to ease up that process. But game reviewing had become something of a dream job that I wanted to do, although eventually, music overtook that passion for good and made anything gaming-related into a good hobby.

Fast-forward about 30 years or so, and I had started to work on an idea of doing some sort of retrogame comparison website maybe two or three years prior to actually starting up FRGCB (so it must have been 2011 or so), but the idea was only to compare some of my favourite games that I had played on C64 and Spectrum, the first two gaming platforms that I personally had. There were a couple of websites that had done so with no real details whatsoever on the thought and test process that went into the comparisons - the two websites are long gone now. I played around with the idea for a few days while I was relaxing at our summer cabin, but the idea was more or less dropped, until I learned about Blogger from my girlfriend, who had been doing a local culture-themed blog here, and showed me the basics of it. So, I was unemployed when I was introduced to the world of blogging, and thought, "cor, this might actually be the way to put my retrogaming experience to some use."

So, I dug up my early drafts from my original comparison ideas from 2011 to get a good headstart for the then unnamed retrogame comparison site, and finished five of them in June 2013: Bruce Lee, Stunt Car Racer, Percy the Potty Pigeon, Wanted: Monty Mole and Commando. July was spent doing preliminary work on Batty, Samurai Warrior, the Blue Max two-for-one and the Great Giana Sisters, before I realized I needed to have a theme, or a point of view for the blog to make it somehow unique among other retrogaming sites. Because I hate thinking up names, I decided to go with the unnecessarily descriptive "Finnish Retro Game Comparison Blog", before realizing that I actually needed to write some thematically fitting content to back it up. This necessity gave the spark to "A History of Finnish Games" series, which would be practically finished in the first three months, although an Appendix was done in April 2014. After all that, I have been trying to write at least one review or a comparison of a Finnish game in a year to support the theme.

Although I had found some work in 2014, it still remains FRGCB's most intense year of posts released, with 65 posts all in all, even though July saw no posts released. January 2014 was when the Unique Games series got started, February was when my first Format Wars article was released in the Reset64 magazine, and August was when I started posting comparisons of newer games from this century/millennium.

Things went on and the blog posts got more intense and colourful until summer 2016, when I took a break and decided to take things easier. The way the blog took up much more of my time with the heavier comparisons and other articles, than what they had done in the early days, required me to do some rethinking on the blog's schedules and post rates. Although passing the mark of 500,000 visits in March 2017 was nice, and getting awarded for one of the Top 75 retro gaming blogs at Feedspot in November that year also, finding a good dayjob in 2017 meant that my time with the blog was getting a bit scarce. Writing posts slowed down, yet the blog reached 1,000,000 visits in February 2018, just before taking my first (and so far only) year off, from April 2018 to August 2019.

During that time, me and my friend Robert had decided to start doing a podcast called Retrogame Talkshow, which is still kind of floating somewhere, but hasn't been worked on properly in a couple of years. Doing the podcast inspired me to work on videos a lot more than just some zero budget music videos that I had been doing to my friends and my own band Jacques Daniels Project, so when Retrogame Talkshow came to a halt, I decided to introduce video content for FRGCB's YouTube channel, with the main series being My Nostalgia Trip Games, featuring quick rambles about games that I like to play on whatever platform I happen to be talking about in any given episode. Later on, when things had been quiet for long enough, I decided to get back into doing comparisons, now with accompanying videos. Of course, this meant, that the rate of comparison posts would be even slower than ever before, but the quality of content would be arguably higher. The end of 2019 was still remarkably slow for the blog, but since then, it's been around 20 posts a year, which is a tolerably good number considering the occasional videos. The effect of the otherwise unfortunate covid-19 situation was surprisingly, but understandably positive for the blog and the YouTube channel.

Now, ten years have passed, and I have felt the need to take some time to look back at the whole history of what has been done and what sort of things I need to focus on more. So, for this occasion, I have prepared some lists and statistics, mostly to keep myself updated, but also for anyone who is interested.


Due to the way the internet works, I can never be entirely certain as to how many people actually follow and visit this blog regularly, and how many of the visits are AI-generated. At the time of finishing up this blog post, the number of total visits to FRGCB was approximately 3,381,850, which consists of over 20,000 monthly visits. I can hardly credit that to be honest truth, since the amount of spam mail I get is staggering compared to the amount of actual human-written comments. Given that I only advertise these blog posts at a few retrogaming forums, as well as my personal Facebook page, I'd be amazed if the number of real visits was even close to 1 million. But then, FRGCB has been going on for ten years now, so who knows.

