The one thing that worries me about the game industry in its current state is games disappearing. Games that just go by the wayside and we never see them again. No matter how good or bad and big or small they are. We’ve seen a lot of this in the past years with games coming and going from online stores, the most famous case being Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game which vanished from PSN and Xbox Live on December 30th, 2014. This upset a lot of people and understandably so. It is a great game. Artists and developers put a great deal of work into these games and because of some corporate nonsense, it will never see the light of day again. The creator of Scott Pilgrim, Bryan Lee O’Malley says he is trying to get the game back up and in the stores but if even the creator of the franchise is having issues, it’s a futile battle. That tells you everything you need to know about delisted games, especially those which are licensed. Which are the most common cases in game disappearances.
Old school games
There is nothing I like better that when I go to somebody’s house is to look through their video game collection. I mean physical copies of stuff, special editions and all that jazz. I see classics, guilty pleasures and complete rubbish but I love flicking through them. You can tell a lot about someone by what’s in their collection. It’s kind of cool scrubbing through a Steam library but I think you’ll agree it’s just not the same.
The only way to pick up physical copies of games from these eras is through the power of second hand sales, eBay is your best friend and it wouldn’t hurt to go to retro games fairs as well. Some of the rare stuff can go for hundreds of dollars. One of my biggest mistakes in life is trading in a lot of games that would eventually be worth a lot of money. Games like Skies of Arcadia, Baten Kaitos and Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (don’t ask) all go for over $60 on eBay and because I couldn’t afford newer games when I was younger, I traded them in. They say live your life with no regrets but that one hurts. The downside to physical games is they can’t stay in production forever, similar to how you can’t walk into a shop today and buy a base set of Pokémon cards in 2019. I understand that but an online store front boils down to greed and I can’t see another reason an older game disappears from there. Well, that and people protecting their assets.
The beauty of an online store like Steam, is that developers can port some of their older games on there. I have a few games from earlier generations on my wishlist meaning the games can live on and get introduced to newer audiences. Like I’ve said, the games that have been delisted and gone forever are usually licensed games like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game and The Simpson’s Arcade Game along with quite a lot of Konami’s 90s arcade games. But sometimes it’s something different. Who can forget the great fallout between Hideo Kojima and Konami? Oh, how I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in that room. I assume it was about money but who knows. This lead to the eradication of Silent Hills (and the P.T. demo). A Silent Hill revival from Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro that will never see the light of day.
Another hurdle is publishers who are holding developers at ransom. Tweeting on September 26th (see below), Ukrainian studio, Frogwares found themselves in a bit of a predicament. They issued a statement that said Focus Home Interactive, the publisher of some of their Sherlock Holmes games refuses to transfer the title IDs to Frogware. To summarise this means that the games are going to be pulled from the respected storefronts. This is a scary thing, not only for people passionate about games but for the developer’s themselves. It’s their livelihood. They heavily rely on these sales so they can keep the lights on and feed their families.
The future of game preservation
I’m not saying it will start tomorrow but eventually, we will all be gaming via digital downloads and streaming. With the very rare occasions we’ll have physical editions constrained to collector’s editions with statues, art books and other memorabilia . When I built my PC 2 years ago and realised I wasn’t having a CD drive it worried me a bit. I got concerned about whether something would need a CD or I wanted to buy a physical game or something. Turns out I have had no need for one yet and touch wood, will probably not need one in the future, for gaming or for other purposes. And the physical game I did buy (Overwatch) came with a code.
The problem with an online only future is we could see a lot more of publishers doing as they please like we saw what happened to Frogwares. Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto and all the juggernaut hits will be fine but it is a worry for the small developers. I really hope there is a way round that. Like the smaller developers get more of a say as to what happens with their games when a contract expires or there’s a way to leave it up forever. I’m sure there is a way but it’s all down to money.
This isn’t just a gaming problem, this probably happens in the music and film industries as well. As hard as it is to imagine going into a record shop and being told there is a licensing issue or something and they are unable to stock the music you desire.
I would never condone piracy at all. I always encourage people to pay for the entertainment they consume. It’s just if the only way to play a game is dig out an old out of commission console, jump on eBay, spend up and over $100 of which the publishers and developers won’t see a single cent. I’m kind of okay with emulation. Like the PlayStation game Xenogears is over $100 on eBay, but that is the only way you can play that game, so I would probably be okay with somebody emulate it whereas Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is $200-$400 on eBay. However, there are different ways to play that game, it’s available via PSN as a PS One Classic playable on both the PS3 and PS Vita and it was also recently bundled as Castlevania Requiem, with Castlevania: Rondo of Blood on the PS4. The dream is one day that most classic games will have this sort of treatment.
The villain in this scenario is greedy publishers. Whether it is a company or a single person not playing ball with the rights they hold. Japanese companies have this weird practise where each person holds the rights to the work they create. So the musician will own the music, artist will own the character likeness etc. This probably explains why there is only 2 Final Fantasy VII songs in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Also when companies split up or merge, there is a tirade of nonsense they have to go through with licensing and it’s a shame some games are lost this way.
I hope there is something we can do about this. There probably isn’t we’re probably in too deep and will have to stick to emulation of sorts. But we can try by supporting developers and being vocal with publishers when they are being unreasonable.
Before you go
Whilst researching this article I came across an awesome site which lists games that have been delisted from online storefronts. Delisted Games is a bittersweet website where you can reminisce of games no longer available to download.