If my counts add up correctly, the total number of posts would be 284 with this entry, of which the actual number of game comparisons is 225. The other posts include Finnish game reviews, all sorts of special entries, such as the Unique Games series, update entries and such, and the few random announcements here and there.

2023: 10 comparisons, 1 Finnish game review, 1 announcement, 1 special
2022: 16 comparisons, 2 specials, 1 announcement
2021: 13 comparisons, 5 announcements, 1 Finnish game review, 4 specials
2020: 16 comparisons, 2 announcements, 1 Finnish game review, 3 specials
2019: 4 comparisons, 1 announcement, 1 Finnish game review
2018: 5 comparisons, 3 announcements
2017: 20 comparisons, 4 Finnish game reviews, 4 specials, 2 announcements
2016: 26 comparisons, 3 specials, 5 Finnish game reviews, 1 announcement
2015: 37 comparisons, 4 specials, 1 Finnish game review (first), 3 announcements
2014: 53 comparisons, 12 specials, 3 announcements
2013: 25 comparisons, 4 specials, 2 announcements


LIST 1: most viewed comparisons

Now, for anyone who's interested in doing some sort of an analysis on what sort of material works best for FRGCB readers, here's something interesting stuff for you to ponder on.

Barring the announcement entries (the logic of which quite escapes me), the top 20 most viewed entries at FRGCB are as follows:

1. Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (44.5k)
2. Bomberman - Origins and Variations (44.1k)
3. SPECIAL: A Brief History of Scandinavian Games (42.9k)
4. California Games - Part 2 (42.7k)
5. Zorro (41.3k)
6. Sabre Wulf (40.9k)
7. Unique Games: Encore - Part 11 (40.6k)
8. Zenji (40.4k)
9. TWOFER #17: Bigtop Barney + Harricana (39.9k)
10. Tom (39.8k)
11. TWOFER #16: Bugaboo the Flea + Fred (39.8k)
12. FRGR #10: Yleisurheilu (39.8k)
13. Crack Down (39.7k)
14. Frankie Goes To Hollywood (39.7k)
15. SPECIAL: Modern Game Ports and Demakes! (39.4k)
16. TWOFER #18: Delta + Stardust (39.2k)
17. California Games - Part 1 (39k)
18. Nebulus (38.7k)
19. Overlander (38.2k)
20. Kane (38.2k)

So, this list keeps out comparisons of such classics as Commando, The Great Giana Sisters, The Last Ninja, Summer Games I & II, Winter Games, Jet Pac and many others. Oddly enough, all these twenty entries were released in the timeframe of April 2017 to July 2018. Most of the entries published a few months prior to April 2017 and after July 2018 have caught over 20k visits, but anything posted before March 2016 has yet to cross over the 10k visits line. I find this peculiar, just as I find it peculiar that the top 3 specific game comparisons in the list above can be considered as part of the 16-bit era more than 8-bit. As I mentioned, in the actual top 20 visited entries list, there are also a couple of announcements, which is also peculiar.


LIST 2: winners by platform

Over the years, there have been several comments as to what platform my comparisons tend to be biased towards, and up to a point, I tried to keep a good balance between C64 and Spectrum games, sometimes including some games that were clearly designed for other platforms, which I still do every now and then. Ever since my year off from 2018 to 2019, though, I decided not to be too bothered about trying to keep a balance, and merely just try to find some games to compare that I was even mildly interested about, regardless of whether I knew about them or not. People tend to get overly excited about which version beats all the rest, and I get it: it's like supporting your favourite team in a football game. For myself, gaming has always been more like enjoying various kinds of music - it doesn't matter, which platform you're playing on, as there is always something to enjoy, as long as you keep an open mind.

Having said all that, I decided to take the plunge and actually list all the so-called winners of all the 200+ comparisons, and see how the balance is these days. As I, and quite likely many of you lot out there expected it might be, the C64 is in a VERY clear lead.

Commodore 64: 71
ZX Spectrum: 30
Arcade: 28
Commodore Amiga: 28
Atari ST: 15
Amstrad CPC: 12
Atari 400/800: 11
NES: 5
MSX: 5
Acorn BBC Micro/Electron: 4
PC (DOS/Win): 4
Apple 2GS: 3
Sega MegaDrive: 2
Gameboy: 2
Acorn Archimedes: 2
Commodore 16/+4: 2
Sega Master System: 2
TI-99/4A: 2
Sharp X1: 1
Sharp X68000: 1
Vic-20: 1
Atari 2600: 1
Colecovision: 1

Still, if you combine all the winners that are not Commodore 64, you get a different point of view: 162 against 71. So, the C64 doesn't win nearly every time - not even every other time, even though the percentage is admittedly relatively high.

There is a lot to be said about the games that I have chosen to write comparisons of. For one, almost every time I have chosen to write about an arcade game, the arcade original would win - I think there has only been one or two that didn't win. If the game was released before 1984 or after 1987, the probability is that the C64 version didn't win. So, having done this much research into my own blog, I have decided, from this point on, to try to keep out of the C64's golden years, to balance things out for a while.

Of course, FRGCB is focused on the European home computer scene more than the consoles, because there weren't that many games released on the Nintendo and Sega machines that are even possible to make comparisons of. The main focus will probably always be on the C64 and Spectrum games, as long as I can find good material to make comparisons of. Games like Bubble Bobble, Arkanoid, Tetris and such cannot with any sense of realism be written into coherent comparisons that would give a fair and detailed overall view, because there's just too many versions out there. But there's still a lot to do.


LIST 3: represented machines

In addition to trying to find interesting comparisons to write for our primary focus platforms, I have tried to occasionally dig up games that have versions, preferably official ones, released for machines that most of us have heard little about. Of course, there are some people out there who have never heard of systems like Acorn Archimedes or Texas Instruments' TI-99/4A, and even something like an Apple II GS might be a completely alien creature for some. But that's only taking the first dip into a vast ocean.

From what I can remember, here are listed all the computers and consoles that have been somehow included in either comparisons, other articles, or even videos along the way. I suppose the arcades can go without mentioning.

Acorn Archimedes
Acorn BBC Micro
Acorn Electron
Amstrad CPC
Amstrad GX4000
Apple II
Apple II GS
Apple Macintosh
Atari 2600
Atari 400/800
Atari 5200
Atari 7800
Atari Lynx
Atari Pong (clones)
Atari ST
ColecoVision (+ Coleco Adam)
Commodore 16/+4
Commodore 64
Commodore Amiga
Commodore Vic-20
Dragon 32/64
Enterprise 64/128
Fujitsu FM-7
Fujitsu FM Towns
IBM-PC compatibles (MS-DOS)
IBM-PC compatibles (Windows)
Luxor ABC 80
Mattel Intellivision
MGT Sam Coupé
NEC PC-8801
NEC PC-9801
NEC PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16)
Nintendo 64
Nintendo Entertainment System / Family Computer
Nintendo Game & Watch
Nintendo Game Boy (and descendants)
Nintendo Super Famicom / SNES
Philips CD-i
Philips Videopac Computer G7000 (Magnavox Odyssey2)
Sega Game Gear
Sega Master System
Sega Megadrive / Genesis
Sharp MZ-800
Sharp X1
Sharp X68000
Sinclair ZX80/ZX81
Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k
Sinclair ZX Spectrum 128k
Sony Playstation
Sony SMC-777
Spectravideo SVI-318/328
Tandy/Radio Shack TRS-80 CoCo
Tangerine Oric-1/Atmos
Tatung Einstein
Tesla PMD 85
Texas Instruments TI-99/4A
Thomson MO5
Thomson TO7/TO9
Videoton TV Computer (TVC)


So, what's the future of FRGCB? Who knows. For one, as I'm finishing off this special blog entry, I'm also preparing another page to be included in the top menu simultaneously with this post, and I'm also finishing off the next comparison, which will be posted in about a week or so. Then I'll be taking most of September off due to work-related stuff, as well as to get all the comparisons and videos linked to all the game-specific pages at Spectrum Computing. I'm also planning on taking at least a couple of months off from the start of next year, since I haven't really had much of a break since 2019. Then, perhaps some sort of a facelift for the blog would be appropriate. Moving the comparison focus onto strictly bigger games would probably be the next logical step, which would of course lessen the amount and rate of blog posts drastically. Hard to say, when there are no firm plans at the moment.

Regarding the FRGCB TV YouTube channel, My Nostalgia Trip Games will easily reach the 100th episode in a year or two with the amount of material I have in store, but at the moment, it's impossible for me to record any Let's Play videos or anything requiring live gameplay footage with commentary. Whenever I get my retrogaming room back into its old form, I will record some Let's Play episodes again; hopefully, it won't be too long.

Finally, FRGCB will be brought to a whole new era, as I will be finally opening a Facebook page in the near future for a more visible channel for all the updates regarding the blog and the YouTube channel. But the blog will still remain a blog, unless Google decides to suddenly discontinue the entire blog system for some reason.

The question left to answer is: has it been worth it? You betcha! Thanks for these 10 years, let's see how many there's still to come! Cheers!

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